Great Divide – Hibernation Ale

Great Divide HibernationSOMEWHERE THERE’S A to be made about Great Divide’s famous Yeti going into Hibernation during winter months, but it’s  probably too tortuous to be worth the effort. Besides, contrary to lore Great Divide’s Yeti is no rare sighting: in addition to the year-round standard each season has its own distinction (be it chocolate, espresso, etc.), while Hibernation is a single offering only available during the winter months. Generally in line with English-style Old Ale, this full-bodied beer is 8.7% ABV, probably around 40 IBUs, and was first brewed back in 1995. So why mention it in conjunction with Yeti, then? Because it’s better, frankly.

Pouring a dark dull copper (maybe 20 SRM) with a dense creamy head, Hibernation gives off wafts of toffee, chocolate, and some slightly minty and piney hops. A traditional Old Ale might exhibit characteristics of long cellaring (vinous or oxidized) and would likely have more pronounced fruit esters, but Hibernation’s dense array of specialty grains still afford plenty of fundamentally malty flavors. Earthy and dense without being sugary sweet, it’s like a slice of oven-toasted bread sprinkled with pecan shavings and a scant few currants. In fact, a boost of berry notes in the mid-to-late section would have been welcome, but perhaps hard to accomplish without overstuffing the mouthfeel or complicating the segue to the finish. Bitterness is moderate, generally clean, and most prominent later on courtesy of carbonation slightly elevated for the style. Dry-hopping leaves some nice woodsy pine prickle in the aroma and a leafy twinge on the palate—a tasteful touch. More prominent alcohol warming would also have been welcome, but not at the expense of Hibernation’s admirable balance.

Indeed, that well-roundedness is Hibernation’s primary virtue, and its advantage over the formidable but slightly uncouth Yeti. Besides, this sample was tasted on draft, which is unlikely to do the ‘old’ ale moniker any favors. Perhaps after a few seasons’ sleep in the cellar this beer would emerge fully matured. Ah—there’s a pun that’ll do.

Served: On tap (Blues Bar, Mt. Prospect)

Rating: 91

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