A Sampling of Lakefront Brewery’s Brews

Aside from the weekly Rule 37 drink this week, there wasn’t much to tell in a Monday Hangover post. At least, nothing noteworthy except Saturday night’s event: a beer tasting party featuring some brews from Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, WI.

I was introduced to Lakefront a couple years ago while visiting Milwaukee. I crashed with Trevtastic and Murs, and it just so happened that they lived a couple doors down from the brewery, along North Riverwalk Way, on the banks of the aptly named Milwaukee River. It’s one of the better tours I’ve been on, and for $7 you get four drink tokens, a tour, and get to trade in your plastic tasting cup for a real pint glass at the end. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and I’ll go into more detail with an official review and tour in a couple weeks, after another trip out to Mil-wacky.

I recently visited Lakefront as part of Trevtastic’s bachelor party shenanigans at the end of Febtober. We were having some samples before the tour (Lakefront highly recommends sampling before the tour, and taking one along with you. It makes the whole experience much more interesting.) and one of the guys in the group pointed out the owner, Russ Klisch, who was standing nearby. I’ve been a fan of Lakefront’s products since I first tasted them, though they’re difficult to find in Boston. I went over to introduce myself to Russ to tell him my thoughts, and let him know about the blog. He took my card, looked at it and said “Drinking blog, huh? Hmmm… well, we should give you some samples then.” Um. Why yes! Yes indeedy, please and thank you. Free beersies! He wandered off and came back with a four-pack of bombers to sample, making the rest of our group regard me as some sort of wizard, able to conjure free beer out of thin air.

With some careful packing, all four bombers made it back to Boston intact and ready for tasting. I wanted to taste all in one session to compare/contrast the different styles from the same brewery, but four bombers (88oz of beer total) is a hell of an afternoon session, especially with abvs starting at 6.5%. So, I decided to invite a small tasting panel over to sample some beers that you simply can’t get around Boston. The attendees included the Lady Friend, Irish Lad and Wifey, the Engineer (who also attended the previous tasting of California beers) and his wife, and my brother the BeerBro, who came down from NH for the night. The two wives settled into a few cocktails, while the other five of us tucked into the Lakefront bombers. The bottles were a wealth of information, with the back label giving many details about the individual brews, abv info, IBU ratings, plato scale gravity readings, and even a lovibond degree. Ubergeeky, though I wish more breweries put this much thought and effort into their labels. It’s nice to see a brewery give you all the information you could want and more, so you can learn about your beer. Nice touch, Lakefront.

Bring on the beers.

Local Acre Lager It’s a lager. Duh.
7% abv, 36 IBU
Made from locally-sourced (Wisconsin) ingredients, an example of a true farmer-brewer product.
Nose: Little to no aroma, but a faint hint of cereal grain sweetness.
Taste: Cereal grain start with a slight bitter snap. There was a medicinal, stale quality to the finish that none of us could quite put our finger on. Wifey called it an “acrid” sensation, almost like burnt plastic. It didn’t ruin the brew, but it was puzzling as to what that flavor actually was. I almost think it could have been some rye in the mash bill, and the Irish Lad wondered if it was the difference between six-row barley that’s normally used, and the two-row included in this brew. It may have simply been the booze, as a 7% lager is definitely up there.

Bridge Burner Special Reserve Ale Strong Ale
8% abv, 45 IBU

Nose: Hoppy, with a dark malt aroma.

Taste: Malty, but tastes a bit thin. I got a boozy flavor to it, but it was well-balanced with the sweetness of the grain, though certainly a sweeter beer. The Engineer thought it was too thin, but wanted to drink it all night. It is very drinkable for the abv, and could get dangerous when you pound several of these at 8% and try to stand up. I think the thinner quality actually helps the drinkability, as a more syrupy, heavier ale would weigh on you. Bridge Burner is a great balance between flavor and chug factor. Very nice.

MyTurn Series DAN Baltic Porter
8.5% abv, 37 IBU
The MyTurn Series is a sort of employee-brew project, much like White Birch Brewing’s Apprentice Series. Apparently Dan’s Baltic Porter was VERY popular, so I was glad to snag a sample.
Nose: Nice roast with a dark chocolate bitter.
Taste: Medium syrup quality. Sweet, dark chocolate syrup is cut by the bitter roast. Very nice, very smooth, very tasty. Unremarkable, in that it’s indistinguishable from any other Baltic Porter, but could be said to be a perfect example of the style. I thought it was outstanding as it was exactly what a Baltic Porter SHOULD be, though in that regard it doesn’t stand out from the crowd. It’s the Toyota Camry of Baltic Porters; perfectly reliable, but nothing that would catch your eye. Still, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

IBA India Black Ale
6.5% abv, 50 IBU
I thought this was a neat trick. There has been a lot of discussion in the craft beer world about “black IPAs,” that is, an IPA made with a darker malt. I discussed it briefly here with the Widmer Brothers Pitch Black. The question is a matter of semantics: how can you have a BLACK India PALE Ale? Many breweries have adopted the term “Cascadian Dark Ale” to appropriately describe their brews, though Lakefront simply avoided the whole thing by calling their brew an India Black Ale. How simple is that? Nicely done.
Nose: Smokey and savory. Definitely a bit of smokiness in there, most likely from roasting the barley, though I don’t recall coming across a smokey quality in any other bIPA. The savory smell likely points towards some Sorachi Ace hops in the mix. The Engineer agreed, getting an aroma of “greasy smoked sausages.
Taste: It’s got a decent bitter hoppy start, but nothing in the follow through. It falls off quickly, with a mild hop linger. It was the Irish Lad’s favorite of the four Lakefront beers, though the Engineer said it “does not have the malt you’d expect.” I agreed, thinking that it was a bit thin, though very drinkable. Strangely, the BeerBro and Irish Lad both got a finish that reminded them of a Scotch Ale. I think they’re both insane.

Serendipitously (an awesome word I never get to use), the Irish Lad had brought over a pair of Oskar Blues’ Old Chub Scotch Ales. We cracked them and set about to comparing. To me, a Scotch Ale is usually all malt with little hop. Most I’ve had in the past range from a medium syrupy quality up to a sensation of drinking a glass of malt extract. The Old Chub, while certainly malty, did not have any such syrup to it, and was the lightest mouthfeel Scotch Ale I think I’ve had to date. That said, it was very nice; malty and sweet with some vanilla notes. After tasting, the BeerBro and Irish Lad conceded that it was entirely different from the IBA, and I still am not quite sure what sensation they were getting from the finish of the Lakefront brew.

We went on to taste a couple homebrews from a Smash project the Irish Lad and I had concocted, and the night’s events pretty much faded from there. Wifey conned us into some silly game that several of us managed to sabotage quite well, and I found myself with a Sweaty Betty Blonde Wheat Ale from Boulder Brewing, and finished off with a fantabulous Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro. Overall, the group seemed ambivalent about the Lakefront beers, though I enjoyed them overall. The lager had that unidentifiable taste in the finish, which is a good reason to have others sample with you, throwing in their opinions. Unfortunately, that one trumped the whole group of us. The Bridge Burner was tasty, if a little sweet, but certainly didn’t feel like an 8% beer. That’s a good thing. I felt the Baltic Porter was a perfect example of its style, and would love to pick up another. The IBA just wasn’t doing it for any of us however. It seems like Lakefront is brewing milder versions of various styles, choosing drinkability over innovation. It’s a fine tactic to choose, but I like to see breweries pushing the envelope a bit more. It’s why Sam Adams disappoints me time and time again; they have unbelievably vast resources, and yet create middle-of-the-road beers. Their Bonfire Rauchbier is what led me to have the Lady Friend try a REAL rauchbier. Sure, it comes down to what you can actually sell, and most people don’t want the crazy obscure beers, but Boston Beer Company could certainly afford to take a few more chances. Lakefront is nowhere near that size, so I’m willing to cut them a lot more slack. I love their regular lineup, but was expecting a bit more punch from these special bottlings.

That said, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.
Buy some if you can find it.

Quote of the night: “Can beer get a yeast infection?” “Yeah, it’s called brett (brettanomyces).”

Squirrel Farts is now accepting solicited product reviews! Send me a bottle and I’ll take a pretty picture and talk it up in the amusing tangential manner you’ve come to expect. Beer, spirits, mixers, whatever. Contact here for details. Note: I will mention that the review was solicited, hell, I’ll even brag about it. Free booze? Damn right. But The Man says I have to say I got it for freebies. I’m excited about free stuff, so whatever. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it, or that I’ll give it a good review. But chances are if you read this blog, then we’ll get along.
Put it to the test: send me your booze!

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