Beer Review 0468: Great Lakes 25th Anniversary Silver & Gold India Pale Lager

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It seems like a few breweries are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, and along with that comes celebration brews made just to honor the accomplishment.

Over the next two days, we’ll be looking at two such beers — first up, Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, Ohio) are celebrating 25 years of brewing history with a new style of beer (depending on how you look at it) — an India Pale Lager called Silver & Gold.

First off, the style: you might say this is an Imperial Pilsner. I can see that. But there’s a new trend happening in craft beer and it is called India Pale Lager — basically, a hoppy lager that is higher alcohol than you’d normally expect from the cold fermented style. Neither Imperial Pilsner nor India Pale Lager are “officially recognized” yet by those who do that type of thing; however, we are going to start classifying India Pale Lagers as such on this website, but we will continue to differentiate between Lager and Pilsner, not Lager, Pilsner, and Imperial Pilsner. Got it? Let’s get to the fun part.

When Great Lakes was started by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway on September 6, 1988, not one single microbrewery existed in Cleveland at that time. The city had once boasted thirty breweries, but that was way back in the 1800’s. Great Lakes opened by vowing to use only natural ingredients, and they operate on a “triple bottom line,” meaning they are a profiting business while engaging in responsible economic, social, and environmental practices. Each Great Lakes bottle has three waves of water on the neck label — it symbolizes the triple bottom line, as well as beer’s main ingredient: water.

The traditional wedding gift for a 25th anniversary is silver. So where does the gold part of the name come in? Silver & Gold is brewed using the same yeast strain as Dortmunder Gold, another beer in Great Lakes’ portfolio, and one of their earliest creations. I’ve never reviewed Dortmunder Gold, so I’ll have to make a mental note to get around to it. Silver & Gold comes in at 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), and it should be noted that it appears that Great Lakes have made this brew at least once before for their 20th anniversary, and at the time called it “Imperial Dortmunder.”

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The pour issued an impressive looking beer; the head was average in size, bright white, and sat long atop a deeply golden beer that was pleasantly clear in body. There were no particles or sediment, and lacing clung to the glass in superb solid sheets.

Things started to go awry while taking in the nose — at first, Silver & Gold has a very unusual aroma, with just a little bit of orange/citrus hops and a heavy metallic scent. This beer is quite grassy and grainy, sort of like you would expect, but the metal is only enhanced by the boat load of alcohol. I did notice as I started to sip, the metallic part of the nose kind of faded into the background, but it never disappeared. I don’t think anything is wrong with this beer as far as, say, an infection; this beer just feels too big for what it should be.

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And the taste pretty much backs that theory up. The beer is very good up until you swallow and get the finish. There are light, fruity, citrus hops in the foreground, lots of orange peel and fleshy fruit, along with a twist of lemon and some undertones of grainy and caramel malts. It is certainly hoppier than a standard Lager, and then you get to the finish, which kicks in a sake-like note of big alcohol. Halfway through the drink, I could feel this one; couple it with the very bitter, medicinal finish, and it almost gets too much. It’s good up until the point you get blasted with alcohol and crushed aspirin. Silver & Gold is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel that is super drying.

Aroma aside, I was diggin’ the beer up until the finish, where it really shows some flaws. The alcohol here is just too big for this beer, and it is unfortunate that Great Lakes calls this their 25th Anniversary beer. Great Lakes makes killer beer, but they are doing themselves a disservice by celebrating with this concoction. I’m thinking an Imperial version of Edmund Fitzgerald (my rating: 93 points), perhaps barrel aged, would have been much more worthy.

Disappointing.

Great Lakes 25th Anniversary Silver & Gold India Pale Lager, 74 points. Price: $2.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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