Trying to crown the best American craft brewer would be a thankless, somewhat pointless task. With so many different styles, and so many individual tastes, it’d be impossible to placate everyone. That said, if the main characteristics were consistency and balance, Great Lakes would have to be near the top of the list. Every beer from the Cleveland-based brewery is well-made, achieves a remarkable balance between malt and hops, and is wonderfully tasty.
Though I have yet to have a bad Great Lakes beer, if pressed to pick a favorite, it would likely be The Doppelrock, a Spring Seasonal / bock offering. Like others from Great Lakes, this brew manages to pack a huge amount of malty love, hoppy goodness and alcohol power into a smooth, stunning beer that never seems off-center. The malt brings loads of chocolate, caramel and nutty sweetness, but there are just enough hops on the finish to even things out. Despite it being close to 8% abv, the heat is barely noticeable. This is everything great about a traditional Spring bock, “amped” up in truly American style (hence the dueling guitars on the label).
At $12 for a 4-pack (at local Wegmans), this is one of the more expensive seasonals out there, but it is worth every penny. With such a high ABV and incredibly rich flavor, it is probably best enjoyed one at a time anyway.
Other Spring Seasonal Picks:
If you prefer a more intense dose of hops, try Small Craft Warning by Heavy Seas. It’s another well-malted Spring bock, but with a more prevalent hop finish. (7% ABV; $11/6)
For something on the lighter side, try Magic Hat’s Vinyl. It has a similar profile to The Doppelrock (mostly malts with just a touch of hops), but is toned down to a more sessionable 5% ABV. ($10/6)
(above image is The Doppelrock label, via Great Lakes website)