|Great Lakes Brewing Co. 2008
Lords Roberts and Ackery impersonating a pair of old codgers at the Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Royal trips up to Cleveland were rather frequent in 2008, with two major visits made: the first being in the spring with Lord Shigley of Gelsenkirchen; the
second, a Christmas trip with the venerable Lord Ackery of Brentford.
The Christmas trip was particularly of note because it signaled a first: It was the first ever trip for the embryonic Bogrolls & Barley Wines team. Hurrah!!!
So there you have it, and if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin in reverse order with our Christmas venture.
The first thing of note was just how bloody packed the place was. Even after allowing for the post-work crowd to go home, the brewpub was still heaving. We
didn’t actually get to sit down until 9.00pm which was certainly a pain (literally) for Lord Ackery with those dodgy knees of his. Still, the beer was flowing and
that’s why we were there.
1) Hale Ale (5.4%)
Right off the bat we had a new one to try. Hale Ale was a Belgian-style Saison blended with herbs from nearby Hale Farm. And by herbs, we are talking
about Lavender, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Coriander, Lemon Basil, with some orange peel thrown in for good measure. I wondered if it had been brewed
inside The Bath & Body Works and I must admit the initial pint was not exactly stunning. It was rich, syrupy, and very bitter. You could certainly pick up all the
herbs and it reminded me of their Holy Moses with a bunch of flowers added to the brew.
I had a second pint after our traditional brewery tour and this time the penny dropped. It had the citrus tastes of The Holy Moses, with a sweet herbally
backdrop. An acquired taste, which I quickly acquired. I really liked the earthy feel to the beer and was pleased to hear the GLBC were planning to bottle it
for 2009. A well deserved 9/10.
Less happy was Lord Ackery when he discovered that The Holy Moses was not going to be brewed for 2009 – something to do with poor sales. Even I was
surprised by that news, but for his Lordship it was devastating. His favourite Great Lakes brew - GONE! Quite possibly the biggest shock for him since
Cheltenham Town thrashed Brentford 5-0 in 2005.
2) Christmas Ale (7.5%)
This is a modern day masterpiece. It’s no secret that 2008 gave us the best EVER brewing of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. The blending of the Christmas
spices (cinnamon and ginger) plus honey were absolutely spot on. I thought they’d got it right in 2007, but the 2008 brew swept all aside.
It started with a beautiful ruby colour, with a warming ginger aroma. Initial tastes were soft, rich, syrupy and gingery with black cherries and cinnamon
exposing themselves. There was a minimal honey infusion and that came at the end. It reminded me of Stone’s Ginger Wine (that’s the British Stone’s, not
the Californian one) crossed with Mead. Absolutely bloody delicious and well deserving of my highest ever score for a beer: 16/10
Locally, Lord Derryberry was buying the Christmas Ale by the caseload and even though the GLBC had increased production by 30%, they still couldn’t keep
up with demand, particularly his demand!
With the shops empty by the New Year, I felt pretty pleased with myself to still have three six-packs of Great Lakes Christmas Ale in The Manor pub.
3) Barley Wine (10%)
The Barley Wine was available at both our Spring and Christmas trips, the difference being it had aged in barrels for several months leading up to our
Christmas visit. This little enfant terrible was smooth, rich, and very hoppy with strong flavours of caramel. I wrote the word “outrageous” in my tasting notes
which pretty much sums it up. The Barley Wine was a heavy beer, dense and intense with distinctive whisky notes at the end. Not for those of a delicate
4) Wolfhound Stout (4.8%)
Right, this was the masterpiece of our spring visit, indeed the ONLY reason we had made the trip up to Cleveland. Wolfhound Stout is quite simply the finest
dry stout in all of Christendom. It’s a mighty, powerful, majestic, elegant whopper of a stout. I walked into the brewpub, and put down three Wolfhound
Stouts, one after another and didn’t bat an eye. I was in beer nirvana.
It poured a HUGE head with a wonderfully creamy, smooth body. It was as black as coal with a glorious not-over-the-top taste of roasted barley with a mild
caramel finish. What a beauty – the very antithesis of that ghastly pile of shite they call Guinness. I’ve said it before, but should Guinness ever get itself a
pair of bollocks again, then it might come close to resembling Wolfhound Stout. Another 16/10.
5) Rockefeller Bock (in the region of 7.6%)
The head brew master at Great Lakes Brewing Co is a bloke called Luke and he introduced himself at both of our major visits in 2008. For the spring visit, he
let us try his Rockefeller Bock, which was still a beer “in motion” and not yet ready for general consumption.
It was dark brown and both unfiltered and unpasturized - very drinkable, with a strong malty body with an impressive hop finish. The malt had overall control,
though the Fuggles and Hallertau hops made for some distinctive bitterness. Not really my cup of Twinning's Breakfast tea, but a rare opportunity to taste
something straight from the tanks. 5/10
6) Conway Irish Ale (6.5%)
I don’t like malt dominated beers and I must confess that Conway’s Irish Ale is the only Irish ale I’ve ever liked. There’s some rank stuff out there, but for me,
Conway’s is the ticket. True, it’s malty, but there’s also some tasty fruitiness in the mix with a nice hoppy balance. There’s a rich, refreshing malty finish that
in this beer doesn’t leave my stomach churning. Very good indeed. 8/10
7) Dick’s Double Diamond Winter Ale (7.5%).
You never know what can show up on a brewery visit and in this instance, someone popped open a huge bottle of this brew which originated from a brewery
in Washington State. About six of us got to try this total rarity. It was quite tangy, with a bittersweet caramel overtone and another hoppy finish. A most
interesting concoction. 6/10
And that is it for our 2008 visits to Great Lakes Brewing Co. After Christmas, we learned that Hale Ale was going to be renamed and bottled as Grassroots
Ale, with an increased abv of 6.2%. Grassroots Ale is going to be an absolute winner - Cheers!