Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy impossibly complex — and crazy good!
By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers
Quite the storm February welcomed us with for Super Bowl Sunday, eh? After digging out, I hope you enjoyed the game with some good food and handpicked craft beer.
This week, I would like to review a newcomer to the Rockford craft beer market. The brewery is Oskar Blues, and the beer is an Imperial Stout named Ten Fidy.
In the past, if you drove north across the Wisconsin border or east toward Chicago, you could find Oskar Blues beers, but thankfully, we now have them right here in the Rock River Valley.
The first time I tried Ten Fidy was a couple of years ago at the Great Lakes Beer Festival in Racine, Wisconsin. I was infatuated by this dark knight of beer.
Imperial stout, also known as Russian Imperial stout, was inspired by brewers in the 1800s to win over the Russian Czar. Boasting a high alcohol by volume (ABV) and plenty of malt character, this is the king of stouts.
Oskar Blues Restaurant was founded in 1997 by Dick Dale Katechis in Lyons, Colorado. Two years later, they began brewing beer in the restaurant’s basement. The company was ranked as Colorado’s second-largest craft brewery and the 27th largest in the U.S. in 2012. In 2013, they opened a satellite brewery in Brevard, North Carolina. The original Oskar Blues Grill and Bar is still in Lyons, with 45 beers on tap.
Oskar Blues has been credited as the creator of the “first released canned craft beer in the United States” with the release of Dale’s Pale Ale in 2002. However, there is evidence that Mid Coast Brewing Co. distributed a canned craft beer in 1991. Mid Coast closed in 1994. Four other breweries prior to Oskar Blues distributed canned craft beer, although it should be noted that these breweries contracted the canning through larger companies.
Oskar Blues’ portfolio consists of seven year round, two seasonal and three specialty beers. Ten Fidy is one of their seasonal offerings released in the fall. Being the BIG beer that it is, I will use a tulip-style glass and let this beast warm up to more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Holy motor oil, Batman! The pour is satanically black, like used motor oil with 10,000 miles on it. The inkiness is topped by a very thick and creamy two-finger mocha chocolate-colored head that falls very slowly to a half-finger cap. A thick cobweb of sticky lacing is left on the glass from the rim to the foam cap. If there is any carbonation, it’s too dark to tell.
The aroma is complex with hints of sweet creamy chocolate, coffee, vanilla, dark fruits (cherry and plum?), banana and biscuit/bready malts. The sum of these creates a mild earthiness and surprisingly no alcohol presence. As the beer warms, some of these aromas become more pronounced.
The flavor is impossibly complex … espresso-like coffee, chocolate and toasted biscuit/bready malts are immediate, with a touch of molasses sweetness fighting for attention. The background has spicy hop bitterness and some astringency; as the beer warms, the 10.5 percent ABV starts flexing its muscles. Subtle? Not a chance, but this is crazy good.
The mouth feel is rich and full-bodied, coating the palate from front to back. A surprising amount of carbonation tingles on the tongue and keeps it from being syrup-y. The ABV is felt in the chest on the way down.
Overall, I would have to say that this is a classic Imperial Stout that is powerful, uncompromising, demanding and fun to drink. The full body and 10.5 percent ABV make this a bona fide sipper. It’s an experience any true stout lover must add to their bucket list, as Ten Fidy is certainly worthy if you are in the mood to treat yourself.
Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Rockford Brewing Company, 200 Prairie St., on the Rock River. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Feb. 4-10, 2015, issue