When Great Divide Brewing introduced Yeti Imperial Stout in 2003, it was a tough sell. Roasty, jet black and with nearly as much alcohol as wine, the beer was a far cry from the amber ales and apricot wheats that were in vogue among beer drinkers at the time.
Today, Yeti is an institution and Great Divide’s number-one seller in six-packs, but the brewery, which celebrates “Yeti Awareness” this week, has a different problem, says spokesman Matt Sandy. Craft-beer drinkers now “are always looking for what is new. Even if you know you like something, every time you go to the store, you're looking to try something different.”
So Yeti has had to change with the times. At the end of 2019, Great Divide rolled out two Yeti variants, S’mores Yeti and Mexican Chocolate Yeti, in 19.2-ounce cans. Then it upped the ante in 2020 with a Chocolate Cherry Yeti, Pumpkin Spice Yeti and Peanut Butter Yeti, which was released last month. Next year, the brewery will get even crazier, with Maple Pecan Yeti, Macaroon Yeti and Cheesecake Yeti (yes, Cheesecake Yeti).
“Yeti is such a good complement to so many flavors, we wanted to step out of the place where it was the same thing each season and let our brewers experiment,” Sandy explains.
The testing ground for these beers is Yeti Awareness Week, which takes place every year in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Created in 2016 as a somewhat silly marketing campaign designed to bring awareness to the lonely plight of the mythical creatures, Sandy says the campaign has evolved into an important reminder to consumers, particularly in Colorado, that there is more to the beer than the “I Believe” sticker. “Yeti Awareness was the catalyst for the direction that the seasonal series is heading. It opened our eyes to the possibilities.”
This year, Great Divide had originally planned to do an outdoor and socially distanced Yeti event involving multiple flavors on which the brewery could get feedback for future variants. But Sandy says he realized that more COVID-19-related restrictions were probably coming for breweries, bars and restaurants, so he scaled back and added a virtual component.
Tonight (Thursday, November 19) at 6 p.m., Great Divide founder Brian Dunn, along with brewer Tony Rau and operations manager Jeff Martin, will host Virtual Yeti Awareness: A Night of Yeti Appreciation, at YetiAwareness.com. The night will feature a panel discussion, the presentation of the second annual Yeti Achievement Award and a nationwide #YetiCheers at 7 p.m.
Great Divide will also tap a few one-off Yeti variants in its two taprooms. Anything that isn’t consumed today will be available on the brewery’s patio or to go starting Friday — as the new restrictions don’t allow indoor on-site service for at least the next month.
Next year, in addition to the Yeti variants, Great Divide will also team up with several local distillers to offer barrel-aged versions of the same beers.
Sandy says the staff used to joke that the Yeti logo was so cool that the brewery could just slap a Yeti on anything and the beer would sell. “But with this new line of Yeti variants, especially at the rate at which we are introducing new ones, we want people to know that it’s not just the Yeti. It’s the beer inside the can," he adds.
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