Posted December 9, 2012 by Kevin in Eats & Drinks

Great Lakes Butcher’s Brew: One Helles of a Fine Beer

Great Lakes Butcher's Brew
Great Lakes Butcher's Brew

Unless you have a bottle of this in your possession, it will likely be very difficult for you to find one.  This is a very limited brew that Great Lakes Brewing Company released for the iconic West Side Market’s centennial celebration.  Pitched as a Kulmbacher-style lager, it was formulated to approximate the style of beer that was available 100 years ago in Cleveland.  There are no current plans for the brewery to run another batch of this beer, which is too bad – I found it to be excellent.

Before opening this one, I set off to find out what a Kulmbacher lager is.  Turns out, that’s not an easy question to answer.  Kulmbacher is actually a brewery in Munich, and their signature beer is called “Kulmbacher Lager Hell.” What the hell?  Oh, Helles.  Okay, that makes a bit more sense.  The Helles style is loosely related to the Dortmunder style.  Both are German brews with a bunch of Pilsner in the malt bill.  Helles lagers are typically less bitter (or more malty, depending on how you look at it) than Dortmunders.  They are supposed to be a touch lighter, but this beer poured a deep copper color.  True to style?  Hell if I know.  Let’s drink it already!

This is a very tasty brew that maintained a thick, tan head until the glass was empty, with lacing all the way up the sides of the glass.  The nose was fantastic – extremely toasty, almost like fresh bread baking.  One of the toastiest, maltiest and just plain pleasant beers I’ve sniffed.  It’s an awesome smelling beer with a slight bit of woody complexity, but the malt really comes through here with very little hop presence.  This beer did a great job disguising whatever hop they used.  It was probably traditional, maybe Hallertau.  The toasty nose and the malty palate of the beer made the hop presence a part of the picture but it never came to the foreground.  This beer is very mild and somewhat sweet, with short-lived lingering malt notes at the finish.  I didn’t pair this one with food, and I’m glad I didn’t.  The subtleties of this brew were worth paying attention to and could have been very easy to overpower.  Here’s hoping Great Lakes decides to make this beer again.  We do, after all, need to celebrate the West Side Market’s 101st anniversary, yes?



Kevin has been drinking and brewing beer for more than 20 years, and enjoys re-capping the interesting craft and microbrews that find their way into his glass. Feel free to contact him at [email protected] to talk favorites, but hold back on the technical questions – he sees himself as more of a beer nerd than a beer expert.