A barrel-aged double IPA you say? Why yes, I would like to try that. While I haven’t ventured deep into the selection of Great Divide, I can attest to the quality of Colorado brews. Great Divide’s 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA caught my eye for these reasons. It’s got an 85 on Beer Advocate.
I was surprised at the relative lack of good carbonation/head from the beer, but that didn’t stop the smell. There are lots of hops here, for sure, but blocked by something else. My initial impression is that it’s definitely from the barrel aging, but I can’t easily find what kind of barrel used for the aging process, as Great Divide only mentions “French and American oak” in their official info. The malt could definitely play into that, but again, no easily discernible information. In a grand, overall description, it does smell like a double IPA aged in wood. You get a whiff of hops and then the strong alcohol from the barrel. I just wish I could get some more specifics. The amount of hops must be pretty high to break through to this degree. I’d actually love to try a version of this that wasn’t aged. Hop-bomb galore.
On my first sip I really liked how the hop flavor takes away from the usual heavy alcohol-driven barrel bite. Like the smell, it’s easy to get “French and American oak” flavor, but the hops do a good job at knocking it out. It’s as if the amount of hops should make the beer sweet (hop-bomb galore) but then the barrel flavor takes over. As the beer warms, it made it harder for me to drink it. After a while the barrel just takes over any semblance of hops. It had been a while since my last barrel-aged beer, but this was probably a good reentry – at least for the first half of the bottle.
Overall, I think Great Divide does a really good job finding balance with this beer, considering the two extremes – the hopiness of a double IPA and the alcohol flavor of the barrel aging process. I feel like most of the time I’ll get one or the other, but at least initially, this is an ideal split between the two.