Colorado leads the nation in craft beer so it’s easy to forget the Centennial State’s notable for other, non-boozy reasons. Put down the pint for a moment, Denver beer geeks, and look to the west; that’s Colorado’s original claim to fame. Those snow-capped peaks have been attracting visitors long before “beercations” were a thing. Certainly, the Rockies are a wonderful place to explore in the summertime but the mountains are at their best when covered in powdery snow, when they beckon skiers and boarders to come outside and play. With suds and slopes being so popular, it was only a matter of time before the two industries collided and collide they did in Icey Pale Ale (7% ABV), a collaborative effort between Oskar Blues Brewery and Denver-based Icelantic Skis.
Color: Rocky, mousse-like, cream-colored foam floats atop a body of plain orange (not dark orange, not light orange, just orange) with yellow highlights. It’s a mostly clear beer but a keen eye detects the suggestion of haze. Although not the beer itself, it’s difficult to leave Icelantic’s artful contribution unmentioned; the ski company is known for intricately decorated planks and that reputation’s further advanced via the majestic white buffalo they placed on the can.
Aroma: First, a whiff of subdued pine needles. Then, there’s an earthy, grassy, smoked undertone. With a few deep breaths, one can also root out a touch of lemon and orange.
Taste: Not every IPA is a blast of intense bitterness and Icey Pale Ale is one such IPA. It’s hardly bitter, rather dank and earthy and woodsy. The bite of pine resin comes to the surface briefly but is gone in a flash. Citrus flavors begin to shine through but not the bitterness of citrus peel. At 7% ABV, Icey Pale Ale hovers at the lower threshold of imperial IPAs and its malty, leathery qualities beg the question: is this a strong American IPA or a weak imperial IPA? Like the Tommyknocker beer of that name, Icey Pale Ale is an IPA and a half.
Mouthfeel: Icey Pale Ale is quite dry; one feels the need to apply lip balm after imbibing. Not too heavy, this beer features a little heft that, like the flavor, lies between conventional American IPA and imperial IPA.
It’s a perfect union, this partnership between Colorado beer and Colorado ski culture, and it’s a wonder why it took so long for the two industries to join forces. At any rate, skiers may want to stuff a few Icey Pale Ales in their pack of provisions, they make for great aprés ski treats. Plus, the can design just might complement the ski design.