Hoptub Bath Machine: Oskar Blues Gets Back to Its Alabama Roots

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Like most college kids, Dale Katechis tried to brew beer in his bathtub. The Alabama native was studying at Auburn University when he started experimenting with home brewing, and that first batch of bath tub beer would evolve over the years into Dale’s Pale Ale, and Katechis would go on to found Oskar Blues, which is now one of the top 25 breweries in the country, according to the Brewers Association. Dale’s, that humble pale ale born in the bathtub at Auburn University, would eventually usher in a beer-can revolution and change the landscape of craft beer. With all of that success, Katechis hasn’t forgotten his Southern roots. In addition to creating a fellowship program for students enrolled in Auburn’s Brewing Sciences and Operations program, Katechis recently invited a handful of Alabama’s most promising brewers to Oskar Blues’ Brevard, N.C., location to collaborate on a new beer, which was appropriately dubbed “Hoptub Bath Machine.”

Alabama’s beer scene is booming (see our guides to Huntsville’s beer scene and Birmingham’s beer scene) and well represented by the ‘Bama crew that pitched in on this fresh beer, with brewers from Straight to Ale (Huntsville), Good People Brewing (Birmingham), Cahaba Brewing (Birmingham) and Fairhope Brewing (Fairhope) making the trek to Brevard.

“It’s great to dig in with the crew that is driving the craft beer scene back home in Alabama,” Katechis said of the band of brewers that he put together for this project.

The brewers worked for weeks to nail down the recipe for the collaboration brew, pitching ideas via email and conference calls until it was time to converge on Oskar Blues and make sweet, sweet beer using New Zealand hop varieties, Golden Promise malt and green peppercorn for a bit of spice. The result is a crisp beer with hints of pear and plenty of aromatics from the late-kettle hop additions.

“It’s got enough hop kick and a nice subtle spiciness from the peppercorns that an IPA drinker would appreciate it,” says Tim Heath, brewer at Fair Hope Brewing. “At the same time, the beer is light and crisp without any overpowering flavors such that someone new to craft beer would be able to enjoy it.”

Ultimately, Hoptub Bath Machine is a sessionable pale brewed for easy festival drinking. Specifically, the beer was brewed for 8th annual Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend, which takes place at The Hangout in Gulf Shores, Alabama on November 6-7 this year. Katechis is making the trip to the Oyster Cook-Off to join a panel discussion on the future of Alabama craft brewing, as part of the festival’s Craft Beer Weekend. More than 60 different beers will be on tap throughout the festival, most of which were brewed in “The Heart of Dixie.” That’s no small feat considering just a few years ago, there was only one craft brewery in the entire state.

“Not too long ago, it was difficult to find an IPA on the shelf in Alabama,” says Lauren McCurdy with Good People Brewing, the oldest craft brewery in the state, opening in 2008. “Now, it seems as if there’s a new brewery popping up once a week. Alabamians have taken to craft beer so naturally and have been incredibly open to trying new styles, learning about brewing, and generally just being big craft beer fans.”

If you want to get a taste for what’s brewing in Alabama, look for six packs of Hoptub Bath Machine throughout Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Or head to the Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend. Hoptub makes its official debut to the public at the festival on Friday.

This post is brought to you by the Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend at The Hangout in Gulf Shores, Ala., Nov. 6-8.

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