Scorched Earth's Finest
Drive south along the San Diego shoreline in fall, spin inland toward the breweries of San Marcos and Escondido, grab a pint of double-hopped West Coast IPA at a beach-front pizzeria in Carlsbad and you'll deeply comprehend why Southern California beer tingles: It is the epitome of nature in a bottle, from a place where nature means teal waves and blonde babes.
But jet due east to Lyons, Colo., on the same November day and Mother Nature is instead a heady beast of a lady spewing gray tundric dandruff all over the craggy mountain crevasses. She is pissed and throwing a horrific tantrum. That's why it's no surprise that Oskar Blues' trademarked "Ten Fidy" alpine stout tastes like a bitch and then some. This is Colorado's snow-scorched earth in a bottle--no, make that an aluminum can. And it tastes amazing.
Dropped into a swirlable snifter, this tar-hued stout appears dead silent, devoid of any carbonation. But like any snowy field, stick your head down close and you'll detect signs of life. Instead of ants, they’re tiny sud bubbles being pulled to the edge of the glass in a strange formation of thin foam the color of rust and decomposing leaves. Look any longer and the rising waft of coffee in a wet knapsack hits. Or faint blood-iron, like an old tractor left out of the shed long past Halloween. To the tongue, this stuff is brutal. There's so much to taste, it's a wonder it all registers: the tart and sour kick of jarred prunes, the sugary after-note that turns funky the closer it gets to your esophagus--similar to the slow realization that someone stuffed a lit cigarette butt in your half-finished beer. It's malty and bitter and salty. It both pricks and dulls the senses. This is Mother Nature luring you into hibernation; the kind where you dream so long, when you wake in April (or maybe just the next morning), you feel like you were up and living the entire time.
Soundtrack: Smashing Pumpkins' "Tales of a Scorched Earth"