Lord Copperpot requested…nay, demanded, a Gubna tasting note in the Comments section of the Oskar Blues Gordon post. Who am I to deny a request from a fellow Alehead?
There’s a reason I’ve held back on writing about the Gubna. It is far and away my least favorite Oskar Blues brew. I first had it canned in Colorado and thought it paled in comparison to their other offerings. But I figured I’d give it another shot in Philly since it was on tap. I thought a draft Gubna might be better…I was wrong.
While I generally have no compunction about proclaiming a beer to be lousy, this one pains me to no end. I really, really love Oskar Blues. I love the way they balance their malt and hop profiles. I love that everything they make is challenging but accessible. I love that they pioneered the use of cans in the craft-brewing industry. I love their Dale’s Pale Ale. I love their Old Chub. I love their Ten FIDY. I love their Gordon. I even kind of like the Mama’s Little Yella Pils despite having very little affection for the style.
But the Gubna…sigh. Where did Oskar Blues go wrong with this one? It’s an Imperial IPA…a style you would think Oskar Blues couldn’t POSSIBLY screw up. They’re masters of hop usage…masters of aggressive, high-ABV beers. So wha’ happened? For starters, Oskar Blues decided to only use one hop varietal in the brew (Summit). Compared to other breweries, which routinely use half-a-dozen or more hop varietals in their Imperial IPAs, the decision smacks of hubris. It was like Oskar Blues believed they were such an infallible brewery that they wanted to add an insane degree of difficulty to brewing the Gubna.*
*Let me stress once again that I believe Oskar Blues is one of the best breweries in America. They are better at brewing beer than I will ever be at anything.
The Summit hops they use in the brew certainly have their place…but as a single-hop in an Imperial IPA? I don’t think so. They then tried to balance the hop profile with just three malt varietals (one of which is a Rye). That’s certainly not criminal, but compared to something like Terrapin’s rye beers (the Rye Pale Ale and Rye Squared each use five types of malt), it’s probably not enough to hold the brew together. That’s not to say limited hop/malt varietal brewing can’t work. Often it does…ask any competent home-brewer. But in the case of the Gubna? Nope.
The Gubna pours beautifully. A bright, gold-flecked orange hue with an off-white, long-lasting head. Good clarity and nice lacing add to the appealing aesthetic.
The nose is where things take a turn for the worse. Check out BeerAdvocate’s reviews and one word will keep popping up: onion. It’s a strange word to associate with beer, but it’s spot on. The Gubna has a strange, savory, onion/garlic aroma. It smells a bit like a garbage disposal that hasn’t been run in a few days. I’m making it sound worse than it really is, and obviously there’s plenty of citrus and grapefruit in the nose. But it’s hard to get past that onion odor and it really killed my enjoyment of the brew.
The taste is a little better. The big 100-IBU hop bitterness, 9.5%-ABV alcohol burn, and spice from the rye malt all play well off each other. But there’s still a touch of that onion and garlic in the flavor which just tastes wrong. It’s not an awful experience…you can tell this is a beer made by a high-quality brewery. But it just doesn’t come together and there are too many off-flavors.
The mouthfeel is appropriate for the style. Medium-to-full bodied and good carbonation. But drinkability is very low thanks to the funky aroma and weird flavor subtleties. I’ll give it 2 Hops as I really don’t want to go lower than that for Oskar Blues. I respect their commitment to pushing the envelope, but I hope the Gubna sees some serious recipe tweaking in the future or else gets dumped from the line entirely. Until then, I’ll simply enjoy everything else Oskar Blues makes. Every brewery is entitled to a mulligan, after all. And if you’re gonna make a shitty beer, you might as well name if after Dubya.