Beer Review 0343: Great Lakes Alchemy Hour Imperial IPA

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Great Lakes Brewing Company was started by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway on September 6, 1988, at a time when not one single microbrewery existed in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland, back in the 1800s, boasted thirty breweries — but until Great Lakes, all were extinct.

Celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2013, Great Lakes continues to use only natural ingredients, avoiding preservatives, synthetic chemicals, and pasteurization. The company has a solid operating conscience, running on a “triple bottom line,” meaning they are a profiting business while engaging in responsible economic, social, and environmental practices.

New for this year is the introduction of a limited release, Imperial IPA called Alchemy Hour. This west coast-style brew is named for the surfing term ‘alchemy hour,’ which is a name for the perfect time of day when waves a breaking just right. Brewed with Mosaic hops, which are new to the United States, the beer also uses Nugget and Cascade. Alchemy Hour is 9.4% ABV (alcohol by volume) and attains 80 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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The pour made for an average size head, soapy in texture and smack between long-lasting and fast diminishing. The beer was golden-amber in color, a bit on the dark end for an IPA, and had orange highlights when held to the light. Body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and the lacing was excellent, leaving behind thin but solid sheets down the length of my glass.

On the nose, there was a nice balance up front between hops and malts even though this is a hop-forward beer; a heavy hit of tropical fruit, backed by a light, thin caramel. Think caramel but with a thinner, honey consistency. There’s a little biscuit malt and some faint grain, then plenty of grassy and herbal hops. As it warmed, I noticed a faint note of Snickerdoodle coffee came to the front. And thanks to the Cascade, Alchemy Hour has an earthy vibe to it.

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The flavors gave a punch of juicy grapefruit hops followed by a chewy caramel and Tootsie Roll. This one is fairly malty until you hit the middle, when fresh cut grassy hops, herbs, and honey sweetness ushers in the finish of topical hops — the sweetness runs out and hits the edges of your tongue with a mild bitterness. The lasting flavor seems to be grass and grapefruit rind, along with some bitterness and a slight alcohol display. I’d call this full-bodied, with a thick mouthfeel that is foamy when swirled around the tongue.

I like this beer, and I applaud Great Lakes for bringing it out; however, the “kiss of honey” that is advertised on the bottle seems to be a pretty large dollop. The sweetness here isn’t overwhelming, but be warned if you like your IPA more bitter than sweet — this might not be the ticket for you. Speaking for myself, I’m not large on grass flavors, and this one has plenty of that going on. But it’s still a good brew worthy of your consideration. Surf’s up!

Great Lakes Alchemy Hour Imperial IPA, 91 points. Price: $10.99 US for a four-pack.

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