I’ve never heard of the legendary “South Bay Bessie” that is rumored to inhabit Lake Erie’s shallow waters, but then again as a Pittsburgher I’ve spent much of my life avoiding anything Cleveland related. One beer coming from the Mistake on the Lake may force me to change my mind about the hapless city.

I have been lucky to try the limited seasonal offering honoring “South Bay Bessie” from Great Lakes Brewery Company, Lake Erie Monster, twice so far here in Pittsburgh. This is the first year since its inception in 2005 that it has been distributed much outside of Cleveland, and even now it is difficult to find.

Lake Erie Monster is an unfiltered imperial India pale ale that when poured is surprisingly clear, golden, with a white persistent head that laced pleasantly around the glass while drinking. The aroma of this brew is very fresh, hoppy throughout, with lemon. While you are hit with a lot of hoppyness with your first taste, plus refreshing lemongrass and pine, the noticeable alcohol flavor on the backend is masked perfectly with sweet malt that does not leave an unpleasant too-sweet aftertaste. The honey-like malt flavor balances with the major hops and unmistakable alcohol without making itself overwhelming, something that I find all too rare.

While this beer is hoppy enough to satisfy IPA lovers everywhere (and to scare off any hop-fearers), it is so drinkable that it easily lives up to its name as a monster. Clocking in 9.1% ABV, drinkability is a dangerous characteristic for this beer to have! I highly recommend (carefully) giving this delectable brew a try before they are all gone. Lake Erie Monster is only available from May to July, so your time is running out! I found Lake Erie Monster on draft at Harris Grill (the location of Bacon Bash) on Ellsworth Ave in Shadyside and more recently at the Sharp Edge in Friendship.

By Beth Kerr

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