Tasting: May 17, 2013
Style: Strong Ale
Beer #: 465
Great Divide 19th Anniversary: I put craft beer into three generations. The founding fathers like Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada opened the door and brewers of the second generation kicked it wide open. Their humble roots started in the early 1990’s with brew pubs and micro breweries and today they grapple with the conquest of supplying their wares to every state in the union. Meanwhile, wave upon wave of new breweries and brew pubs open at a breakneck rate ushering in the third generation – the neighborhood brewery.
The second generation seems to fear the new onslaught of brewers – more brands to choose from creates a more segmented market. They can compete on quality against the big three – but this third generation is cut from their own cloth. I’d like to think that the best quality products will win out – but I’m still scratching my head over why people chose VHS over Betamax.
This one is from what I’ve labeled a second generation brewery. Great Divide is located in the ballpark neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. Like a lot of other “one man’s dream” stories – Great Divide was launched by Brian Dunn. I think he picked a great spot to set up shop as I can envision something akin to Wrigleyville.
This one looks totally unique – birch syrup added and aged on birch chips and 10.2% ABV. Of course, it makes me think of birch beer and its herbal teaberry flavor. Today’s birch beer is simply carbonated water, sugar and flavorings, but once it was made from oils distilled from the sap of oak or birch bark. An alcoholic version of birch beer was once made from fermenting instead of distilling the sap. Since it wasn’t rich in sugar like the maple, it probably produced a low alcohol birch beer so there is similarity between beer and birch beer.
I’m pouring in my standard oversized snifter. Rich amber color – nose is muted. First sip is soapy, birch is tucked way in the back, but it is complimentary to this balanced ale. Swishing it around in the mouth brings it out a bit more. Alcohol is concealed nicely. But still – it’s very pedestrian – 85 points.