Beer Review: NOSFERATU from Great Lakes Brewing Company

Name: Nosferatu
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Red Ale – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8% | IBU: 70%

“A great balance of hops and malt help to define an American Craft classic and a seasonal Hallowe’en Classic.”

 

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Nosferatu page:

Don’t be afraid of things that go hop in the night! Rich roasted malt flavors haunt the shadows of our Imperial Red Ale’s bitter teeth.

FLAVOR
Ruby red in color with a toasty malt body lurking beneath a stunning hop bite.

Great Lakes Brewing is one of the most respected independent American brewing companies of the last few decades. One of their seasonal favorites (along with their outstanding Oktoberfest and Christmas Ale) is Nosferatu, a hoppy, malty Imperial Red Ale, the beer spotlighted today.

I’ve had quite a few beers from Great Lakes, I’ve enjoyed most of them to a fairly significant degree but Red Ales haven’t been much of a go to for me. A few things led me to finally grabbing a four pack of this beer:

  • Hallowe’en is approaching, one of my favorite holidays/times of the year
  • I’m long-time fan of horror fiction, and the Vampire/Nosferatu is one of the most iconic horror images
  • Seeing this beer favorably compared to an all-time favorite in Tröeg’s Nugget Nectar

In other words, this beer brings together my love of great beer and dark tales.

The pop of the bottle cap is a nice sound I don’t hear too often any more, most of the beers I’ve been drinking have been out of cans. As for the beer that pours into my glass – yep, that’s a red ale. A deep red that is somewhere between amber and crimson, in my eyes. There’s a nice foamy head initially, too. Aroma is a little bit of hoppiness, but to be honest, nothing else too noteworthy. It smells like a beer.

There’s a very prominent hop presence in that first sip. Given the relatively high IBU level of 70, that’s not a surprise. It is not off-putting the way some overly hopped beers are because Great Lakes brewed this beer with a significant level of malts, three kinds, that provide a caramel sweetness to balance the hops. Going by the fact sheet on Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site, the hops used here are Simcoe and Cascade, both extremely popular hops and hops that helped to drive the hop-forward beer movement of the 90s and early 2000s. Simcoe has emerged, for me, as a favorite in recent years so it was especially nice to see its pronounced flavor complemented by the great Cascade hop in Nosferatu. I had a second bottle about a week after the first bottle and the Simcoe hops help to make this beer work so well for me.

Insert standard suggestion for higher ABV beer to let the beer open up to room temperature a little for greater enjoyment.

The name of the beer and label are immediately recognizable, the silent film Nosferatu is a film that has left an indelible mark on horror genre and the vampire mythos. The beer is a worthy homage to that image and character – Nosferatu the beer is a wonderful, complementary marriage of hops and malt that gives a flavor worth savoring.

Nestled in with some classic Vampire novels, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin, They  Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Dracula (Annotated) by Brahm Stoker, I Am Legend by iIchard Matheson, The Southern Vampire’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Review links to a few at the end of the post

A beer like Nosferatu is a bold reminder that some beers with a little bit of history behind them are worth enjoying now and in the future. It is also a beer that helps to showcase the great diversity in the portfolio of Great Lakes Brewing Company. Given the name of the beer, the eye-catching imagery of the label, and most importantly, the bold, delicious flavor, I can understand why Nosferatu has been an annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing Company. I know it will be in my refrigerator for Halloweens to come.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

*Those aforementioned book reviews:

Draught Diversions: Book Review – DRINK BETTER BEER by Joshua M. Bernstein

Name: Drink Better Beer: Discover the Secrets of the Brewing Experts
Author: Joshua M. Bernstein
Publication Date: September 2019
Publisher: Sterling Books

Don’t we all want to drink better beer? Beer these days, isn’t cheap (at least the good stuff). There are many choices and if you’re taking a potentially $20 risk on a beer you’ve never had, and if you only have a beer a day or don’t drink more than a few a weekend, you want to make sure you’re time and the space in your beer drinking calendar aren’t wasted. Joshua Bernstein’s Drink Better Beer is a great book to help make sure the beer you drink isn’t wasting your time or money.

Cover courtesy of the publisher, Sterling Publishing

From the publisher’s landing page for the book:

With thousands of breweries creating a bewildering array of beers each year, learning from the experts is practically a necessity for the modern beer lover. Luckily, beer guru Joshua M. Bernstein is here to tap their wisdom for you, with sage advice about which brews to buy, how to taste your beers, and what to eat with them.

Drink Better Beer features the must-know insights of more than 100 professionals, including competition judges, beer consultants, and master brewers. Find out how to shop clever by heeding two simple rules. Learn the art of selecting the right glass, cleaning it, and executing the perfect pour. Make sense of all those aromas with just a couple of sniffing tricks. Unlock the taste secrets of different styles, learn when to drink, and how to know if your favorite beer store is treating their beer the way they should. Beer is getting complicated—Drink Better Beer will give you the confidence to buy smart and enjoy your pour even more.

In Drink Better Beer, Bernstein delivers his message in a wonderful, welcoming, conversational tone. He clearly has a passion and expertise for that wonderful liquid made from water, grain, yeast, and hops. It isn’t difficult to gain an expertise in something you thoroughly study and constant entrenchment in the subject will eventually gain a person a decent level of knowledge. The ability to convey and deliver that knowledge? That’s a combination of Skill and Talent not everybody has, but Joshua Bernstein is just such a person. He is able to extol the virtues of the granular elements that eventually lead to a person consuming better beer and Bernstein does so through the voice a celebratory, friendly enthusiast. There’s no holier-than-thou overtones nor is there the dusty voice professorial voice. The tone in Drink Better Beer is much more like “Beer is great, this is why Beer is great, have fun with it! Let’s have a beer together!”

The organization, formatting, feel, and structure of the book from a physical perspective is glorious. It isn’t quite a coffee table, it is almost like a textbook: enough to convey a sense of authority, but not too much to be off-putting. The book also has lovely pictures and has a fairly substantial size and heft to it. Bernstein covers elements about beer that many people take for granted – the water, the vessel in which the beer is consumed, the dating on the beer, etc. Other writers have done so, writers I’ve mentioned here at the Tap Takeover. Joshua Bernstein’s particular brand of enthusiasm; however, helps to bring these elements together in a freshly engaging manner. Think of a Pilsner – a delicious beer style that can be interpreted differently and can be of equal quality by numerous brewers.

(At this point, I’m switching from “Bernstein” to “Josh” for the author because of the convivial and gregarious tone of his words.)

Josh has broken down how to drink better beer into the following categories/chapters:

  • “What’s in Store: Buying Beer”
  • “The Pour Move: Glassware and the New Rules of Serving Beer”
  • “Scents and Sensibility: Cracking the Code on Flavors and Aromas”
  • “Eat These Words: The New World of Food and Beer Pairings”
  • “Toasting the Future: A Road Map of Delicious New Directions”

Peppered throughout the book are interesting and engaging sidebars featuring the things like the top five beers Josh consumed while writing the book (in fact, I picked up a six pack of one of those beers – a favorite – while I was reading the book), or a page on highlighting what some of the less-known data points on a label mean, or “Six IPAs to Buy to Understand the Style’s Evolution,” and recurring features on “Drinking Destinations.” Noted beer people like Lindsay Barr from New Belgium and founder of DraughtLab; Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible, and Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the Diversity Ambassador of the Brewers Association are featured, among others.

Image courtesy of the publisher, Sterling Publishing (Click the image to embiggen)

This whole book, especially, the first one third or so of the tome, made me want to hang out with Josh and other like-minded people at a bar or brewery to muse over the quality of the beer in our glasses. In all the books I’ve read, fiction (mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy) and non-fiction, I have found the best books to essentially represent a conversation between reader and writer, forging a connection between the two. Joshua Bernstein’s Drink Better Beer captures that conversational ideal about as good as any book I’ve read. As a result, I yearned for that “meatspace”/in-person social interaction that beer facilitates so wonderfully thanks to Josh’s delightfully spun words. Unfortunately, that has become somewhat difficult in the current COVID pandemic.

Over the past few years my library of beer books has been growing. Drink Better Beer is a highlight and a book I expect I’ll be revisiting casually for some time to come. In other words, I’d call this an essential book for anybody building out a shelf of books dedicated to beer.

Cover courtesy of the publisher, Sterling Publishing

Draught Diversions: Book Review BEER IS FOR EVERYONE! by Em Sauter

Name: Beer is for Everyone! (of Drinking Age)
Author: Em Sauter
Publication Date: 2017
Publisher: One Peace Books

Once Peace Books landing page for the book:

It’s a great time for America’s beer drinkers. Craft beer is more popular than ever, and more breweries are cropping up every day. But you can’t tell a pilsner from a bock? An IPA from a witte? Confused by whiskey-like barrel aged beers and crisp, fruity saisons? Are you thirsty, but not sure where to start? Start Here. This book will take you through the main elements that make beer what it is, from malt to hops to water, and introduce you to fantastic brews around the country that highlight the diverse styles and ingredients of the beer world. From where to find it to what glass to put it in, you’ll learn everything you need to know (and then some!). Time to get drinking, and remember—Beer is for Everyone!

Beer is a complex beverage, it can be brewed to many styles, it can have many flavors, its ingredients can be combined to evoke many flavors. It is a true blend of science and art. But you know what else beer is? Beer is fun, be can be for everyone and that’s the ethos cartoonist, and Advanced Cicerone® Em Sauter espouses in her book, Beer is for Everyone (of drinking age). For a beverage that brings people together and can be a conversation piece, there’s sometimes a little too much analyzing of the beer (says the guy with a beer blog). Em takes a fun, straightforward approach and while she does highlight the beer geeky side of the beer in her cartoons, it is from a joyous perspective. Not an easy line to tow, but Em does so with elegance.

As one does when one first acquires a book, I thumbed through the pages to find some beers I enjoy or have had. I wanted to know if Em enjoyed some of the same beers I enjoyed. I soon stopped the quick scan and restarted the book to take my time and really absorb each comic/page.

Image courtesy of Em Sauter/Pints and Panels

The cartoons for each beer are pure enthusiasm, the joy of Victory Prima Pils, the comforting elements of a beer like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the discovery of a beer with unique elements like Short’s Melt My Brain. If Beer is for Everyone! was just a collection of Em’s review strips, it would be a worthy addition to a beer geek’s bookshelf. But where it transcends what could have been a pretty simple book are the illustrations/strips highlighting the styles, brew processes, and ingredients that separate one beer from another. For example, how the various kinds of malts influence the color of the beer, the flavor evocations from hops, and so forth. Depending on the beer featured, Em provides fun anecdotal bits of information about the style or from where the brewery drew inspiration for the name.

Image courtesy of Em Sauter/Pints and Panels

The book is organized smartly, too. Beers where malt is the driving factor behind flavor are grouped together, as are those where the yeast has the most influence, as well as a chapter/grouping for “Whale Beers” – those beers that have attained an almost mythical status due to the difficulty in procuring them like 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord.

Em is an extremely qualified, creative person, and supremely enthusiastic. She is an advanced Cicerone and spent time working at Two Roads Brewing Company (one of my favorites) when the book was published. Those qualities come together elegantly in this book and the work she does on a regular basis on her website and social media. What makes the book so effective, entertaining, and joyful is the enthusiastic way she presents her knowledge.

Beer is for Everyone (of drinking age) is an essential beer book for any fan of beer or comics/cartoons. It is a joyous reminder that beer is fun, can and should bring people together, and a beverage with a great, storied history.

Em is absolutely a must-follow on twitter, Instagram, or her website Pints and Panels, where she posts new artwork regularly and always offers a fantastic perspective on beer.

Draught Diversions Book Review: Drink Beer, Think Beer by John Holl

Title: Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint
Author: John Holl
Publication Date: September 2018
Publisher: Basic Books

Beer is in a golden age, and that doesn’t just refer to the color of the beer itself. It is a liquid that many can and do take for granted. But considering it is the #2 beverage in the world, coffee understandably being #1, beer is something worth pondering. Something worth considering, something that should be more than simply a drink. Beer can be a delicious experience where a full glass can be the intersection of art and science. Preeminent beer writer John Holl argues cogently, eloquently, and passionately that beer is something worthy of deep consideration in his book, Drink Beer, Think Beer.

Publisher’s Landing Page: Basic Books for the book:

From an award-winning journalist and beer expert, a thoughtful and witty guide to understanding and enjoying beer.

America now has more breweries than at any time since prohibition, and globally, beer culture is thriving and constantly innovating. Drinkers can order beer brewed with local yeast or infused with moondust. However, beer drinkers are also faced with uneven quality and misinformation about flavors. And the industry itself is suffering from growing pains, beset by problems such as unequal access to taps, skewed pricing, and sexism.

Full of entertaining anecdotes and surprising opinions, Drink Beer, Think Beer is a must-read for beer lovers, from casual enthusiasts to die-hard hop heads.

John Holl’s name may be familiar to regular readers of The Tap Takeover, I’ve mentioned his podcasts (Steal This Beer and Craft Beer and Brewing) and chances are if you are reading my blog, you’ve got *some* passing knowledge of beer journalism and social media. In short, John Holl is one of the authoritative voices in the Beer Community having authored a few other books about beer, in addition to this new one.

John gives a broad history of beer in America before focusing more squarely on the California boom of brewing. Here, John spotlights Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion (of which I was only barely aware) and Sierra Nevada, and specifically Sierra Nevada’s iconic Pale Ale. John also touches upon the current craze of brewery only beers releases of 16oz canned 4 packs.

The title of the book is really simple, but that belies the layers of complexity involved in the final product we hold in our hand. Perhaps the most enlightening elements of the book are the features on the four main ingredients: Water, Hops, Yeast, and Grain (usually barley). What is the water source of the beer? We all take water for granted, but without the water – and more importantly quality water – beer wouldn’t exist. Where were the hops grown? Hops, are of course, covered in detail, but aren’t elevated above the three other components which include the grain and the magical, living yeast. What kind of malt is used? How was the yeast propagated? Through these details about the ingredients, and the importance of their quality, John touches upon some breweries and their beers. These are things we can think about when we order, purchase, and drink our beer. Personally, my thoughts about malt and how I convey those thoughts in my reviews here are thrown into a new light. I’ll be thinking about it in more detail.

Beyond the ingredients, we can ponder the vessel/glass in which we drink the beer as well as the draft lines through which the beer travels before arriving in our glasses. Drink Beer, Think Beer exemplifies a good philosophy for life, don’t take everything for granted. Think about the things we consume, either with our guts or our brains. Whether it is a nuanced barleywine, a thick, barrel-aged stout, or a straight-forward pilsner in a clean, appropriately styled glass (as Holl eloquently points out). We should also put down our phones, be present and in the moment; enjoy the liquid we are drinking. I know I’m often guilty of rushing to check my beer into untappd. As John says in the book, from page 192:

”When we slow down—and I include myself in this category—and allow an experience to happen naturally, organically, without worrying about the next social media moment, amazing things can happen. A deeper appreciate can blossom, happy memories can be aroused, new thoughts can develop.”

Some space in the book is devoted to marketing and some points he raises regarding beer names, I agree with wholeheartedly. Beer names that denigrate women or a particularly offensively named brown ale are the kinds of beers that, he suggests, can be mere attention grabbers. I’ve avoided an unfortunate swath of beers based on their offensive names alone myself. Holl’s overreaching point here, as it is throughout the book, is that the quality of the beer should be paramount. A catchy name shouldn’t be the sole reason for buying and drinking a beer.

One of the most striking elements of the book is that authoritative voice John brings to the book. He manages to come across as welcoming the reader, where some “authoritative” voices can come across too full of themselves and unapproachable. His writing style is inviting, clear, precise, and smart. A great combination to talk about a beverage that can be quite complex.

The current beer landscape is very diverse, with local breweries being a viable option for many. Holl cogently argues that the same quality standards should be in place regardless of brewery size and that a subpar liquid should never be served to a customer. He also wisely argues that we, the beer drinker, need to hold brewers, breweries, bartenders – basically every person who is involved in the process of getting the beer to us as the drinker – accountable for their quality. After all, if we don’t tell breweries the truth about their product, they may continue to make a subpar product and that would be a loss for brewer and drinker alike.

I went into this book thinking I possessed a decent amount of knowledge about beer. To wit, by no means do I consider myself an expert, but I wouldn’t have started a blog devoted to beer last year if I couldn’t write with some level of knowledge on the subject and felt comfortable with my ability to convey that knowledge and passion. Some of what I read in Drink Beer, Think Beer was known to me, but there was ample information that was new, as well. Even the stuff that I already knew proved enjoyable and enlightening reading because of Holl’s enthusiastic and clear voice and the way he makes me look at many things about beer I took for granted. I also was drawn to the book because John Holl is a voice I’ve come to trust regarding beer and the beer community, I follow the guy on social media and listen to the two podcasts on which he is featured.  Despite that, Holl’s enthusiasm and intelligence for beer, and how he conveyed it in Drink Beer, Think Beer my expectations for the book were exceeded.

To restate my opening sentiments, but in John’s words (Page 217):

“…this is an amazing time to be a beer drinker, and with our support, smart criticism, and enthusiasm for a proud tradition, better days will prevail.”

Bottom line: as a “seasoned” beer drinker with more than passing knowledge of beer history/culture, I found much to enjoy. Drink Beer, Think Beer is also a great book for folks who are curious about beer and have only passing knowledge about the subject. Holl gets a great deal of information across with precision and in a relatively short amount of space. The book is just over 200 pages of the primary text, not including Epilogue, Acknowledgements, Bibliography/Recommended Reading, and Index. With Christmas just a month away, Holl’s indispensable tome would be a perfect gift to wrap and place in a stocking or under the tree.

Excerpt: https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/john-holl/drink-beer-think-beer/9780465095513/#module-whats-inside