Great beers -- really great ones -- have of late fallen into two categories. Big IPAs make their impression with complex hop mixes that weave floral flavors with notes of juicy grapefruit and pineapple, pine resin and daunting bitterness. Big stouts levy another piece of the puzzle, malt, for a savory warmth of chocolate, toffee, vanilla, smokiness and even bourbon notes. Drinkers in the know will rave about Pliny the Younger and Bourbon County, and those are undoubtedly top-tier beers. But amid all the cheering for fireworks on the tongue and nose, there are still plenty of folks who just want something more subtle and tasty -- something that achieves the balance of the classic greats without losing touch with the exotic flavors beer aficionados crave.
Great Divide Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout comes from a family of "big" beers. The Yeti clan hails from Denver-based Great Divide Brewing Company, a brewery with a precedent for high alcohol by volume brews (and award-winning beers -- 17 at the Great American Beer Festival alone, to be exact). As founder Brian Dunn told The New York Times in 2005, "As people who can and do drink beer all day long, it's obviously more interesting for us to drink big beers that are long on flavor and complexity."
Oatmeal Yeti's predecessor, Yeti Imperial Stout, is a hulking monster that consistently ranks with the likes of Founders Breakfast Stout in terms of quality (in 2010 it was ranked #36 on BeerAdvocate's "Top 100 Beers on Planet Earth" list). At 9.5% ABV, the original Yeti certainly doesn't hide its alcohol heat, but its boozy intensity is matched by huge roasted malt flavors that transform to wood, smoke and caramel as the beer warms. In fact, the malt flavors are so ferocious that they overwhelm a huge hoppiness that tops 75 IBUs. In Beer-Speak, that's "International Bitterness Units", and a ranking of 75 makes the original Yeti more severe than an ex at a wedding. Since the original Yeti's release Great Divide has spawned several one-off versions, including oak-aged Yeti, chocolate oak-aged Yeti, and espresso oak-aged Yeti (#43 on RateBeer's 2013 list of the best in the world). All are absolute behemoths in terms of flavor, and all are created by the same evil geniuses at Great Divide.
Oatmeal Yeti, released in 2013, is a different breed of the same creature. It doesn't give up on the high alcohol content that its brewery finds such a wheelhouse; rather, the simple inclusion of rolled oats and some raisins (among a few other tweaks) tames the monster's sharp teeth and adds some book smarts. This Yeti went to Yale.
The beer pours an inky black that seeps aromas of cocoa and raisins, but the nose keeps mysterious most of the Oatmeal Yeti's complex flavors. A sip at the recommended 55 degrees Fahrenheit reveals dark fruits and raisins, caramel and brown sugar, and creamy chocolate. Then there's an oily nuttiness. One of our tasters even described a "wallop of tobacco". A somewhat salty finish pairs with the dark chocolate notes for a distinct and savory conclusion. As the beer warms, larger fruity notes emerge, as does a more bitter chocolate taste and even a woody bourbon mellowness. Oatmeal Yeti is a beer with flavors from divers styles: the heavy raisins and brown sugar of a Belgian Strong Dark ale; the sweeter malts and nuttiness of a nut brown ale; the chocolate and caramel of a sweet stout; and a briny close that calls to mind the tang of a Belgian Pale Ale.
Oatmeal Yeti isn't just ridiculously complex -- it's sublimely balanced. No one note overpowers the others; in particular, Oatmeal Yeti is impressively quiet about its 9.5% ABV, which took small, tasteful bows only after the beer warmed. The most unrelenting aspect of the beer is the mouth feel, which happily carries forth the original Yeti's ridiculously thick, nearly gooey feel (seriously, it's like motor oil). In the Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout, Great Divide tempered exuberant flavors with tasteful execution. It's what's missing from most of today's great stouts, and it makes Oatmeal Yeti a beer we'll drink any season.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
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