Review: Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti

Sunday, December 01, 2013.  I awoke at the bitter crack of 11 am, aware that a day of toil and hardship lay ahead of me.  The early morning had left a thin layer of slick snow that increased the possible perils of the day.  Today was tree felling day.  While deep within me I enjoy laboring at the chainsaw and ax, the spiteful New Hampshire weather, along with a tendency toward weekend sluggishness, made my morning groans ever louder with grim dread.  In spite of the thick moisture hanging heavy in the overcast sky, the day proved warm enough to tolerate, and pleasant enough with sweaty work. The afternoon’s work found me on the chainsaw orchestrating the destruction of five superfluous trees and, at least for now, the muscles of my lower back.  All in all, it was satisfying working ‘til my hands trembled with the ghost vibrations of the saw and the day’s targets lay heaped at my feet.  My work done I soaked my stiff back, and drank some hot dark coffee.  Later, I prepared dinner—two heaping burgers of moose meat seared in the cast iron on the stove to avoid the cold rain soaking the grill.  This little vignette may seem unnecessary and perhaps a tad self-indulgent.  It probably is, but this is the course of events which, when led to the fridge for my evening’s imbibing, steered me towards Great Divide’s Espresso Oak Aged Yeti.

The Yetis, legendary beasts of the Colorado Brewery, are imperial stouts of the highest order.  The Espresso Oak Aged Yeti is the alpha beast, as far as I’m concerned.  This monster is a hairy 9.5% ABV, which, as its name has implied, has feasted on a diet of oak chips and “Pablo’s” espresso.  The result is dark as an Arctic Winter, with a thin and heavy head with hues of rich mahogany. The nose is expectedly dominated by dark and earthy coffee with overtones of soft vanilla, foreboding of the cacophony of flavors to come.  The Yeti’s flavors are dark as his exterior, with the bitterness of the espresso tangling with a strong stab of hops and the suggestion of cocoa nibs from the dark roasted malts.  Each sip leaves a lingering, though not embittering espresso, and brings a bit more warmth to your stomach—more ease to my sore back.  On a day such as mine, nothing could be more fitting than to sip this beer by the warmth of the woodstove.  Chainsaws, moose burgers and Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, I can only see this as “La Vie en Flannel.”

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White Birch Brewing, a Tale of Two Visits

In the time since I’ve been legally permitted to imbibe I have paid many a visit to nearby White Birch Brewing of Hooksett, NH.  I’ve been able to see them develop quite a bit in that time, but I’d like, here, to briefly highlight the two tasting sessions I enjoyed their last week.

Round1: 6/7/13. Scene: myself and two of my closest comrades in arms.  We’re supposed to be headed to Newburyport, Mass to see the final show of a band I used to play with.  It’s going to be a solemn occasion, so we sweep the complete opposite direction for some fuel.  Enter White Birch.  It’s a pretty simple scene, classic, a few people lingering at the tasting counter and chatting amiably and we walk in thirsty and slightly boisterous.  There are a lot of samples to be had, the flagships, the usual suspects, are there and maintain their delicious glory.  Belgian yeast and hops: pale and India pale American goodness.  The unusual suspects are always a curve ball at White Birch.  Their beautiful barley wine Cattywhompus often shows up, as well as whatever they’ve decided to do, including usually an apprentice beer.  They have a great apprenticeship program that puts out some cool beers, basically the apprentice gets to make what they want and it gets sold.  This time around it seems the theme is sour.  They had quite a few, tart little barrel aged tweakers that make your face twinge but give you a new perspective on shit, man.  They’re pretty tasty too, once you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into.  The names and all that escape me, as the night only began at WB, and much blurring would come, but I can tell you there was a great assortment with seasonals and special one offs.  Anyways, the steal of the day was a case of White Birch Hooksett Ale bombers. 12 x 22oz of 8.5% ABV IPA goodness.  We split the cost 3 ways–$14 each for 4 of these beauties.  That is a steal—robbery at gunpoint.  That’s a lot of joy at $3.50 a pop.  Of course we leave White Birch buzzy on beer and drunk on the good conversation and good times.  The rest of the evening involves weird scenes in the rain, bars that tried to gouge us, didn’t serve us our food (until I went into the kitchen and got it) and other strange happenings.  It was a roller-coaster that started at a great place.

Round 2: 6/13/13. After the first experience it is obvious why I return.  Companion: My lovely lady.  We’ve just spent the day in an art museum and meeting a friend of hers for lunch.  Seems like a fine time for another visit. It’s on the way home anyways.  Sour beers are not her thing.  That may be mentioned in a soon to be written article if I get to writing it, but anyways, she’ll pass on the bretted Schwarzbier.  Also should be mentioned that I was easy recognized by the customers.  Anyways, this trip carries many of the same beers as the last time—and I little hidden secret.  From the golden (white) beer fridge comes a special as of yet unreleased beer.  This beer is a patersbier, something that the White Birch boys got from the traditions of the Belgian Trappist monks, who usually brew lots of great complex beer for other people to buy, and a lighter, simpler beer for themselves.  One Malt + the proprietary yeast + some hops = patersbier.  From what I gather this is usually a simple and low ABV beer.  White Birch made theirs 6.5% or something and somehow it’s not boring like it sounds, but actually the oat bread like complexity this single malt gives you makes this a fascinating beer.  I like the almost deconstructed idea of it.  Also, they’re making it for a charity, I forget the cause, but if it was my charity I’d be honored.  Another great visit to a cool local brewery.

Of course this babbling little tale tells you very little about White Birch Brewing.  It doesn’t tell you about how Bill Herlicka built this place up very quickly into a brewer’s playground and a drinker’s delight.  That’s a shame, I’ve failed.  So get off your ass and go visit them or find one of their beers if you’re able.  If you aren’t, visit their website and envy me. Cheers.