Do you believe? Great Divide does. The brewery believes so strongly in the power of its Yeti line of beers that it has decided to brew and sell a lower-alcohol version for the first time. Velvet Yeti, which goes on tap today at both the taproom and the Barrel Bar, is 5 percent alcohol by volume, only about half the alcohol of the others in the Yeti line — regular, oak-aged, oatmeal, chocolate and espresso — that all come in closer to 9.5 ABV.
But the lighter mouthfeel will be made up for by the fact that Velvet Yeti, available only on draft, will also be served exclusively on nitro, meaning it will be poured using nitrogen gas rather than carbon dioxide (which is how most beers are carbonated). Nitrogenated beers typically have cascading bubbles, a smoother, creamier texture and a flavor profile that accentuates the beer’s malt bill.
“It doesn’t have quite the viscosity of our other Yeti beers, but the nitrogen really helps with that,” says Great Divide founder Brian Dunn. “This is something we’ve been talking about doing for years. We’ve nitrogenated our other Yetis in the past five or six years, but they are all around 9.5 percent.
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“This is an outstanding, special beer. It’s a roasty, caramel-y, chocolate-y beer that’s not too big, so you can drink a few of them. We think people want to drink more than one beer, and we want to, too,” he adds. The lower ABV content will also expose the beer to people looking for something less boozy.
Velvet Yeti will only be available in Colorado — for now — and only on tap at the brewery and at bars and restaurants, but that could change if it is well received, Dunn says. “We'll start slow and see how it goes. But we really think this is something that people are looking for.”
The nitro craft-beer segment has grown quickly since 2011, when Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing introduced the first U.S.-made nitrogenated beer in a bottle — and without a nitrogen widget. Other breweries across the country followed suit, including Oskar Blues, which produces a canned nitro beer.
In 2014, Breckenridge Brewing rolled out a draft-only nitrogenated version of its popular Vanilla Porter; it later began canning that beer and several variations and has sped up production over the past nine months since being purchased by Anheuser Busch InBev. Boston Beer Company, the maker of Sam Adams, also maintains a major nationwide canned nitro beer program.