A Review of Great Divide Brewing Company


I like to think this column is a safe haven for kindred spirits. Odds are if you’ve landed here you’re a good deal like me. You take your enjoyment of beer seriously. Possibly a little too seriously, but you (wrongfully) believe that to be part of your charm. You love a good joke. And you know it’s no joke whatsoever when I flatly assert a bloody robot uprising is upon us.

Most of the signs are subtle. A police robot that “mistakenly” uses highly flammable gas grenades instead of the fire-retardant variety. An ATM that seizes its own brand of overdraft justice by attempting to eat the woman responsible. Other signs are more direct:

signThis may sound like my typical fearmongering, but mankind’s* hubris has crossed a line. Some Japanese guy, apparently interning for Mega Man’s nemesis, decided it was time that someone built a robot out of a beer can. Its primary functions seem to be skittish, inefficient movements and scaring the shit out of anyone who unknowingly reaches for it.

robot_canIt’s also noteworthy in being the first robot afflicted with Parkinson’s

It may not look that daunting, but consider the bigger picture. Humanity is starting to merge robotics with alcohol. That may not be worrisome today, but all it takes is the accidental creation of a CPU that synthesizes alcohol before we’ve got mobs of angry, drunken robots plotting against us.

I’m not suggesting that we abandon all technology and go live among the Hill People, but we must be more selective where we install robotic intelligence. Computers do not belong in our beer, our carnies or especially our toilets.

On the day that robots become self aware the last thing we’ll want them to realize is that they’ve been unwitting cabooses in a Human Centipede experiment since the dawn of sanitation.

toiletThis must sound like utter nonsense to those that trust in the modern age. My warnings have often had me labeled as a Luddite or even paranoid schizophrenic. The latter actually comes up quite frequently with my parole board. I most certainly could be wrong about all this…but consider the implications if I’m right.

Though Great Divide Brewing does not specifically warn against our fledgling robotic overlords on their website, they don’t have anything in support of them either. I’m taking that to mean that we’re allies in this fight and thus have decided to review them.

*I know “mankind” is a sexist choice of words, but “humankind” just sounds so forced. Plus, men build everything and are the only gender capable of higher math, so I figured we’d all be on the same page anyway.

Old Ruffian Barleywine Style Ale (10.6% ABV)

ruffianThis ruddy crimson beer doesn’t so much pour to a head as a crust. However, based on the flowers, alcohol and caramel I’m smelling through it, it’s worthy of taking a pick-axe to. [Editors Note: thesmokingjacket.com is indemnified from any pick-axe-related injuries that arise from this description and cannot be held liable for your lack of appreciation for extended metaphor.]

There’s a fair amount of shmutz bopping around the bottom of the bottle. It’s no doubt yeast and sugars from bottle conditioning, but for some reason it’s taken on a chunky consistency. Since I am unaware of the technical name for this brewing detritus, I’ve decided to coin my own:

The experience of sipping an Old Ruffian zig-zags considerably. The first taste has a blast of honey, caramel and cinnamon. As it settles, I notice more ginger, dried fruit, apple juice and the sizzle of a little alcohol on the tongue. Those flavors are sharp enough to border on metallic, but not sufficient to sick me out. The hops assert themselves with orange and pine notes in a prominent, but measured way. It always keeps you guessing, not unlike the process of trying to select a biologically female hooker in Thailand.

litmusThe ultimate litmus test for heterosexual men

The Old Ruffian pulls off big hops without punishing bitterness, big alcohol without booziness and big malt without being cloying. With all of this masterful balancing, I can more than forgive a handful of dingleberries hovering in the solution.

Grade: A

Hercules Double IPA (10% ABV)

herculesHercules, son of Zeus, was born to a mortal woman, but retained his god-like strength. He became a warrior of legend, a name synonymous with masculinity. And yet here’s the feat of strength Wikipedia opted to commemorate him with:

opponentsHercules exhausted opponents with his wrestling so he could unleash his final attack – spooning

Once you have an understanding of how bitter Roman art makes Hercules, you’re well on your way to comprehending why there’s a double IPA (DIPA) named after him.

The Hercules DIPA is a hazy coppery orange. The aroma is a bit underwhelming, but the expected floral notes are present.

The flavor of this DIPA is dominated by an oily orange peel bitterness with vinegar and pine undertones. Malts smooth the edges on this experience, but manifest in more of a nutty flavor and fullness to the body than sweet. The 10% alcohol smoothes the experience of everything else in this stupid, reality-laden world.

brainThis is one beer whose affiliation with a demigod is probably deserved.

Grade: A

Grand Cru (11% ABV)

cruAfter working my way through three beers with ABVs in the double-digits, I am most certainly feeling some of alcohol’s cherished side effects. I apologize if my writing starts to sound a little loopy. If it is any consolation you suddenly seem far more attractive to me than you ordinarily do.

This dark yet translucent mahogany brew produces a thick seafoam head. The nose swirls with a Nestle Quik sweetness, raisins and candied fruits. That same milk chocolate sweetness is present in the first taste as well as anise, vanilla and a bit of fig. I don’t know how this will pair with a massive pile of carne asada fries, but if I’m going to survive the morning I’ll probably have to find out soon.

friesThis will solve all of my problems, or at least all those unrelated to my Type II diabetes

There’s a brandy-like character to the alcohol in the finish, along with a big wallop of cinnamon, caramel and licorice. At times this Grand Cru may border on syrupy sweet, but relative to the style, and the fact IT FUCKING RULES!!! WOOOOOO! YEAH!!! I tend to forgive it.


Grade: A