Beer Review 0566: Lakefront Black Friday Imperial India-Style Black Ale (2013)

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Lakefront Brewery, located on the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was founded in 1987 as result of sibling rivalry. One year near his birthday, Jim Klisch expressed interest in making beer — his brother, Russ, thought a book on homebrewing would be a great gift. Little did Russ know that Jim would read the book and then promptly brew a beer, and it wasn’t half bad.

Naturally, you can’t let your bother be better than you — Russ brewed up a beer, and the two began to trade brews back and forth. Soon, they began entering homebrew contests and winning; with the encouragement of their family, they opened up a brewery and sold the first barrel of beer on December 2, 1987.

Since then, Lakefront has expanded from using retrofitted dairy equipment to a brewhouse of professional wares, housed in an old power plant sold by the city of Milwaukee. As of 2012, Lakefront’s capacity was 33,368 barrels. A couple of things you might not know about Lakefront: they became the first USDA certified organic brewery in the United States in 1996; ten years later, in 2006, Lakefront became the first brewery to make a federally approved gluten-free beer.

The beer we are looking at today is a brewery-only limited release, only available on Black Friday, or the Friday after Thanksgiving. In 2013, that fell on November 29; the beer is an Imperial India-Style Black Ale that is dry-hopped. The bottle boldly says on the back “NOT AVAILABLE TOMORROW.” The beer is 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 60 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). I’m getting a chance to review this thanks to Dave (Untapped user OnWisconsin), who sent me this bottle in a trade.

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The pour delivers a large collar of light khaki-colored foam; it’s dense and creamy and lasts a long time. Like most beers of this style, the color looks pitch black out of light, but when held to light, it’s actually a deep shade of ruby red. The body is clear, free of particles and sediment, and lacing is a thing to admire; this brew really etches up the glass with some thick patches of foam. Very nice.

Just by looking at the beer, you’re expecting a blast of malt on the nose, but gear up for a massive amount of hops. Fresh, ripe, juicy hops filled with scents of tropical fruit and stiff tones of grapefruit and pine. It’s also quite citrus forward, with ripe orange and tangerine; there is a small roasted backing here, but nothing like I was expecting. Just as the hops are complex in a loud volume, the malts are delicately nuanced, giving off notes of caramel and chalky smoke.

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Black Friday is wild on the palate — wildly delicious! We’ve got super juicy, candy-like tropical fruits, sugar-coated and at the peak of ripeness, which collides with big yet appropriate malts playing in the background. Think papaya and mango that already have a natural sweetness hit with some creamy caramel and general roast, and a little sweetened coffee. Delicious. The finish maintains the hop freshness, leaving a fresh orange slice mixed with roast and an inkling of smoke. It’s fairly bittersweet, but also clean. The 10% ABV is absent in feel and taste — be careful! This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.

Lakefront’s Black Friday is indeed a memorable beer with a broad range of flavors. Beers in this style tend to be confusing, and that’s the charm, in my opinion… and this beer lives up to that perfectly. It’s hoppy, yet malty, and they both play in perfect unison, giving and taking. This is way better than I anticipated, and I’m sad that the end of the bottle is near!

Lakefront Black Friday Imperial India-Style Black Ale (2013), 92 points. Price: $10.00 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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