Over the New Year holiday, I was lucky enough to take a trip to Ohio. In the great state of Ohio, there is a brewery, the likes of which the West Coast rarely, if ever, sees and it is called Great Lakes Brewing Company. Situated in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cincinnati, this brewery had the feel of a cool modern brewery in an old brick building. Lots of lacquered wood and rich dark colors gave it a very warm feel. There was a long bar down the left side, with a few tables on the right. There was another seating area up the stairs to the left, with green beadboard on the wall to the left and brown beadboard on the ceiling. Both levels had their own tasting bars and windows overlooking the street below. Through a brick arch downstairs was a super old, dungeon-like tasting room and seating area. To the right sticking out of the wall was an old piano. Brick floors and rough-hewn stone blocks on the walls only helped perpetuate the dank feel of the place. The brewing area was behind wrought iron bars in the wall behind the tasting bar. Unfinished wood wood beams and columns accented a decidedly old world, low lit ambiance.
Despite being awestruck by the atmosphere, I decided to get down to business. I started with the Dortmunder Gold (5.8% abv). It poured a rich gold color, with tiny sudsy head. There was no aroma whatsoever. The taste was mild and slightly sour, with a little hoppiness into the middle. Light body and carbonation brought a finish that was sour and bitter, with a little malt flavor trailing.
Next, I tried the Burning River Pale Ale (6% abv). This one poured golden with smooth white head. There was virtually no smell, with maybe a slight maltiness. The taste was super mild, with a bit of malty sweetness up front and a little fruitiness like melon into the middle. Light body and light carbonation, it finished fruity, malty and caremelly.
My third of the day brought me to the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (6% abv). The “golden standard” when it comes to porters as tasted by the Great American Beer Fest judges, according to our tour guide that day, poured wine-colored dark brown, with a thick cap of light brown head. It smelled roasty, sweet and malty. The taste was light and chocolatey. There was not as much bitterness, as expected, but still lots of chocolate. The middle was light-medium bodied with light carbonation and it finished chocolatey and roasty. Good, though I have tasted better porters.
Last, I tried the Mash Appeal Kentucky Common Ale (~4.7% abv). This rare beer was popular up until the start of Prohibition in the U.S. According to the tasting bar tender, it is brewed into a “sour mash” with ingredients very similar to whiskey: barley, corn and water, with hops added for taste. It poured pours light amber w/thin white head. Smells sour and like barley and barley. Tastes mild, like malty, inoculated sour mash whiskey. In fact, it’s pretty much inverted grain whiskey- sour, bready and like sweet corn. Middle is light bodied and lightly carbed. Finishes smooth, light and lots of barley.
This was a fantastic brewery and one very much respected by everyone I even mentioned it to. It seemed everyone knew all about their history and their beers. I truly appreciated the passion for this delicious craft I love so much.