2011 Great Divide Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale

In the swishy world of beer trading, there are many ways to play. There’s the obvious 1 on 1 trades, I’ve already covered the BIF (kinda like Secret Santa, but with beer and without the holidays), and now we come to the LIF, which stands for Lottery It Forward. The idea is that someone who has had some good fortune will pay it forward by giving away a beer or six from their cellar. Most LIFs consist of a simple challenge (the first person to answer my obscure question wins!) or straightforward lottery, but lately, there’s been a lot of charity LIFs where someone will keep track of donations, then enter you into a lottery drawing based on how much you donate (usually 1 entry for every $10 donated).

Believe it or not, I’ve actually won two of these. The first was for a charity, and my prize was… a Tired Hands growler! Because I visit the brewery practically every week, the organizer was supremely apologetic and since all the other winners had been notified, I just asked him to pick a new name (gotta share that Tired Hands love). It seems karma saw fit to make me a winner in another LIF, so here I am with a box of 6 pretty great beers. Lucky (and grateful), I am.

This one comes from Colorado, which has quite the booze scene. Not just craft beery type stuff either. For this beer, Great Divide took one of their stable beers (perhaps amped up a bit), an old ale style, and aged it in Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey barrels. Near as I can tell, Stranahan’s is a unique little “microdistillery”. Their mash bill is comprised of four different types of barley, so it’s not Bourbon. Indeed, the mash bill seems kinda like Scotch, but it’s all aged in new American oak and it’s obviously not a single malt either. So yeah, unique. And apparently fun. Their labels all have a personal note from the person bottling it, usually a song or quote or something like that – this guy got a bottle that says “Listening to Xmas Carols”. That’s a nice touch. So let’s see how these barrels treated this beer, eh?

Great Divide Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale

Great Divide Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale – Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of quickly fading off white head. Smells strongly of rich, fruity booze, lots of caramel with a strong malt backbone, and a little bit of that whisky barrel character. Taste has plenty of caramel and some of that fruity malt and booze, with the whisky barrel character making itself known, but not super assertively, towards the finish. Mouthfeel is surprisingly thin for such a big beer. Medium bodied, light carbonation (but nothing inappropriate), with a leading richness that quickly thins out (it’s not watery or anything, but it’s a lot thinner than you’d expect a 12.4% ABV monster to be). Overall, this is a really solid beer, but lacking in the richness and whiskey character that I was expecting. Is this a function of its age? Excellent question, I have no idea! I’m really happy I got to try this though, and despite my expectations of a richer brew, it is damn good… so I’ll give it a B+ and that will be that.

Beer Nerd Details: 12.4% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/6/13. Vintage: 2011. Bottle Number: 0356.

Quite a nice one, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of my box, which includes some obscure Bruery stuff and a couple of those .rar Crooked Stave releases. Score. And this beer makes me want to seek out some more Great Divide, a brewery I haven’t had much of lately, though I guess I’ve had a couple Yeti variants over the past year or so… but can you really have enough Yeti? I think not.

5 thoughts on “2011 Great Divide Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale”

  1. I’ve had Stranahans once. Apparently it just doesn’t exist outside Colorado. It’s special stuff, for sure, not a bourbon, not an attempt at Scotch, very much its own thing. If memory serves, the distillery was started by one of the bigger Colorado craft breweries.

    I like the notion of beer exchanges, but is it something local amongst enthusiasts, or do you actually ship beer? And if so, how well does that work?

  2. Stranahan’s website says they aren’t distributing outside Colorado anymore, but I get the impression that they used to and that they want to again. Apparently we’re in a bit of a whiskey boom right now, so maybe they’re having trouble keeping up with demand. I’d certainly like to try some… I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons in the whiskey world, checking out some bourbon and rye of late. Though nothing has really rivaled that bottle of Balvenie 15 that I had!

    Some people will specify “In Person” trades, but most trading is done via shipping because people are trying to get beer that isn’t distributed near them. If you use “wine shippers” with styrofoam inserts, it works just fine. I’ve also used a crapton of bubble tape and whatnot, but the styro shippers seem to work the best. I suppose it’s not technically legal, so most people don’t use USPS, but UPS and FedEx seem to work well enough. It can get expensive, but it’s fun:) Of course, there are plenty of horror stories of broken bottles and confiscated boxes (again, technically against UPS and FedEx rules), but near as I can tell, most trades go through just fine…

  3. I’ve purchased wine online without any trouble, so I guess that makes sense. I feel like a boring old man with beer, I don’t pay much attention to what is going on in the beer scene, so I’m all confused by these weird new things.

    If I may recommend an American whiskey or two, Old Grandad Bonded (not the regular 86 proof) is a sleeper. It has a ridiculous orange label straight out of the 70s, and looks awful, but is a dynamite rich, big whiskey for $20 – 25 a bottle. And if you can find Wild Turkey Rye at 101 proof, it’s another great value, a big, spicy rye for about $25. Harder to find, since they’re pushing the 81 proof. And lastly, Old Weller Antique is another steal, a very nice wheat bourbon at 107 proof, with a flavor profile in the ballpark of Pappy and Weller 12 year, but at a fraction of the price (and you can find it on shelves.)

  4. Also, my brother was in Colorado for a conference, and Stranahans is everywhere in state. I don’t blame them, though for choosing to distribute in state until they can match demand. It sucks not being able to get it here, but regionalization (which is now a word) is important for variety and non homogeneity. I think the alternative is coast to coast Applebees, Bud Lite, and Seagrams whiskey.

  5. Trading is a weird subculture. If you look at a trading board, it’s all “wales” this and “1990 Cantillon” that. Basically super rare stuff being offered for other super rare stuff. Most of my trades have been a sorta locals for locals kinda thing… and that’s a lot of fun.

    Thanks for the recommendations. I doubt I’ll get to all of them anytime soon, but the wellers (12 and Antique) are definitely on my list of stuff to try. I was looking at a Russel’s Reserve the other day that sounded good, but I’ll keep an eye out for the Wild Turkey Rye too…


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