Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Great Lakes Nosferatu: A Red Conundrum

We've reached that time of year where the air is a bit more chilly, it rains without thunder, football is ubiquitous, and some great autumn beers begin populating taps.  Among those is Great Lakes' Nosferatu, a beer I became familiar with 3 years ago after hearing the rumors.  I have a lot of love for this beer as an idea.  The 1920's era vampire logo on the bottle is plain cool.  That it's a red ale also scores it bonus points.  That Great Lakes decided on this as their signature fall beer instead of taking the Oktoberfest path that everyone else takes is also a plus, as breweries almost reflexively churn out enough malty, forgettable Oktoberfest ales to make the entire city of Munich cry.  Kudos to Great Lakes for going in a different direction and making the bold Nosferatu their fall offering (I do note that they have started putting out an Oktoberfest beer in at least the last year or so).

But something's rotten in Cleveland.  A problem I've run into with Nosferatu in the last year is its great inconsistency.   Some kegs/bottles of it are brutally hoppy as if they somehow brewed it without any malts.  Other times it has that caramel maltiness that aptly tames the hop assault and is the reason I became a fan of this in the first place.  To my surprise, they tapped this at the Hideout Block Party last weekend and it was like drinking pine bark.  The hops were overwhelming.  Later, I tried one from the tap at Northdown Cafe, and all flavors blended harmoniously.  These kinds of variances have happened a lot with this beer for a couple of years.

My impression is that Great Lakes has major consistency issues with the mix for this particular beer.  Sure, most craft brews are subject to minor fluctuations in taste, and external factors such as the cleanliness of tap lines play a role, but Nosferatu is the poster child for wide variance in flavor.  Some pours dramatically favor the hops to the point that it's as harsh as a red rye ale, such as Bear Republic's Red Rocket Ale.  Other times the gorgeous malty hint of creaminess is present and it recalls Lagunitas' discontinued Red Ale. 

My advice with Nosferatu is to seek it out because it's a great beer, but get a decent sample of it before grabbing a full glass.  Otherwise, you may doom yourself to spending 30 minutes tasting tree bark.


morrisjeremy said...

The Green Lady pours a fantastic Nosferatu, Mark! Next time you're in we'll have to have a generous sample. It's body and complexity make for a very pleasurable red ale experience.

Also, you're right about the DFH 90-minute...IT'S AMAZING!!!!!


MJS said...

Thanks for reading! I need to come in for a Nosferatu.