Jul 25, 2013

Great Divide Brewing 19th Anniversary Ale

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a few of Great Divide’s limited release anniversary ales and they’ve all been pretty solid. When I saw this bottle of their 19th Anniversary Ale down in North Carolina, I decided I wasn’t going to wait till I got back to Northern Virginia in order to get a bottle. So tucked in with the mixed six pack that I enjoyed was this 10.2% ABV American Strong Ale brewed with birch syrup and then aged on birch wood chips.

I don’t believe that I’ve encountered a beer that uses birch (syrup or wood) in its recipe as of yet. At least, I’m not explicitly aware of the fact while consuming a tasty brew. Great Divide’s 19th Anniversary Ale definitely has a strong birch character that brings a very unique aroma and flavor. It’s hard to describe the difference between birch and, oh say, oak or maple (which I have run across in several beers), but it’s got a distinct presence that makes this big brew stand out from the crowd.


The beer pours a golden amber in color with a short-lived, off-white crown of fluffy foam.


The birch is definitely present on the nose. The syrup shows through along with the woodiness of the chip aging as a moderate sweetness and earthy character mingle gently. There’s a low measure of citrusy hops in the mix as well.


There’s a moderate level of sweetness that arrives almost immediately with caramel and the earthy, lightly toasted wood. A light hop bitterness presents itself before fading through to the lightly boozy character that hangs around a bit in the drying finish. There’s a good deal more hop character than expected that balances out the syrup and sweetness well. At 10.2% ABV the beer certainly is warming, as would be expected.


The birch influence on this beer brings an array of flavors that I don’t believe I have come across before. I enjoyed the beer, but maybe I wasn’t quite ready for the uniqueness. 19th Anniversary Ale is a beer that feels young right now and I believe needs a bit of time to mellow out and mature before fully coming into its own. I wish I had foreseen this and picked up another bottle or two when I had the chance.

Rating: 3.75/5

More: ,