In 1994, the craft beer industry was a small business with only a few breweries spread around the state. A lot can change over time and 20 years later the craft beer industry has boomed to the point where a new brewery opens as often as every week. All throughout Colorado, especially in Denver the craft beer scene is thriving and new tap rooms are always available to go to. But through it all, one brewery has remained an icon in downtown Denver, and now they get ready to celebrate their 20th anniversary. One of the craft beer pioneers. This of course, is Great Divide.
To commemorate such a milestone anniversary, a special ale would need to be crafted in order to not only celebrate, but also top those from years past. From wood aged double IPAs to a birch wood aged strong ale all of Great Divide’s anniversary ales have been unique and very special. But for their 20th they made a very special Belgian Blond ale fermented with viognier grape juice. After seeking out a couple of bottles and sampling one here are our thoughts on this unique, limited release ale.
As with any Belgian style ale a traditional tulip glass was the proper glassware of choice for this ale. It poured a hazy golden color without much clarity to it, but it retained a bright white head that was not too thick and did not retain for too long. Once the head settled the aroma of this beer came out, and it was strong, complex, and very unique. Within the aroma were subtle hints of citrus, peaches, and a very faint nose of minerals from the viognier grapes. But like with any traditional Belgian golden ale the yeast played a prominent role in the aroma, while the fruit aspects added a brightness through the yeast. The interesting, but inviting aroma made the senses wake up and wanting that first sip happen much faster.
After one sip of this beer it was clear that the complexities of the aroma were going to carry through the rest of this beer, and that included the body. The high carbonation gave the beer an effervescence that created a light crispness, but the prominent yeast notes weighed down the beer slightly. When the two are factored together it gave the beer a light to medium body that both woke up the taste buds and hit with flavor right from the first sip due to its mouth feel. With a great malt base, and no hop presence to be detected the taste was going be a brand new experience. The complex flavors from the viognier grapes were present in the flavor but remained very subtle and not overpowering at all. There were hints of peach, minerals, and a bright acidity that cut through the yeast.
The yeast flavor was very bold in this beer, and played a major contribution in the flavor of the beer from beginning to end. Not only did it add to the body, but the flavor added a small hint of citrus notes to add a further level of acidity. It also helped to round out the beer and not let the strong fruit flavors dominate this golden ale. The aftertaste finished clean with the exception of only a hint of the yeast, and even that faded away quickly making it easy to enjoy another sip of this bold ale.
Overall this was a very well rounded beer full of strong flavors, but balanced out in a way to create a bold, full flavored beer from beginning to end. Beers like this are a constant reminder of what Great Divide has been doing for the past 20 years, and how they are now an iconic brewery not only in Denver but in Colorado. This was a great beer that should be sought after by beer drinkers of all styles, but get it while you can for this limited run. This is a great beer to celebrate 20 years of Great Divide, and a great beer to raise your glass to.
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