"What Do You Pair with a Double IPA?" and Other Thoughts on Great Divide's 15th Anniversary
Denver's Great Divide Brewery
turned 15 on Saturday: Not yet old enough to drive, but giddy enough to throw a great party all the same. There were bands, DPA-soaked brats and three separate booths serving, at various times, everything in the collection. If you missed it, the lesson is that you should clear you're calendar and make brewery parties priority number one.
Many thoughts can spring from a monumental event such as this and, like the speech patterns of a number of the attendees by 7 p.m., they may not all be coherent. But here's just a few that came to me and other members of the Fearless Tasting Crew throughout the day.
*The 15th Anniversary Oak-Aged Double IPA (which Great Divide founder/owner Brian Dunn is shown uncorking during the festivities above) is the most complex beer in the long line of complex concoctions the brewery has rolled out. A multitude of tastes hit your mouth simultaneously, with vanilla, hops, oak and bourbon most prominent among them. One immediate impression is that aging a double IPA in a barrel actually goes better than the more common practice of aging a stout, as the hops provide more of a counter-balance to the big whiskey taste than a darker beer's malt does.
*At age 15, this brewery is speeding up rather than slowing down. It is now rolling out about three new beers per quarter, diversifying its selection and playing with some new things. And some really, really work well. The Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti, for example, is dark, complex, thick, malty and hoppy, all at the same time, almost as if its going for the highest level of depth in the beer world. The Double Wit, meanwhile, wallops you with a big taste of subdued citrus and heavy sweetness that dances on your tongue but doesn't overpower you. A member of the tasting crew aptly referred to it as "a Belgian Wit on steroids."
*With so much experimentation, you have to take the good with the bad. There has been debate in the past on the merits of the Samurai rice ale and on the Claymore Scottish Ale. But for the first time, I'm actually hearing more negative than positive on one particular beer: the new Saison. This comes on like a normal yeast-pronounced Belgian farmhouse ale, but what throws you is an aftertaste that strays past murky lemon territory and picks up a slightly minty character. It just feel unnatural. But, I suppose if a baseball player failed to get a hit for the first time after 20 or 21 straight at-bats, that particular swing also might be forgotten in the greater picture of things.
*Finally, it should be noted that Dunn and the brewmasters are putting more effort into beer-pairing dinners, such as one held last month at Highlands-area restaurant Duo
. Such efforts are truly laudable, as it not only shows off the beer to a different crowd but really produces some combinations to drool over. For example, he paired the Yeti Imperial Stout with a banana gelato such that the ice cream took on a more serious taste and the beer rolled smoothly over it to create a whole new, incredible flavor in the blend. But he also tried to throw the Hercules Double IPA up against a spice-crusted snapper for dinner. On their own, both tastes were luminescent. But I'm just not sure that a beer as bold as the Hercules (the best beer in the Great Divide collection) blends seemlessly with anything. In conversation afterward, we decided that the acidic hops might cut very well against a spicy Indian or Thai dish. But I'm curious if anyone else knows what you do with a double IPA at dinner.
Labels: Food pairing, Great Divide