It’s Valentine’s Day, so on this holiest of holy days, we commemorate the day that Jesus invented chocolate, flowers, and greeting cards. While I certainly ate my fair share of chocolate today, I don’t think anyone wants to hear me describe the heavenly bitterness of dark Mexican chocolate or the unparalleled creaminess of an Icelandic truffle. Sure, I love me some good chocolate, but what I love even more is a good beer. If there ever was a day to throw good sense out the window, that day might as well be today. Great Divide out of Denver produces some truly spectacular beers, and their Yeti Imperial Stout has to be one of the best examples of the style in the country. What happens when the Yeti is aged in oak barrels and laced with cocoa nibs? Well, let’s check it out.
After letting this brew warm up for about 30 minutes, I poured it into a Chimay goblet because I honestly couldn’t think of any other vessel that would work. Once you get past the jet-black hue, the first thing that hits you from such a wide-mouthed glass is the alcohol. We’re only talking about 9.5% ABV here, nothing crazy for the style, but wow does this thing pack a punch. You also get the first bit of sweetness on the nose that I would call chocolatey, but only because of what I’ve read on the label. No real hop presence that you normally see in domestic imperial stouts. The other Yeti versions I’ve had do have a pronounced floral nose to them so maybe they just toned it down so the chocolate comes through.
Once you take the first sip, the alcohol almost completely subsides and the dark coffee, bitter chocolate, and even milk chocolate flavors start coming through. For me, the shortcoming of any beer that utilizes chocolate is with the tendency to push milk chocolate flavors on the consumer. With this beer, I would compare the milk chocolate taste to that which you would find in a good lacto stout. More of a creamy taste than sweetness. You also get some nice vanilla notes from the oak aging, which I always enjoy. Overall, I found continual balance with sweetness at the front of my mouth and bitterness with dryness at the back of my mouth. Perfect balance all around.
I don’t generally elaborate on mouthfeel, but Imperial Stouts (And porters for that matter) tend to benefit from this descriptor more than any other style. The Yeti isn’t quite as viscous as some Imperial Stouts, nor is it as thin as some others. It strikes a balance right in the middle yet still has some of the “Chewy” feel that you get from the darkest of brews. Your entire mouth will be coated with every sip, which lends to a great appreciation of the flavors.
Drinkability is really what the rating comes down to for this beer. I certainly wouldn’t have more than one, but then again, I don’t know of too many Imperial Stouts that I want to keep drinking like it’s a session beer. I’m giving this one 3.5 hops. It’s an absolutely flawless beer, so it warrants the highest mark, but I’m not sure I would grab a bottle for every occasion. Some breweries make you nervous when they tinker with perfection, especially when they add chocolate to their brews. I’m very happy to report that Great Divide succeeds again – This is one fantastic beer and would be awesome as an after dinner drink.