Beer Review 0508: Great Lakes Nosferatu Imperial Red Ale

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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 thanks to big business, those all vanished. That is, until Great Lakes came along.

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.

Great Lakes has a solid year-round lineup — many of those beers have already been reviewed on this website. Today, we’re looking at a seasonal limited release from them. Gracing shelves each September is Nosferatu, what the brewery calls an Imperial Red Ale (despite the bottle calling it a Stock Ale on the bottle), a beer named after Dracula’s earliest portrayal on the movie screen. The beer is brewed with Harrington 2-Row, Crystal 77, and Special Roast malts, while the hops employed are Simcoe and Cascade. Nosferatu is 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and pings 70 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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Pouring makes a small, creamy, especially dense off-white head. It sticks around atop an orange-reddish beer; it’s more red like it should be, but it does have lots of orange highlights. The body is clear, free of particles and sediment; lacing is good, leaving behind solid thin sheets of foam along the non-sipping side of the glass.

The nose is very unassuming, and you kind of have to dig in deep to experience all the aromas. The malts hit first, delivering a lot of sweet caramel and bread, but it’s not heavy-handed. With the malts being so sweet, I think it also sweetens up the hops, making the orange peel, grapefruit, and general citrus notes absent of any bite. I also picked up on some cinnamon, even though this beer isn’t brewed with that particular spice. It’s nice and pleasant, if a bit subtle.

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Tasting brings forth all those malts; this is a moderately sweet beer at first, with sugary caramel coupled with some bread crust and cinnamon. The mouthfeel adds an oomph to the sweetness, being creamy — but this alters course middle of the mouth, issuing up a smooth yet lightly bitter bite of oranges, grapefruit, and drying pine. The 8% alcohol is hidden exceptionally well. I found Nosferatu to be medium-bodied, with a thin, extremely creamy mouthfeel.

While this beer isn’t boldly flavored one way or the other, it’s a solid beer for the higher alcohol content. It has a certain rich quality about it that seems elegant to drink — I could see this being a good beer to ease somebody into IPAs with, actually, as it has a lot of sweetness yet retains a manageable bitter kick. Well balanced, indeed.

Great Lakes Nosferatu Imperial Red Ale, 88 points. Price: $3.79 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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