Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Beers — Great Divide Brewing Co. vs. Full Sail

Great Divide Brewing Co.
Hibernation Ale

ABV 8.7%

Hazy brown.
Smoke, meat, cocoa powder.
Starts sweet and malty, ends meaty and savory. Quite complex.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Smokey chocolate with a touch of bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):
Good +

Full Sail
Wreck the Halls

ABV 6.5%

Hazy pumpkin orange.
Aroma: Piney hops and sweet malts.
Flavor: Medium body, pine, grapefruit. Starts malty and sweet, bitter hops take over late.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Hoppy
Finish: Tart lemon rind.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good +

Blow by Blow
Winter beers are made in a wide variety of styles ranging from big, bitter hop bombs to intensely sweet malt monsters. This battle highlighted two completely different styles — the Great Divide coming from the sweet and malty camp and the Full Sail exploring the hoppy realms.

Both beers impressed us, but they were so different that it was difficult to compare them. The Wreck the Halls did a great job of combining a big hop profile with enough malts to make it feel like a winter beer rather than an IPA. It's the perfect holiday beer for all the hop heads out there.

The Hibernation was a very unique beer. It managed to be extremely malty without being extremely sweet. As a matter of fact, the smokey and meaty notes were strong enough that the beer seemed almost savory at times. It proved to be a great complement to the smoked sausages we had for dinner. I'm very curious as to what a bit of age would do to this beer, so I think I'm going to buy a couple more to let "hibernate" for a year or two in the cellar.

The battle went all twelve rounds with both beers connecting with impressive combos but neither going down. In the end, Ellen chose the Full Sail for its great balance and I chose the Great Divide for its intriguing complexity. If you're lucky, you'll find both bottles in your stocking come Christmas morning!

Split decision: Ellen chose the Full Sail, I chose the Great Divide.

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