The Longmont, Colo.-based company originally debuted the beer, albeit with a slightly different recipe, at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference, held this past April in Denver, Colo.
The new formula — which was brewed to contain a more moderate 6.9 percent alcohol-by-volume, compared to the beer’s original 8 percent ABV — was the direct result of retailer feedback, Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis told Brewbound.
“A lot of the bars that were giving us feedback had been selling 10 oz. pours because of the higher ABV,” he said. “The lower ABV will allow those bars to pour full pints.”
Old Chub Nitro will begin shipping to 35 states and Washington D.C. next week and has a suggested retail price of $8.99 per 4-pack (16.4 oz. cans).
Packaged nitro beers are becoming increasingly popular amongst craft brewers. Fellow Longmont-based Left Hand Brewing extended its own “nitro” line of beers last October and companies as large as Boston Beer have even introduced their own offerings.
Last year, Left Hand’s VP of Operations Chris Lennert told Brewbound that the rapid success of the brewery’s bottled Milk Stout Nitro was evidence that a new segment was emerging.
“In our opinion, nitro is a whole new category and option for consumers,” he said. “A lot of other people are starting to play with nitro. Why is that? Because consumers are wanting it.”
Melis agreed and also explained how non-draft nitro beers allow craft brewers to more efficiently sample retailers and create a selling opportunity that might not have existed before. Canned and bottled nitro beers, like the ones Oskar Blues and Left Hand produce, give on-premise retailers a way to sell nitrogenated products without having to alter their current draft systems.
That’s good news for a craft beer consumer base that loves to experiment with new products.
“Craft beer drinkers like options and things that are different,” said Melis. “Nitro will be another avenue for craft beer drinkers to mature. As you get more into the complexities of craft beer, I think the nitro pour and the mouthfeel allows you to dive into the beer a bit more.”
The broadened distribution footprint for the Old Chub Nitro brand isn’t the only expansion happening at Oskar Blues, however. The company recently acquired a 50,000 sq. ft. building between its Longmont offices and its brewhouse. It is currently in the process of building additional warehouse space and a new taproom, which will be outfitted with a six-lane bowling alley and wood-fire pizza kitchen.
The expansion should allow the company to grow capacity, Melis said. Some areas of Oskar Blues’ current brewing space, which are currently used to store raw materials and sell beer over the taproom bar, will be rededicated for fermentation space.
“We are looking to be able to add 14 additional fermenters to our existing space,” he said.
Construction on the new facility began on Aug. 1 and, although a completion date has not been set for the project, Melis said he expects portions of the new space to be functional before the end of the year.
The total cost of the expansion was not known, Melis said.
A full press release with additional details on the release of Old Chub Nitro is below.
Longmont, Colo. & Brevard, N.C. – Fresh off a limited OLD CHUB SCOTCH ALE NITRO launch at the Craft Brewers Conference in April, Oskar Blues Brewery will begin distributing the first AmeriCAN craft NITRO beer in a CAN nationally. The nitro version of OLD CHUB has been modified from 8% ABV to 6.9% ABV to ensure full pint pours rather than 8-ounce or 10-ounce “tulip” or “rocks” glass pours as a result of the high ABV.
The original brobdingnagian OLD CHUB Scotch Ale 12-ounce cans will remain at 8% ABV. When you combine the drinkability of the Nitro pour and the increased serving size of the over-pint 16.4 ounce Nitro can, 6.9% ABV allows beer drinkers a chance to enjoy more CANs. The new Nitro cans will begin shipping next week to all 35 states that Oskar Blues distributes to, alongside the original 12-ounce OLD CHUB cans.
“The nitro style allows beer lovers to go deeper into the chocolaty, smoky, smooth mouth-feel and complex, rich malty flavors of the OLD CHUB Scotch Ale,” says Jeremy Rudolf, Oskar Blues Beer Traffic Control Freak. “Retailers and beer drinkers alike are looking for full pint pours. Moving the ABV from 8% to 6.9% will let bars and restaurants pour full pints of OLD CHUB NITRO, and we’re stoked for more people to have their mind blown with the uber-silky smooth oral experience when they try one of our best-selling brews in a new way. Why 16.4 ounces? Because that’s all the OLD CHUB we could cram in there.”
After years of experimenting with putting fresh draft beers on nitro, Oskar Blues Brewery decided to take the next step and insert the robustly complex OLD CHUB into a Nitro’ d CAN. Both internal and taproom trials were part of the new formulation process, and the 6.9% version measured up in taste to the 8% version while many liked the ability to have more than one.
“This wasn’t an easy undertaking but in the end, we were able to craft the most appropriate incarnation of OLD CHUB for the Nitro style,” says brewer Juice Drapeau, who was a driving force in the project.
Nitro refers to the addition of Nitrogen (N2) gas to the carbonation process. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller than CO2 bubbles and they don’t get along, so they react with and displace each other, creating the signature “cascade” when allowed to agitate, which contributes to the thick, creamy mouth feel of nitro brews. In the CAN, the special nitro widget releases Nitrogen gas into the beer when it’s opened, causing the beer to cascade. On draft, a special piece of tap equipment called a restrictor plate forces the nitrogenated beer through tiny holes to help provide that necessary friction to create the Nitro cascade.
The self-dubbed “CHUB TRUST” pushed the innovation of a quality nitro experience in a CAN with the help of The Ball Corporation. OLD CHUB NITRO utilizes an existing widget technology developed by Ball. The Nitro widget is attached to the bottom of the can and is charged with nitrogen during the filling process. The widget releases the nitrogen when the can is opened-liberating the cascading creamy smooth nitro pour.
OLD CHUB NITRO will continue to be available in 16.4-ounce 4-pack cans priced in line with Dale’s Pale Ale, Mama’s Little Yella Pils and Old Chub 12-ounce 6-packs.
About Oskar Blues Brewery
Founded as a brewpub by Dale Katechis in 1997, Oskar Blues Brewery launched the craft beer-in-a-can apocalypse in 2002 using a tabletop machine that sealed one can at a time. In 2008, the makers of the top-selling pale ale in ColoRADo, Dale’s Pale Ale, moved into a 35,000-square-foot facility in Longmont, ColoRADo. The brewery has since experienced explosive growth-packaging 59,000 barrels of beer in 2011 and 86,750 barrels in 2012. In December of 2012, Oskar Blues opened the doors to an additional brewery in Brevard, North Carolina. Together, the breweries packaged 119,000 barrels of beer in 2013, distributing its trailblazing craft brews to 35 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.