Great Divide brewing has been around since 1994, and has taken the craft world be storm ever since. Today I am looking at numerous vintages and varieties of their Yeti Imperial Stout. During week 12, I started with a fresh Yeti and a 3(ish) year old Yeti, then moved to the Oak, Espresso, and Chocolate aged variations.
Fresh Yeti pours an opaque black with a beautiful one and a half finger chocolate milk colored head. The retention and lacing is wonderful, this is how a beer should look! Coffee, chocolate, and roasted malts dominate the smell. Some booziness as well, but not a lot. The coffee and chocolate tastes are BIG and dominate the flavor. Roasty malts mix with some caramel to balance it out. Very bitter and the coffee sticks around on the palate after everyone else has gone. Heavy body, not a lot of carbonation noticed, but it isn’t flat. Very dry and bitter aftertaste. Creamy, and no hint of alcohol. Was pleasantly surprised here. I was expecting to really enjoy this and I did. Going to pop open an old-label one next, we’ll see if the Yeti has some legs!
Now on to the old labeled Yeti. Great Divide changed the label in August of 2008, so best guess has this as 2 to 3 years old. Found it at 3 Sons in Wexford, PA. Same dark pour, but the head has stepped back a bit, light brown in color with less retention, but similar lacing. The smell is really boozy. Almost all of the wonderful coffee and chocolate smells from the fresh version have become subdued. Almost smells sweet. The flavors have cooled down a lot. In fact if this was a blind test, I wouldn’t even guess it was the same beer. The chocolate is mainstream here. Seriously almost like eating a melted chocolate bar. The sweetness from the smell is present, I’m going to chalk it up as a yeastiness that isn’t unpleasant, it is, however, different. The big coffee aftertaste has decidedly subsided, but hints of it remain, and increase as the beer warms. The body is lighter, but the aftertaste is just as dry. The creaminess has gone as well. This has taken a hit over the years. It’s really interesting having these two back to back like this. The flavors have really changed. I love the big chocolate taste in the old label Yeti, but I have to admit I’m missing the coffee from the fresh Yeti. The booziness of the old label Yeti is also a little too much. If I had to guess, I’d say it might be a bit past its prime. I would recommend letting this beer warm, as the flavors seem to come out more and more as I let it sit.
Now to the Oak aged Yeti
A really dark pour sets beneath a big brown head. Retention isn’t great, but the lacing is nice. Really impressed by the amount of chocolate and hops remaining in the smell of this one. Oak is there, but underneath everything else, perhaps a bit of booziness. I taste the oak and wood up front, they seem to be a bit subdued. All chocolate next, followed by a nice hit of coffee roastiness and dryness at the end. Not as thick as I was expecting. The wood taste sort of hangs with you in the back of your throat, not all that pleasant. The bitterness is turned down a peg as well. This was alright. It’s pretty rare that aging a stout like this turns out to be a miss, but I actually liked the old label Yeti I recently had over the oak aged version.
Espresso (Enjoyed side by side with Chocolate)
As with all the Yetis, a nice sized brown head rests atop a black and opaque pour. Very nicely sized head, and the retention and lacing are wonderful. Smells a lot like Yeti, but with a lot more coffee. Chocolate is present, roasted malts throughout. Not a lot of booziness here. Big coffee flavor, bigger than the chocolate flavor is for the chocolate oak aged. The wood in this one, as I drink it, seems to be as prominent, and similar to how it was in the oak aged version. Sort of sticks with you throughout the drink. This one is far more bitter than the chocolate oak aged version. However, the creaminess is also gone. Same warming booziness is present. While I view this one as better than the chocolate and oak aged version, none of them are as good as fresh Yeti. A little disappointed, but it is still very good. Was looking for a littler more here.
You know how this starts, same look as before. The smell isn’t unlike normal Yeti, chocolate and roasted malts leading the way. It seems like the coffee is way understated here, which is probably the point. Mainly chocolate on the taste, but a bit of oakiness throughout. The big difference here is no coffee on the backend. I attribute the ending taste to the cayenne pepper added. Not so much a taste, but a feeling. A little lighter than Yeti. It seems the oak aging has cost this beer its creaminess in all cases. The carbonation is fine, and the finish is dry. A slight warming booziness is detected as well. Not as good overall as the coffee or fresh yeti, but better than oak aged. A bit of a miss here for more. I loved the fresh Yeti, and was expecting these to take it to another level, none of which did. Perhaps the barrel aged Yeti will change my mind.
Overall I would grade them: Fresh Yeti, Espresso, Chocolate, Old Label, Oak. Like I said, I was looking for the different barrels to add something to the fresh Yeti, but they all seemed to only take something away. Only two variations remain: Belgian Yeti and Barrel Aged Yeti. Regardless of these results, I can’t wait to try them all!