Listening to Wait, Wait ...Don't Tell Me on NPR a few weeks ago, a caller from Cleveland was challenged to come up with something positive about his city. After a long silence that drew plenty of laughs, he said, "Great Lakes beer."
The Cleveland-based brewery is definitely one of many reasons to be happy about an extended Christmas visit to the North.
Though the brewery doesn't distribute much beyond the Midwest (and a bit of the East), if you happen to come across one of Great Lakes' offerings, be sure to give it a try. The brewery's year-round beers are Burning River Pale Ale (named after the pollutant-filled Cuyahoga, which caught fire in 1969), Commodore Perry IPA, Eliot Ness Amber, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Dortmunder Gold, of which we'd had six within days of landing in Columbus.
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This golden lager is billed as less dry than a Pilsner but less malty than a Munich-style lager, and that's a fitting description. Weighing in at 5.8 percent alcohol, it's clear this isn't a standard lager from the first sip.
The malt undertones do bring Bavaria to mind with a touch of that distinctive caramel, but the hops go to work quickly, dispersing any malty weigh and leaving a crisp, lingering, but balanced flavor behind.
To be specific, the hops seem to work the edges of the mouth as the malt settles evenly across the palate. Too many lagers rely on carbonation for crispness, but this one has a wonderfully nimble hop balance that still leaves plenty of malt to make it pleasant winter drinking. There's also some welcome complexity in there we can only assume is thanks to the choice of yeast.
As a side note, the beer is named after the German town of Dortmund (where the style originated, obviously); the label tells us it was so popular when first made that armed guards were required to escort it when it was exported to neighboring towns. Cool.