I seem to be spending alot of time lately at The Happy Gnome.

My uncle and I swung in there this weekend on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, the kind of early Spring day in Minnesota that brings people out of doors in T-shirts and shorts even though it’s 45 degrees*. I needed to drop off several entries at Northern Brewer for this year’s National Homebrew Competition, and since we were already in the neighborhood I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to grab some lunch and maybe a couple nice beers to wash it down.

The scene at your typical neighborhood pub on a lazy afternoon is about as perfect as it gets, in my opinion. Nobody’s in a rush, you don’t feel like an annoyance for striking up a conversation with the bartender who otherwise might be in the weeds, and it seems as if you’ve got the beer world at your fingertips with a plethora of interesting craft offerings to sample. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a local watering hole that cares about craft beer. 

As usual, the draught selection at the Gnome was great. A handful of nice Belgians, local stuff from Lift Bridge and Summit, some limited release and seasonal offerings from dozens of others. But Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout caught my attention. I’d tried a small glass of it at the recent FirkinFest, and was impressed, but I wanted to give it a real test drive to see how it stacked up to some other stouts I’ve been trying lately.

Yeti is the kind of stout that immediately puts a big smile on your face. Poured with a creamy mocha head into a bowled glass, filling out with a beautiful jet-black body. Comforting aromas of chocolate and roasted barley in the nose, with a hint of earthy hops. For the great chocolatey nose you get up front, it’s surprisingly bitter in the taste. Not as much of the malty sweetness as you might expect for the style. But I think the bitterness is more of a “bittersweet” quality from the specialty malts as opposed to an excess of hops. You also get a touch of alcohol in the finish, as it comes in around 9.5% ABV, but it’s subtle enough not to distract. Great carbonation level too, gives it a full-bodied mouthfeel that reminds you what kind of beer you’re drinking.  

A very enjoyable, aptly named big beer. Would love to get my hands on the Oak-Aged version of this at some point. 

Rating: A-

* The National Weather Service is predicting a massive blizzard bringing up to a foot of snow in parts of the state on Monday…so you never know what you’re going to get in Minnesota this time of year.