OSKAR BLUES GUBNA

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.

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8 comments

  1. Much obliged.
    Sorry to hear about the Gubna. A small piece of my soul died after reading this. Not that I had much of a soul to begin with.

    I can only hope that the evil geniuses at Oskar Blues purposefully made this beer lousy just so they could name it after Dubya. Then, in about 4 years, they’ll change the recipe, along with the name? Call it “‘Bama,” perhaps?

    And start distributing in Alabama?

    Wishful thinking. I know.

  2. That may not be as far-fetched as you think, Mashtun. Allow me to hypothesize:

    1. Oskar Blues is famous for their carefully-calibrated, complex, perfectly balanced brews.
    2. The Gubna is none of those things. In fact, it’s BLATANTLY none of those things. It’s as if Oskar Blues intentionally did NOT balance the brew by limiting the hop and malt varietals. Intriguing.
    3. They named the beer after W, a man they clearly have no affection for. We know this because:
    4. They call it Gubna, which is derisive to W for two reasons:
    4a. By referring to his former status as Texas Governor rather than his more prestigious position as POTUS, Oskar Blues is clearly delegitimizing his controversial election in 2000.
    4b. By intentionally misspelling Governor as “Gubna”, they are mocking his folksy twang and Texas-sized persona. A persona that he cultivated despite the fact that he was, you know, born in Connecticut and went to Yale.
    5. Other phrases on the beer can also hint at Oskar Blues’ dislike of W.
    5a. Across the top of the can reads the word “Disestablishmentarian”. This phrase refers to someone who is against the established order. W clearly ignored the established order to push forward his own, misguided agenda.
    5b. The slogan opposite the word “Disestablishmentarian” reads “Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth!” The famous line from Sweet Home Alabama (Oskar Blues brewmaster Dale Katechis’ home state) is obviously challenging W. The hope is that his conscience weighs impossibly heavy on him after he made so many horrific, disastrous decisions during his Presidency. Of course, it probably doesn’t because he’s a fucking idiot who thinks everything he does is God’s will.
    5c. Another phrase on the can says “Give the GUBNA a harumph harumph.” This is perhaps the most telling. A harumph is a derisive laugh. While the can may be telling its drinker to derisively sneer at W, it may also be winkingly recognizing that the beer in the can isn’t particularly cheer-worthy.
    6. The beer is an Imperial IPA. W was the most Imperial POTUS since the age of Colonialism. That has to be relevant.

    So add all those up. A beer intentionally made contrary to how Oskar Blues normally brews beer. A beer named after a person the Oskar Blues brewers clearly hate. A beer with catchphrases and slogans which establish their dislike of that person and even encourage drinker’s to mock the individual AND the beer.

    The end result? I agree with Lord Copperpot. I think Oskar Blues intentionally created a shitty beer as a subversive “fuck you” to W. I hope the beer and the man fade from the public eye and we never have to see or hear from either of them again in the future.

    Man…just writing these comment is bringing back a lot of awful memories of the worst fucking President in US history. I really hated that guy.

  3. On point #2: Limiting the variety makes it a very simple beer. As you mentioned, it’s something that home-brewers could probably pull off. Similarly, Dubya was a pretty simple guy. You could have put any American half-wit up in the Oval Office and they could have produced similar results.
    The dearth of complexity in that brew is the perfect metaphor for Dubya’s intellect, understanding, and talent for long term strategery planning.

  4. I’m not positive, and I’m no expert on psychology or neuroplasticity, but I’m pretty sure you just blew my mind. Not as painful as I would have expected, which is the exact opposite of the way I feel about the legacy of Baby Bush.

    In closing, your words are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  5. Sweeneyphi · · Reply

    That was a perfect example of a typical “my 5-boat was just sunk conversation.” Simply Brilliant.

    I still have to think that they were trying to make the Gubna a simpleton beer that actually tasted good rather than wasting the one of the best styles on a joke. Couldn’t they have made a shitty lager or koelsch and named it Gubna, instead? Hell they could have just bought cases of keystone light and rebottled it under the Gubna label….

  6. Five year Homebrewer with lots of friends who agree….. the Gubna is one of the best beers on the market right now. Do a google, check NB forum, many experts agree, a darn tasty brew. Will definately try to clone this brew.

    As to the attempts to politicize this beer…. typically -of course, “It’s George Bushes Fault” is tastes bad to you….. When we are all long dead, fyi, GW’s legacy will be way above that of our current piece of POTUS….

  7. Whatsitworth…I know a lot of people that love the Gubna. The review was just one man’s opinion and while I stand by it, I firmly recognize that my personal tastes are not always universally accepted. Summit hops have a distinct aroma and flavor and one’s appreciation of the Gubna is wholly dictated by how you feel about Summit. I found the spice/garlic/onion notes to distract from the beer and it greatly dampened my enjoyment of a brew I had looked forward to trying for awhile. To each his own, and as I always say…if YOU think it’s a good beer, then it’s a good beer. That’s the beauty of beer-opinions…everyone is right.

    As for your politics…if you’re looking for support of Dubya on these pages, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Our readership is fairly liberal (though we certainly respect differing opinions). I think the folks at Oskar Blues clearly hold an ill opinion of the Gubna (the man, not the beer) and I was just riffing on that. Am I wrong about where the name came from? Probably. I usually am.

    Regardless, it’s good to have an experienced homebrewer on the site and thanks for letting us know how you feel about a controversial brew from an awesome brewery!

  8. […] Oskar Blues GUBNA really taste like rotten onions and is it a ploy by OB to take a jab at Baby George Bush by […]

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