It’s not every day that you get to taste a new year-round beer from Oskar Blues. The brewery is the definition of dependability, making occasional forays into experimentation with their limited releases, but staying very rock-steady with the core lineup. In fact, there hasn’t been a year-round beer added to Oskar Blues’ portfolio since Deviant Dale’s IPA at the very beginning of 2011. That’s just about four years since the last time that a new Oskar Blues can was shipped all around the country.
That wait is now over, with the release of Pinner, the Longmont, CO brewery’s new session IPA. Of course it was an IPA—this is Oskar Blues, after all. Much has changed since 2011, particularly the fact that the company has built and opened its East Coast headquarters in Brevard, NC, about 30 miles south of the brewery Mecca that is Asheville. That’s where our fresh cans of Pinner are hailing from, sporting an industrial-looking design of silver/white and gold.
According to a brewery representative, the concept for Pinner reflects the craft beer market’s growing demand for high-flavor, low-ABV ales. Oskar Blues once trended toward the opposite side of that spectrum—did you know that Dale’s Pale Ale is actually 6.5% ABV? It’s closer to IPA territory than APA, at least in its alcohol content. The brewery’s smallest year-round beer had been Mama’s Little Yella Pils (we love the Stones reference) at 5.3%, but they wanted to go a step lower still while making a beer that fit the hop-forward mission statement. Session IPA was probably the Style of the Year (unless it was gose), so the choice was a no-brainer, although 4.9% ABV is probably the upper limit of what is typically described as “session” in today’s parlance.
The aroma of Pinner presents with a hint of crisp malt and classical West Coast hop notes: Citrus, pine, grassy green hops and especially orange zest. It’s very much the aroma one might envision when someone says “session IPA from Oskar Blues.”
The flavor, meanwhile, presents a distinctly sweet clementine or tangerine quality, chased by a bit of pine. It’s definitely noticeable as being lighter of body than something like Dale’s, lightly bitter and very drinkable. As I’ve occasionally pondered in the past, I find myself wondering again if the “session IPA” title really makes any sense for a beer like Pinner. The volume of hop presence is not as strong as you would typically expect to see in an IPA, but it would fit perfectly with the “pale ale” title. On the other hand, though, perhaps these beers are more often defined by their malt backbone than by the hops. Like many other session IPA’s, Pinner’s malt presence is restrained, dry and just a little bit toasty or grainy, stepping back to allow the hops to shine. I still wouldn’t think twice if this was labeled “Pinner Pale Ale,” but perhaps it’s that restraint as far as malt is concerned that truly makes it a session IPA instead.
Either way, this is a solid brew, although not one of the more assertive session IPAs in today’s crowded marketplace. It hits a specific, citrus-centric flavor profile and will please drinkers looking for a West Coast flavor profile with a modest ABV.
Brewery: Oskar Blues
City: Longmont, Colo.
Style: Session IPA
Availability: Year-round, 12 oz cans.