Iowa Beer Trail Stops in Okoboji

Spend enough time in the state of Iowa and you will begin to wonder about this place called Lake Okoboji.  You will see people with stickers on their car proclaiming their allegiance to such a place and people will wear sweatshirts telling you that they are a proud alumnus of the University of Okoboji.  Too bad there is no university bearing such a moniker.

Lake Okoboji and the town of Spirit Lake have given us beer.  From Okoboji Brewing in particular.  On a recent trip to Des Moines to enjoy some back to school shopping and the horror that is Adventureland, I picked up three different varieties of beer from Okoboji Brewing at a HyVee in West Des Moines.  I was actually looking to procure some of the recently available canned beer from Confluence Brewing, but that was a no go.  I was hoping for a pleasant surprise from a brewery I had not known about prior.

Things were looking good with Boji Blue:

Boji Blue

Boji Blue is described as an American Pale Ale.  I am starting to have a hard time telling the difference between American pale ale and IPA anymore.

Using a combination of Cascade and Centennial hops to provide a middling bitterness (45 IBU) there is a definite “hoppiness” to Boji Blue.  It almost comes across like it was a dry hopped beer when the aroma hits your nose.  No mention of dry hopping was to be found.

Overall, a pretty solid effort that made me excited to crack the next two cans.  I should have stopped when I was ahead, but I opened a can of The Hole in Hadrian’s Wall:

The Hole in Hadrians Wall

It’s described as a Scottish ale.  It’s a pretty heavy beer (9.5% ABV) with a mild bitterness (19 IBU) and it is brewed with heather tips to provide an interesting accent.  None of this matters because the dominant flavor of the beer is an extreme sourness that just bulldozes anything else.  It’s not the cloying, multi-layered sour profile of actual sour ale.  No, it’s just sour like the beer went bad.  I actually thought I had a bad can of beer so I cracked another.  Guess what?  Equally as sour.  Ugh!

Ironically, the can’s label describes the style of beer, known in Scotland as “wee heavy,” having been served in smallish 6 ounce packages.  Here it comes in a 16 ounce can.  I challenge anyone to finish a full pint of this liquid.

I was hoping for redemption with 33 Select Brown Ale:

33 Select Brown Ale

This beer seemed a little gimmicky with the inclusion of maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla.  I have had some beers that really pull off using maple syrup, particularly porters or stouts, and many beers include cinnamon to good effect.  Vanilla?  I cannot think of one example that I have tried where vanilla was a conscious inclusion.

What’s the verdict?  The beer comes across a little flat and thin.  It’s sweet, which is easy to understand given the inclusion of maple syrup, but the vanilla flavors just dominate to a point where the beer comes across surprisingly one note.  It sort of felt like I was sucking on a vanilla candle at one of those horrid “olde tyme candle shoppes.”  Unlike The Hole in Hadrian’s Wall, which went down the drain, I was able to repurpose 33 Select Brown Ale as brat boiling liquid for a weekend get together of friends where we cracked open quite a few homebrews.  If a beer gets relegated to brat duty—like the cans of Coors Light I keep in the refrigerator for my father—it should be considered a failure of brewing.

The sad thing is that I had hope that Okoboji Brewing would be a surprise.  They seemed interested in pushing some stylistic boundaries and they were saying all the right things, especially about putting beer in cans.  Alas, the results speak for themselves.  Nothing to see here.

All is not lost in the area, however, as I have high hopes for the good folks at West O Beer which opened in May of this year.


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