Sunday, January 3, 2010

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti review

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged YetiFew imperial stouts that pass this side of the Rockies get past me and when I spotted this bottle at my local brew shop I knew I had to try it. I've reviewed a few others like it but this beer had a unique flavor twist that I didn't realize it had until I tried it. Today's beer review is from Denver's Great Divide Brewing Company and is their Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, a big brew weighing in at 9.5% ABV.

From what I gathered from the bottle and their web site, Great Divide brews this version of Yeti for a summer-time release. So I know this beer had aged about 6 months already. I assumed that this beer was a chocolate infused version of their regular Oak Aged Yeti. I was partially correct, it does have added cocoa nibs and an attempt to tone down the hops a bit.

I assumed this would be just a bit more chocolaty than their regular Yeti. What I didn't see until I tasted it, that Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti added cayenne pepper into it as well. This would prove to be a different experience than I was expecting.

Appearance: As I did expect, Chocolate Yeti poured extremely dark, near black. It had very faint ruby edges that you could only see if you held it up to a bright light. The pour yielded a huge brown head that I had to stop from overflowing the edge of my snifter glass. The lacing was also excellent on the glass. It looked great.

Aroma: OK here is where things started getting interesting. I had already set my expectations very high with this beer. I expected to get a huge nose full of chocolate in this beer and in a way I did. It had an ample nose of chocolate, plus some definite coffee tones, but there was something else in it that seemed odd.

I at first attributed it to the oak and thought the wood had imparted a strange spice to it but I then realized it was more than just an alcohol whiff, there was some other kind of heat going on in this beer - the cayenne pepper. As the beer warmed, this pepper smell became more and more apparent. It almost distracted me completely from the chocolate.

There was a hint of vanilla from the wood but it was almost completely masked by the chocolate and pepper.

Mouthfeel: Chocolate Yeti had a full bodied feel, somewhat creamy and the usual tongue coating that most imperial stouts give. The beer had a slight drying effect and a bit of heat on the finish. This imperial stout seemed to attack the middle of the tongue with the pepper, more than what I would normally expect from a spice.

Taste: Initially when this beer was cold, Chocolate Yeti had a nice big chocolate and roasted malt flavor. But the cayenne pepper spice kicked in almost immediately after and dominated the rest of the sip. There was some coffee notes also. As the beer warmed, so did the heat from the cayenne pepper. A bit of vanilla later came out from the oak as well.

My lips actually felt like they had a slight burn going on, not from the alcohol but from the pepper. The pepper seemed to dominate this beer more so than the chocolate. It was not was I was expecting. Chocolate and pepper just didn't seem like a good mix to me. I was growing more hesitant to keep drinking this as the beer warmed.

I felt that this beer had to be paired with some food as just solo wasn't cutting it for me. I had some fresh baked banana bread available and I tried some of that and alternated a bite with a sip. The banana bread took some of the bite off the cayenne pepper and made the experience more enjoyable.

By itself, the cayenne pepper was a major distraction for me. I was wanting a full rich molasses, chocolate and coffee experience. I got some of that but ended up giving my full attention to the spicy heat.

Overall: I've got very mixed feelings about this beer. Apparently my expectations were quickly changed once I started tasting this beer. If I had brewed this beer myself, I definitely would not have added cayenne pepper to this beer. I might have considered adding spice to a lighter styled Belgian beer perhaps but not an imperial stout.

When the beer is very cold, it seems to mask the cayenne a bit but watch out when it warms up. Whoa. Normally, imperials stouts get better as they warm, but this beer did not for me. While I was able to finish the entire 22oz bottle (with a little help from a family member who also complained of the pepper heat), I just didn't enjoy this bottle as much as the other Yeti's from Great Divide.

If the brewery labeled this as a Chocolate beer I simply didn't want or expect to get spicy hot peppers in the mix as well. I guess I should read the label a bit more closely next time. While it wasn't as hot as a chili beer, it was decidedly too hot spiced for my liking. Perhaps I got a bottle with a bit too much pepper in it?

I'm giving this beer a Yellow caution light. If you are expecting Chocolate Yeti to be like a Nestle's Quick - you're dead wrong. If you were expecting some bitter chocolate and coffee, yes you do get that, but expect a little south of the border in this beer as well.

Sorry Great Divide. I normally like your Yeti's but this one is not on my repeat buy list. Now I see why they make this in summer. Did anyone else have this same experience as I? Was this too peppery for you as well? I wanted more chocolate but just didn't get it.

Related articles:
- Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout review. (regular version)
- Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout review.
- Great Divide Saint Bridget's Porter review.
- Upcoming winter barrel aged releases from Great Divide.
- 12 Top imperial stouts you must try.

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