22nd December: Great Divide, Hibernation Ale 2011 and 2012. 8.7% ABV
From: Colorado, USA. Type: Winter Ale, bottle. Source: Systembolaget
Not many have kind words to say about November, but one of its saving graces is looking forward to Christmas and winter beers. Some recipes change with the years. What will Shepherd Neame’s be like this year? Anchor? Some don’t seem to change, but can we really be sure?
It took a will of steel, but I’ve managed to save one of my perennial favourites, from last winter: Great Divide’s Hibernation Ale. How would it compare with the new season’s after a year itself in hibernation?
And then, there it is, the 2012, standing on the shelf and the wait is over. I buy it, take it home and… Don’t open it! Dither upon dither. But how and when to taste them? side-by-side, surely, but these sleeping bears are 8.7% of cockle-warming alcohol. Not to be trifled with. It’s December before I find a chance/excuse.
I’m sure its the same recipe. It’s a Rocky Mountain version of an English winter warmer: sweet and comforting, but bigger. Christmassy in its spiciness from both hops and fermentation: orange zest, cloves, more citrus bitterness to balance the syrupy malt.
A year’s extra sleep has toned down the sweetness, replacing it with a sherry-like richness, and adding aromas of chestnuts and old leather armchairs. Is this a fair exchange for the freshness and cocoa of this year’s edition? Here’s a clue: I’m saving one for next November.