Beer Review 0187: Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA

Great Lakes Brewing Company was founded by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway on September 6, 1988 at a time when not one single microbrewery existed in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland was a city that boasted thirty breweries in the late 1800’s, but a century later, none remained.

The area proved to be hungry for excellent craft brew, so Great Lakes took off and quickly grew successful. But there’s a moral twist to this story: Great Lakes runs off of sustainable principles, meaning this brewery is environmentally and socially conscious. Considering I myself care greatly about the environment and am socially conscious, I thought I would spend a moment writing about this important aspect of the company.

Great Lakes operates with what they call a “Triple Bottom Line” — they run the beer business engaging in responsible economic, social, and environmental practices while profiting. It’s reflected on every bottle under the company logo; you see three waves that represent beer’s most important ingredient: water.

Lake Erie Monster, named after the legendary monster South Bay Bessie that supposedly roams Lake Erie, is Great Lakes big Imperial India Pale Ale, on offer each year from May-July. Unlike some beer companies, they pull no punches when it comes to their hopped-up brew: they claim this beer only has a shelf life of 90 days, and the date on the side of the bottle reflects that short span. While this beer, at 9.1% ABV (alcohol by volume) would age, since it is hop-forward, the hoppy flavors would fade and the beer would not be as the brewery intended.

There are only two hops used in this beer: Simcoe and Fuggle, paired with two malts: Harrington 2-Row and Caramel 30. Lake Erie Monster is unfiltered and registers 80 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

The pour displayed a gorgeous Imperial IPA, bright golden in color with orange highlights. The head was small but lasting, frothy in texture. This beer, being unfiltered, was filled with a heavy amount of small particles and sediment, which clouded the body. Think orange juice with the pulp. Lacing here was extremely nice, sticking to the glass in a thin but solid sheet all the way to the end.

On those nose, there’s a big tropical fruit hop presence that whacks you in the face; straight away with mango and pineapple. There’s some light grapefruit and orange, a bit of apricot and a nice floral note. The malts are there, too, just very light with sweet bread, and there’s a bit of earthy yeast in the background.

Lake Erie Monster presents bold orange and tropical fruit juice flavors as soon as it hits the palate, which transitions into some grapefruit and a dry malt middle, unleashing a touch of bitterness, but nowhere near the level you might expect for 80 IBU. The finish is right on the line of bitter and sweet, with the bitter winning out slightly, and it’s a bitter malty finish — bitter bread. Interesting, as you tend to think of bitter malt finishes being burnt or extremely roasted. This one isn’t. Mouthfeel on this beer is creamy and foamy, with softer than average carbonation. The alcohol isn’t especially hidden well here, either; I could taste it and the warming sensation definitely hits the back of your throat.

For an Imperial IPA, Lake Erie Monster is more malty than hoppy. Typically, I’ve found that the maltier Imperial IPAs tend to be sweet, but this one is moreso on the bitter end. This is a good beer, but the alcohol could be better hidden. Worth a try, for sure.

Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA, 91 points. Price: $2.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.


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