Sud Savant: Craft Beer Review – Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti

I’ve been breaking out some decent bottles in the last month or so, some of which are documented in this blog. Today will provide no exception as I’m finally ready to crack open a bottle of Espresso Oak Aged Yeti from Great Divide Brewing Co. out of Denver, Colorado. I’m pretty excited to say the least. I’ve only snagged tastes of Yeti before and one of those was a bottle that was shared at the 2012 Dark Lord Day, but it had soured. I tasted it anyway just to see the off flavors. As with many beers, this one is not immediately available in my area, so you know that when I saw it at a beer store when I was out of town, I had to snag it. Especially after being subject to its reputation for too long. Let’s pour!

Aroma 12/12: Even before opening the bottle I was expecting a monstrous coffee aroma in proportion to the mythical creature of its namesake. Thankfully, I was mistaken. Yeti did not try to bowl me over with overpowering coffee. I was apprehensive after seeing “with coffee added” on the label instead of being brewed with coffee or a malt that might elicit the same flavors. As mentioned, Yeti does sets aside all those worries and gives the drinker something truly special. It’s not often one is comforted by a Yeti. You may quote me.

Surprisingly, the first to the nose is a dark, dark chocolate malt and is followed closely by brewed espresso (naturally), and a lesser sweet oatmeal or lactose note. The coffee is anything but overpowering even as the drink warms, and I give this beer high praise for its restraint. When chilled, the beer initially makes the sweet creaminess easy to detect. Eventually a bit more balance appears and a bitterness begins to grow on the palate. The final stage is a glorious one as chocolate and heat step forward a bit, and the coffee + chocolate blend begins a perfect harmony. I mean perfect. I can hardly tell which one is more present. Is there one that’s 51/49? 55/45? Couldn’t tell you. They are wondrously blended.

Appearance 3/3: I should just be able to write, “This looks like one of the best stouts you’ve ever had” and you would know. However, in the interest of maintaining a high level of detail I shall elaborate. It pours black and thick and raises a generous, two fingers of chocolate mousse-colored head. The head nearly has the appearance of cake it is so thick. Look at the below photo! I had to take one, it was that striking. I mean, c’mon, it even could have its own SRM rating! Its longevity was also impressive as was its lacing. There is nothing to complain about here and if I could give it more points I would. Maybe I can just send money to Denver and tell them to buy themselves something pretty. They deserve it.

Flavor 19/20: So maybe now is when I’ll be overwhelmed with coffee, right? Right? Well, perhaps not as this particular bottle was born on December 19, 2011. Maybe I should just drink it and find out. The first sips are absolutely saturated with flavor and only once the tongue begins to acclimate to this tsunami of goodness can one begin to pick apart the flavors. A burst of dark roast comes first, but is instantly washed away, almost literally, by the foaming action of the beer and an intense dollop of extremely dark chocolate. The chocolate sits heavily in the mouth and refuses to be moved, but instead is paired with a salty flavor and bits of char from the malt. I must commend the chocolate/salt blend. Wow. This is absolutely delicious! The coffee flavor has faded with age, but it still provides a general bitter to help darken the beer as a whole. The bitter is, of course, more present in the finish as the beer flows over those ‘bitter’ taste buds on the back of the tongue. The mouth remains coated with chocolate and coffee flavors and only much later in the aftertaste are we treated to any hint of warmth in this beer. It comes with a lingering chocolate java and ties things together nicely.

Mouthfeel 5/5: After swallowing, I found myself wanting to chew this beer. Some part of me needed to get every last savory bit of flavor out of this brew. I even chewed the sides of my mouth a little bit just so my teeth could scrape off any lingering dark, smoky goodness. This is unquestionably a full-bodied, big ol’ beer and packs an absolute flavor bomb. It offers a carbonation a smidgen higher than I might expect, but it also might be necessary as this beer is extremely sticky in the mouth after swallowing. When the beer is still chilled, that carbonation offers an neat foaming action, but later on is there to simply provide texture for a very large beer. Warmth is invisible save for its brief cameo in the aftertaste.

Overall Impression 10/10: I’ll try not to gush, but…. WOW! What a beer! The flavors are massive and the chocolate espresso blend is a home run. The coffee flavor itself had faded (I’ll never know how much), but even in its current state adds a solid bitter that lends itself well to portraying a darker chocolate than perhaps was intended. Please keep in mind that even though there are many mentions of chocolate, this beer is not what one would call sweet. Just as a 90% cacao chocolate bar isn’t exactly something you offer to the kiddies. Superior appearance, amazing aroma blend, massive flavor, and it absolutely slides across the bottom of your mouth.

Total 49/50: If you see this, buy it. Even if it’s $20, buy it. It would be a bargain and one of the few beers at that price point that actually deserves to be there. I’m pouring the second half of this bomber bottle and loving it even more. When it’s more chilled, the beer foams up in the mouth nicely, but really smooths out as it warms. i know I’ve mentioned that before, but it’s a really cool effect and I can’t tell which mouthfeel I appreciate more. It is simply excellent on every level. I’m glad the coffee wasn’t immense, but that the flavor was definitely Sasquatch-sized. My wife likened the brew as a whole to Cuban Coffee. For those that don’t know Cuban Coffee is essentially espresso that is brewed over several table spoons of sugar. Any sugar that is not immediately dissolved is taken care of in the next step as the steam wand of the espresso machine is placed deep in the brewing vessel to almost super-saturate the espresso with the sugar. This results in a a delicious, sweet, thick concoction that is the equivalent of nitrous oxide for pretty much anything that is alive and brave enough to not fear its heart exploding. If a cardiologist sees a cup of it, it spontaneously bursts into flame. Heart issues aside, I also really appreciate the fact that they make no qualms about wanting you to drink this for breakfast (see below picture). If I could I wouldn’t even wait til breakfast in my morning routine to enjoy this brew; I’d bathe in it.

A wise man once said, “Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” I hope that I can make an addendum to this sage wisdom with, “but always drink the Yeti things.

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!