Great Divide Hibernation Ale: A “peculierly” good brew
Great Divide calls this an “Old Ale” and pitches it as their winter seasonal. Just in time for the holidays, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m not very familiar with Old Ales. In fact, the only one I know of off the top of my head is the standard of the style: Theakston’s Old Peculier. This style is defined by malty sweetness with very little hop presence. There is usually some form of dark syrup added, like molasses. Because of the dark malt bill and partially non-fermentable adjuncts, these beers generally are best when aged for a few months. Those who crave instant gratification need not worry, though . . . Great Divide ages this beer for several months before it hits the shelves. If you can hold one in your hand, it’s time to pour it into a glass and enjoy it. Still, and purely for the purposes of research, I plan to sneak one down to the beer cellar to enjoy next year. You know, just for the sake of comparison.
Over the past couple years it seems that quite a few breweries have stepped away from the cinnamon and nutmeg and created some really good winter/holiday/celebration/whatever-you-want-to-call-them ales. This is a good thing. To my palate, the ales of Christmases past have just been overdone. Even though I’m a major Hophead, this year I have enjoyed several of these Winter Warmers. This one stands out as truly excellent.
Great Divide Hibernation Ale pours out with a clear dark amber color and a dense, long-lasting white head that eventually gives way to a nice lacing on the glass. The nose is very complex with dark fruits, caramel and toffee well-balanced against the alcohol presence. This is a sweet beer, but is not overdone in any way. Nothing stands out as overwhelming despite the immense amount of flavor here. It is like a finely crafted candy in beer form. Really tasty. It finishes with a chocolate note and maybe a touch of piney resin, oak and peaty malt. The finish is as complex as the nose and again is very well-balanced.
I’m glad I picked this one up. It will become a Festivus tradition!