Thursday May 29th was the official release date for Crooked Fence’s latest brew, “Little Bitch Otter” The Garden City brewer has a bit of a tradition of snappy quirky beer names, not that this necessarily distinguishes them from most other craft breweries, but this particular title was certainly not out of the ordinary for them.
I am not privy to the story behind the name…there must be one… but Im sure it would not be difficult to manufacture something reasonably entertaining Ex Post Facto. I’m pretty sure we can throw out the possibility that it is in reference to the 1977 “feel-good” story of Emmet and his friends and their “jug band”. Seeing as how it is not likely that the late Jim Henson’s estate would have allowed the use of that name anyhow. Maybe it is just that this otter is female, and it is simply accurately named in that way.
Crooked Fence calls this an “India Brown Ale”, yet another BJCP category bastardization, this time a combination (or compromise) of India Pale Ale and Brown Ale. The Beer Judge Certification Program puts a beer like this in Category 23. “Specialty Beer” Basically a catch-all. It’s the organizations category for “we don’t think these are important enough to warrant their own official category in our little classification system, but we can’t deny their existence either” In this case, the IBA is hoppier and more bitter than a standard Brown, and not as roasty and dark as the CDA or Black IPA (itself also not an officially recognized style).
I felt that the pint I had did in fact fit into this category with its nice fresh hoppy bitterness and a healthy component of toasted malts. I suppose it is hard to NOT be true to style when your “style” is so broad, that it includes such diverse elements as Great Divide’s “Bee Sting Honey Ale”, Bear Republic’s “Red Rocket Ale” and Stone’s “Arrogant Bastard”. As a brewer, shooting for Category 23 and nailing it would be about as hard as hitting a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. I had mine at Woodland Empire Ale Craft, the brew place just down the block from the release party, held at Boise’s first growler fill station, “Pre Funk Beer Bar”. I guess you could say I was pre-pre-funking.
…Or…, maybe it is just another installment of their animal theme. OK, it’s not much of a theme, only 3, but they have put out “Black Unicorn” and “Crash Monkey”, as well as last fall’s “Donkey Show”. (I’m not touching what that one might mean) So, so far only mammals. If Platypus Stout is next, I’m not sure if that would continue the run for that class or not. Lactating egg-layers that they are. Perhaps if we knew weather this was an African Otter or a European Otter…that would be a good clue.
Judging by the massive turnout, Id say that this was an eagerly anticipated beer. Woodland Empire is a relative newcomer to the valley and Crooked Fence was in the first wave of early arrivals in the Boise Area craft beer awakening that started about 3 years ago. Both places were packed and had lines out the door and literally down the street. Woodland ran out of their allotment of the Otter by about 630 and I can only hope that PreFunk had a few more kegs. Still, a good beer, cheers to CF on this latest one, and a great crowd, showing their support for another Boise Beer.