Beer O’The Moment – Boulder Beer Cold Hop British-Style Ale

There is a scene in Pulp Fiction where The Wolf is talking to Jimmy in Jimmy’s bedroom. (Jules and Vincent, of course, had just brought Marvin’s dead body into Jimmy’s house.) The Wolf decides to offer Jimmy and his wife Bonnie all new furniture. This, naturally, makes Jimmy forget all about the dead body in his house. The Wolf says, “You look like an oak man, Jimmy. You an oak man?” To which Jimmy replies, “Oak’s nice.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think oak is more than just nice. I think it’s fantastic. If I could have an entire bedroom full of oak instead of particle board, I would do so. I wish all of the walking trees in Lord of the Rings could be oak trees. I want to travel to Oakland, for crying out loud!

My point is that I think oak is really a wonderful wood. I think all wood is outstanding, for that matter.

But sometimes it just goes too far.

Last weekend I sat down to enjoy 12 ounces of Boulder Beer’s Cold-Hop British-Style Ale. The other offering that I have had from Boulder — Mojo IPA — is an excellent, perfectly balanced American IPA. Cold Hop, however, needs to tone it down just a bit.

First let me get into the stuff that’s good about this beer. First of all, it is gorgeous. It is either a dark golden or a light orange, depending on your lighting and your preferred use of syllables. There is not much head, but there is a beautiful haze in the glass that adds some texture and hints at the thickness to come.

The smell … oh the smell. There is a massive blast of magnificent, unexpected woody hops coming out of the aroma. Beneath that is the smell of a dry, grainy malt (I’m guessing an English malt, though I certainly am not smart enough to identify it). It’s halfway between the aroma of a classic pale ale and an IPA. And I’m fine with that. There is a touch of oak in the scent, and it’s pleasant but not overwhelming.

Then comes the sip.

There is one word that can be used to describe this beer: woody. The malt is so dry as to come off as almost stale. [Note: I don’t know that this beer isn’t stale, but it didn’t really have any of the other characteristics of being old. It was released in 12 ounce bottles in August and I drank it in early September.] The piney wood in the hops are fine, really. I am a fan of woody hops, and as long as they are somewhat offset by another element — like dry malt — I can get behind it almost any day. But the heavy oak flavor is just too much. It’s like wood on top of wood.

I should note here that I have no idea whether this beer is actually oak-aged or infused with any kind of oak product. All I know is what I taste, and for someone who enjoys the woody overload of hops in most beers, I have to say that the flavor here did not appear to come from the hops, but from somewhere else.

I have noticed that much like many overhopped Imperial IPAs, which choose to turn hops into a fetish rather than an art, so too have overly oaky beers become commonplace. This one is a bit too much for the likes of me. Combine this thick flavor with the thick, chunky feel, and this beer was one that I had to choke down.

I’m not calling this one an abject failure by Boulder in any way. This one is worth checking out for those who like a healthy dose of extra oomph to their beer. For those who enjoyed Dogfish Head’s 120 IPA, this one will seem like a cold glass of lemonade after mowing the lawn. I, on the other hand, will move along politely.

~ by William H on September 19, 2007.

2 Responses to “Beer O’The Moment – Boulder Beer Cold Hop British-Style Ale”

  1. May be just something you happened to pick up, or maybe something odd about your bottle, but I don’t taste oak at all, nor do I think they use oak at all in the brewing. Interesting…

  2. It’s funny because I read pretty exenstively about the beer after I had it and it didn’t mention anything at all about oak. So it could be one of two things: 1) the beer went through some strange metamorphosis at the store and gave it an oaky aroma, or 2) I had a stroke in the middle of drinking it.

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