Sometimes you have to revisit things; you don’t always “get it” on the first time around, you know? And sometimes, things change, and deserve another go. I’m not sure which of those factors might play into today’s review (or if it’s both), but whatever, it was time for me to give Great Lakes Brewery Green Tea Ale another whirl. It seems to me, this beer came out around the time I was finishing my stint at Starbucks, and everybody was going a little green tea-crazy. Starbucks had a matcha frozen thing (I don’t know how to spell those things and can’t be bothered to Google it; it’s a frozen thing), every health food shop had matcha powder and darned if it wasn’t going to fix just about anything you might have wrong with you. When I first saw this brew, I assumed Great Lakes was just another rube on the bandwagon, and perhaps that prejudice affected my tastes, but I wasn’t impressed. My main memory was that it just sorted of tasted like fizzy iced green tea. Mind you, I also wasn’t nearly as experienced in thoughtful beer tasting. Either way, I never really spent much time with this beer since. I probably had it a few times, but definitely it was a “later in the night” choice, and so my critical abilities would be lessened, to say the least. So when Mike Lackey asked me if I had tried this year’s batch, saying it was pretty good, I kind of mumbled some words that may or may not have had any coherent connection. But Mike is a solid brewer, and not a fellow to pull any punches about his beers. He has given me no less than three beers he described as horribly undrinkable. And he was right every time. He is also the man behind Lake Effect IPA, and so treads brewing pathways many have spent a life time searching for. So who was I to decline? Sneak preview: Mike is still batting 1.000 for honest assessment of his products. Green Tea Ale also leads off a couple of reviews I’m doing of beers with “stuff” in them. Today, it’s green tea, next time, raspberries. We’ll continue from there.
From a lovely silk-screened 650ml bomber, Green Tea Ale pours an opaque yellow with an amber centre. The colour is a bit grey, as if I dropped the saturation in the picture a heap, but I didn’t. Still, very reminiscent of matcha (green tea powder). About 1/2″ of foamy head dropped to a film with a thick ring fairly quickly. Aroma is bready malts, sweet with grassy notes that definitely are the tea as opposed to hops. Sweet and delicate, they balance well with a slight yeast tang. There is a touch of citrus peel, possibly lime, as well as a hint of leafy hops. Taste is interesting, and not at all like I remember. Immediately hoppy, but with a good balance of green tea. Grassy and less delicate, there is a musty quality to it. Hops aren’t super bitter, but much more balance with the dry bitter quality of the tea; it’s a bit hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Malts are still there and are still sweetly bready, but are nearly biscuity now, reminding me a bit of a McVitty’s Rich Tea biscuit. That little pop of citrus shows up briefly on the mid palate and adds another layer of depth to the beer. The finish is dry and herbal, with both the tea and the hops lingering. The green tea flavor is so clear, yet so well balanced with the rest of the beer; this is not a malt-based alco-pop. The mouthfeel seems prickly fizzy as it hits your tongue, but feels creamy and smooth on the finish. A very cool beer, and one I’m glad I gave another go.
Cheers to the crew at Great Lakes!
About The Brewery
Our small-batch brewing process allows us to carefully blend only the finest all natural ingredients to produce our award-winning beers. Our water, hops, malts and yeast are selected from local producers and those afar on the basis of but one criteria; quality.