It is not often when one accidentally stumbles across a beer that is regarded as one of the best of its breed. The other day I had a meeting at the Underground and, as usual, quickly perused their daily rotational list. To my surprise they had Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale on tap, claiming to be the first place in Alberta to carry the product. Dale’s may not “define” the style, but it is generally regarded as a very well done version.
It was a surprise as I had no idea this beer was coming. Usually (although not always) I hear one way or another about significant new products coming to town. Either the rep will send me a note, or someone in the beer community will whisper in my ear (the “word on the bar stool”, so to speak). But this one slipped past me. My bad.
At any rate, I quickly ordered a pint. I have had Dale’s Pale Ale before, last summer while in Boston, and have positive memories. But who am I to pass up the opportunity for another. It is a dark orange, verging on red, beer with bright clarity throwing up a thin layer of white head. The aroma is soft and welcoming with some toffee and light biscuit and a generic fruitiness. A delicate hop comes through as well, accenting wood, pine and some citrus.
The sip is a full mouth experience. It starts quietly but with a medium malt body. I get touches of fruit and light toffee. The middle is a bit sharper and thins out a bit. Then comes the hops. A pleasant mix of pine, floral and citrus. What is nice about it is that the bitter is not too harsh; it builds slowly and runs into a sharp, noticeable lilnger.
The beer is very clean without losing its assertive edge. Overall I think it is fuller than many versions I have tasted, and with a complex, but not over-assertive hop character. It might be my memory playing tricks, but this one seemed fuller than the one I had in Boston. However, it was 30 degrees in Boston that day, which might have made a huge difference.
As a lark, I grabbed a sample of Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale to do a bit of a side-by-side test. I am glad I did. They are two very different interpretations of the style. The Full Moon was sharper, drier and thinner. And the hop character was completely different. The Full Moon had a classic West Coast Cascade hop, while the Oskar’s had a mixed, complex hop impression. In a way I preferred the drier, more subtle Full Moon body, but the hop flavour and linger of the Dale’s was unbelievably enticing.
A nice reminder for me about how you can have two excellent beer in the same style family that taste very different. I would be hard pressed to place one above the other. It is more about appreciating what each one has to offer. Dales’ Pale Ale is fuller, bolder and more assertive. Full Moon puts itself forward in a more straightforward fashion, but with classic lines and detail.
It makes me glad to live in a province where I can drink both and fulfill whichever best fits my mood.
So, Dale’s Pale Ale has been on tap, exclusively, at Underground since (I think) last Friday. I believe it is also on tap at Craft in Calgary at the moment (but could be corrected on this). I am told it is a one-off shipment, so it won’t last long. If you REALLY want a pint of this beer, move quickly, my friends, as it won’t be around very long. Especially if I have anything to do with it.