Mixed Six: Tasting across the Great Divide

[image-1]Hoss Rye Lager (6.2% ABV)


Based on the Marzen lagers of Germany, Hoss takes the natural bright simplicity and caramel malt of the style and layers it with a surprising burst of dark fruit and a hint of toasty rye spice. It’s the kind of lager that reminds ale drinkers that there’s something to that other form of fermentation, at least when executed properly.


[image-2]Denver Pale Ale (5.4% ABV)


This is Great Divide’s take on beer for the average Joe, if the average Joe is an English working man who appreciates an overwhelming aroma of wildflowers from his pint of glowing copper pale ale. Those fragrant floral notes blend with citrus oil in the mouth, and just enough green bitter in the finish to cleanse the palate and make way for a little more. It may very well be the simplest and most straightforward of Great Divide’s line, which still puts the DPA ahead of most other beers.


[image-3]Titan IPA (7.1% ABV)


More subdued and elegant than the DPA, the IPA has a pronounced sweet malt flavor that seems a trademark of Great Divide’s beers. In fact, those caramel, bready and toffee malts dominate the brew, barely balanced by subtle citrus notes and resiny hops. Thankfully, the richness of the malt never veers into cloying, making it an enjoyable beer that’s just not as bright as it might be.


[image-4]Hercules Double IPA (10% ABV)


You might think the Hercules would be more of the same, but along with a massive (for an IPA) ABV of 10 percent comes a considerable amount of complexity. Pour it into a glass and you’ll smell it at arm’s length: first a blast of bright, sweet citrus, immediately followed by a foundation of nut and caramel from the malt, then zesty, tingling hops. In the mouth, it delivers all of that in an incredibly balanced package accented by a good punch of dry and bitter hops.


[image-5]Saint Bridget’s Porter (5.9% ABV)


This brew, named after an Irish saint who reputedly turned bathwater into beer, shows what Great Divide can do with roasted malts. The results are classic porter flavors in spades — bitter chocolate, coffee, tobacco — without the almost cloying sweetness of some of Great Divide’s other beers. Nice, but it comes with a price: Saint Bridget comes across thin in the mouth, with not nearly enough body to carry it through to the finish.


[image-6]Yeti Imperial Stout (9.5% ABV)


If you’ve ever dumped a quart of oil into your car or measured the souls of your enemies, you’ve experienced the kind of inky darkness that pours out of a bottle of Yeti. This beer is so black you suspect that it’s making the lights in the room dim merely by the force of its color. It smells incredible, a coherent mélange of coffee, nuts, sweet and bitter chocolate, and dark fruits. It tastes even better, with the roasted malts balanced by sweet vanilla and caramel notes, and all the flavors promised in the nose coming together into a creamy, earthy, balanced package. If Guinness is all you know from stout, the Yeti could very well destroy your mind. (Great Divide also releases oak-aged, chocolate oak-aged and espresso oak-aged version of the Yeti.)

Look down the singles shelves at your local beer purveyor and you’ll find a offerings from a wide variety of American craft breweries. A few from this producer, a couple from that. But few craft breweries — few mega-breweries, for that matter — can match the incredibly wide range of options from the prolific Great Divide Brewing from Denver, Col.

Started in 1994 by home brewer Brian Dunn, Great Divide makes 10 regular production beers and over a dozen seasonal bottlings, most of which have been tossed a few accolades from a wide variety of festivals and numerous critics. The brewery itself was recognized by beeradvocate.com as the 7th Best All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth.

There’s a reason for that. Even with so many beers in production, Great Divide manages to inject both a signature malty style and a huge amount of character into almost every bottle. And, with so many great beers under one label, why settle on just one six-pack? I filled a mixed six of Great Divide's offerings  and settled in for a tasty weekend.

Tasting notes for the six beers after the break:

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