Notes of a Beer Nerd: Great Divide Hibernation Ale
Enjoyed on: 12/20/2009
Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co.
Location: Denver, CO
Beer: Hibernation Ale
Presentation: 12 Fl. Oz. (355 ML) – Brown Glass Bottle
Vintage: 2008 (brown label) & 2009 (blue label)
Style: English Style Old Ale
ABV: 8.1% (2008) / 8.7% (2009)
Recommended Serving Temp: 50 degrees
Notes from the bottle: Hibernation Ale has been our celebrated winter tradition since 1995. This robust, dry hopped ale has a malty richness balanced with a complex hop profile and hearty, warming character. Gold Medal, Great American Beer Festival, 1997. Silver Medal, Great American Beer Festival, 2006. Silver Medal, Great American Beer Festival, 2003. Flavor will continue to develop for some time to come.
Food Pairings: Roasted chicken, grilled vegetables (from 2008 bottle). Grilled beef tenderloin, apple crisp with ginger ice cream (from 2009 bottle)
Cheese Pairings: Aged, hard Dutch cow’s milk cheese
Rate Beer: 96 (3.94)
The term “old ale” is of English origin and basically just refers to a robust, malty beer, sometimes aged and brewed for the winter months. To me, when I hear the term “old ale” I immediately think of Hibernation Ale. I always look forward to its reappearance each winter. This one is aged for 3 months at the brewery before being released. These two vintages pour an almost identical color, a gorgeous, dark ruby, but the ’09 has better clarity. The head is just slightly off white, thin, and quite quickly disappears almost entirely. Only the slightest wisp of a cloud remains, as well as a pencil thin white ring where the fluid meets the glass. The sweet malty liquid has legs and leaves a bit of lace on the glass. It’s almost humorous how different the two smell. I fear this vertical is not entirely pure due to the increased abv of the ’09 version. It is quite clear that the label is not all that has been tweaked here. The younger vintage has more of a barley wine quality to it. More balanced, as one would probably expect from a youth. Hops are present, as well as fruit leather and a bit of bubblegum. Some earthy tones are sensed, and a light sprinkling of brown sugar. Though no alcohol burn is detected, the complexity makes me think the abv could be even higher than quoted. With all the immediate razzle-dazzle on the tip of my tongue, it’s only a matter of time before I am reminded that this is an old friend. Suddenly, dark, roasty malts push through from the depths and remind me that this is hibernation season. I’d bury myself in the warm heart of Mother Earth with this one any day. The elder vintage is without a doubt more refined. Age has quelled all desires to be flirty and experimental. She has settled on what she is best at, and excelled profoundly. Here we have a cornucopia of dark, subtly sweet dried fruits. The hops have nearly wilted fully and stone fruit have been dehydrated and condensed into nature’s purest candy. I’m experiencing a great deal more coating of the mouth with sugary resin, lingering delights like grandfather’s stories. I may have buried myself with the younger and drank myself fat and warm, but when I returned to the den a year later, what was once simply leftover is now the ultimate liquid of sustainability. Bear witness to a stunning display of the rewards of vertical tastings. Yes, this may not be the purest example, but it is, none-the-less, precisely the result one would expect. Time thins bitterness, accentuates sweet maltiness, and in some ways mirroring visual art, creates value. In this case, I have truly gained value in my cellaring attempts. The ’09 is a treat, but the ’08 is sublime. If only I had some from years prior… If anyone out there reading this turns his/her nose up at the concept of cellaring beer, I implore you…take trust in the words of Timperial Stout. Beer ages and ages well my friends.
Disclaimer: These beers were purchased on my own with my own hard earned money at a local bottle shop and aged to perfection (or not) on my own.