No, this is not some special extended edition, 13 Beers of Halloween post. It is, however, the inspiration behind the 13 beers, so it does hold a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut because I only wanted to review beers that I imbibed then and there, and I had already written this review before the beginning of October. Luckily, beer is beer, and cares not for such trivial specifics and labels. Which is nice, because I wouldn’t want to piss this beer off. It’s Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Nosferatu, an Imperial red ale on a month-long crusade to eradicate all false and sparkly notions of vampires and their ilk. Even better, it does it through sheer flavor power. But, what can you expect from a beer that chooses to slap Nosferatu’s face on the label? This beer hears your hesitations. It just doesn’t care. It simply wants you to drink it, and embrace the darkness.
Popping the cap reveals a cloud of chocolate and strawberries burst forth, riding a backbone of slightly roasted malts. It smells remarkably like a chocolate-covered strawberry, with some farmhouse style tang at the back end of each breath. However, don’t get too wrapped up within these delectable qualities. The first sign of something dark begins when notes of heavy earthy begin to creep in from the sides. But the full conversion begins when that first hoppy bite reaches your nose. I’ll admit, going into this beer, I didn’t realize it would pack such a hoppy wallop. I paid for my ignorance. Well, paid as in enjoyed it, but still, don’t make the same mistakes as me. Especially because the hop strength is not at full capacity in the aroma. Oh no, you’ll need to taste it for that.
From the moment the first drop hits your tongue, you’ll realize there’s no turning back. Gone are the notes of chocolates and strawberries, cast aside like the luring mask they were. Instead, a massive explosion of hops crashes into your tongue as a wave of bitter citrus and grapefruit peel. Pine layers in next, with its resin-like potency, creating a big burst of freshness that soars up through the bottle, and bites you in the neck. Despite the hop strength, it rolls smooth and almost creamy over the tongue, before dissolving into a bubbling tingle at the back of the mouth. Under the hops, rich, earthy bread malts slide in slowly, carrying some subtle fruit tangs reminiscent of the initial aroma, but these notes bow down before the strength of the hop. As they should.
Poured out into a pint glass, the aromas become quite subdued, with an overlying floral presentation that ends in a citrusy hop bite. Sweet fruits hand out at the side, adding a faint essence to the aroma. Letting it sit for a few moments allows the hops to build, until aromatic pine rises up to the top of the bouquet. It’s like an IPA with some mysterious earthy qualities, adding quite a bit of complexity to the mix. Visually, the color is a rich, burnt red, bordering on amber, but with enough ruby hue to retain its sanguine appeal. The head is a medium cream colored layer of slow fizzing bubbles.
The post-pour taste is just as hoppy as it was in the bottle, but with a stronger presence of cherries that lay just under the surface. Malts make up a nice portion of the background flavors, adding some gently roasted hints of earth and bread that accent the citrus and pine of the hops. It feels even creamier than it did in the bottle, remaining silky smooth for a few extra moments before bubbling away under a crisp, hop edge. At the end of each taste, there’s a refreshing wave of fruity sweetness that soothes the hoppy bite. The aftertaste is super clingy, making the malt infused hoppiness last forever, despite the fact that it sits around 8% ABV. Don’t worry though, just like any other night stalking blood drinker, you won’t notice the potency of this beer until it’s too late.
Overall, this was a deceptively complex beer that brought a bunch of flavors the to table. A great hoppy base supports side notes of malts, fruits, and the occasional flower or two. Even better, every flavor and aroma works great with each other. You should definitely take your time with this, both to savor the many layers, and so the potency doesn’t sneak up on you too fast. The flavors last forever as a strong, piney potency that clings to the tongue and cheeks. As usual, it’s a little pricey, but are willing to say that to Nosferatu’s face?
Some great reasons to drink this include feeling a slight chill to an early fall evening, or if you find yourself in front of a spicy chicken dish. It’s only available during September, so your window of drinkage is a bit short (and already behind us for this year), but next fall, should you happen to hear soft footsteps following you one night, don’t try to run away. He’ll be waiting for you at home. Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Nosferatu earns itself an A-.
lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9.2/10 A-