Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Company’s Yeti has a reputation to match the mythical moniker. That beer—an imperial stout—has earned multiple accolades over the years and has inspired such adoration that an outline of the creature has become a mascot of sorts for the brewer. Perhaps most importantly, the imperial stout has become a base for Great Divide to branch out and experiment with different treatments like the Espresso Yeti. Nowadays every season gets its own a special edition: Chocolate Oak Aged and Vanilla Oak Aged in the spring and summer, followed by Chai and Barrel Aged in the fall and winter.
Chai Yeti offers a striking image upon first pour—that foam. The head on this beer looms large, almost like whip cream on top of an over-the-top latte. The beer itself gets darker still, a jet black tone that leaves no doubt a big stout awaits.
If chai brings to mind a sweet aromatic experience from your favorite cafe, Chai Yeti bucks that expectation. Malt hits your nose first and foremost, but whiffs of nutmeg and maybe a little chocolate sit in the background. This imperial stout also doesn’t hide its dark and bitter tones.
This will appeal to drinkers who want dark, beer-like beers as opposed to anything bordering on dessert.”
Admittedly, I think of chai mostly in those latte terms—a sweet, warming drink to savor. Chai Yeti is not an entirely different experience. This beer has that same umami sensation with a big, creamy mouthfeel. And its maltiness and 9.5% ABV deliver a certain coziness over time. It feels like a beer that will get better as you slowly work your way through the bottle and allow things to warm towards room temperature.
But Chai Yeti ultimately tastes more bitter than anticipated. There are flavors of cream, and a faint bit of cinnamon and nutmeg, but the imperial stoutness really wins out. A bitter aftertaste lingers for a victory lap. This will appeal to drinkers who want dark, beer-like beers as opposed to anything bordering on dessert (though it's easy to see why Great Divide sometimes adds vanilla ice cream to beer floats during Yeti release parties—sounds like a perfect counterbalance).
Chai Yeti feels like a beer where expectations matter. If you’re browsing through a bottle shop and looking for something dark on the sweeter side, the more common coffee, vanilla, maple, or chocolate stouts will likely satisfy a bit more. But this imperial stout with added spice is still an excellent expression of style—aromatic, full on the tongue, and bitter but in an increasingly pleasant way with each sip.