Appalachian Gap: Snowfall

It’s winter time in New England.  That means cold. That means waking up in the morning and losing feeling in your extremities before the hot water hits the shower head.  That means scraping stubborn frost off your windshield into line blow lines that your windshield wipers won’t even deal with, while your warm breathe fogs the inside of the windshield and the morning glare blinds you.  If there is one thing it means a lot of, that’s snowfall.  Except thus far this winter…we seem to have gotten off with just a touch of the stuff, enough to paralyze anything south of the Poconos for a week, but not enough for your average New Englander.  I’ve got a little secret, over Christmas, I was given a little extra snowfall, as it were, and of a kind I much prefer…


No, I did not get cocaine for Christmas, no feliz navidad Medellin over here, officer.  Instead I got my snowfall as it tends to come, sweep east from the moisture of the Great Lakes, dusting over the Green Mountains, and landing swift and pure in my lap.  I got my Snowfall from Appalachian Gap—Appalachian Gap Distillery that is.


Appalachian Gap is an outfit out of Middlebury, Vermont, a town which itself is a miniature mecca of drinking delights.  Otter Creek Brewing Company, Drop-In Brewing Company, Vermont Hard Cider (of Woodchuck fame,) Lincoln Peak Vineyard, and hell I just realized the coffee I drink every morning from Vermont Coffee Company comes from Middlebury.  Into this (presumably drunken) scene arose Appalachian Gap, whose spirits are as unique as the town itself.  They have staple spirits like Mythic Gin, which in this case isn’t an adjective, and Mosquito Fleet Rum, the even have Kaffevän Coffee Liquorbut they also have some far out drinks too, like a spirit distilled from corn, barley, and coffee, Kaffekask.  More inventive yet is their very Vermont take on tequila, Papilio, which is distilled from blue agave and…maple syrup?  Yes, maple syrup.  Next up, fermented and distilled Ben and Jerry’s liqueur. But none of those beverages are the subject of my article, because, if I’m honest, I haven’t had any of them.  Tonight, the forecast is Snowfall.


Snowfall, in my experience is an experience devoid of most of the senses.  Its sensation is numbness, its image is a blank yet lustrous white, its smell is an almost startling absence of smell, crisp, cold, pure.  Snowfall, however, is a stunning sensation.  The nose of snowfall is a wonderful and unique expression that does not draw easy comparison to anything within my frame of reference.  It’s light, vaporous, and has a full sweetness which is I can only think to describe as “pure.”  None of this aroma would give the slightest hint that this is 108 proof, which is stunning given that I am basically huffing alcohol fumes.  That unique characteristic of sweetness carries on into the first sip, opening up marvelously to display a pastiche of flavors, with a hint of warm cornbread opening into an almost taffy like note of round chewy sweetness with light fruity esters expressing just the suggestion of a banana note.  The finish, is like the glow of a woodstove, with a gentle warmth which engulfs the palate, and just a touch of rye spice dances on the tongue and down the throat, lessening with each breathe.


I’ll be honest, I tend not to drink too many white whiskies, because I find them frankly unsatisfying, and they’re just a step (or a filtration) too close to being vodka.  The same cannot be said of this fascinating expression.  I have to imagine that the mash bill of this spirit, 45% barley, 30% corn, and 25% rye, has a lot to do with how lovely it tastes.  That is not a normal mash-bill, and to my knowledge leaves this spirit, and its aged counter-part free of any legal classification beyond whiskey or delicious.  Yes, you heard me right my friends, there is an aged counterpart to Snowfall, and while I have not yet had it, I know that my next trip across the Connecticut River will find me on a search for at least one Ridgeline.

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.”