With so many good craft beers in a reasonable price range, we don't often spring for the $10-plus bottles of uber-high-end brew.
But when we spotted the 16th Anniversary Wood-Aged Double IPA from Great Divide Brewing Co. of Denver, we decided to nab it.
Good thing. Aged on oak chips, this pale ale weighed in at 10 percent alcohol and wasn't the hot-weather type of IPA most of us are sipping these days. But it was excellent.
The beer had a woody, sweet smell, and the mellow smoothness at the start of each sip was so impressive we were lulled into thinking maybe it wasn't an IPA at all.
The bitter kick at the end of each sip took five or six seconds to show up, and when it did it was still dampened -- in a pleasant way -- by the mellow, oaky flavors. The bitter wasn't overpowering, just an intense and friendly reminder that this was, after all, an IPA.
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In fact, the first tinge of bitterness or acidity might have been the booze and not the hops, but regardless, both were pleasingly subtle and slow.
This beer also left a sweet film left on the lips, along with its welcoming sweet aroma and the smooth, malty first touch. The aged quality really left all the flavors intact -- if you wanted to find a particular taste, it seemed, it was there to be found.
The oak, certainly, was ever-present, and the longer you held a sip in your mouth, the stronger the oak seemed to hang around, both on the tongue and after it was swallowed. To wax poetic, this anniversary ale at times tasted like a campfire smells.
This was a rich, sweet-tinged IPA with character and complexity. It's awfully hard to go wrong with a beer that merits that description, and this one unquestionably does.