A Guide to Lakefront Beers
Lakefront Brewery makes 10 different year-round beers. How do they differ and which one is for you?
Established in 1987 by brothers, Russ and Jim Klisch, Lakefront Brewing Company has become one of the premier breweries in Milwaukee. You’ll find Lakefront on tap or in bottles at countless Milwaukee bars. The only problem is that the brewery offers a large variety of beers, leaving some consumers confused, or perhaps not quite sure which beer to choose. So here is a guide to many of the wonderful Lakefront beers and what makes each of them unique. We’ve left out their seasonal and specialty beers and concentrated on their year-round, always-available beers, ten beers that deserve in-depth discussion.
Style: Gluten Free Pilsner
ABV (alcohol by volume): 5.1%
Awards: Silver Medal for Category 16: Gluten-Free Beer – Los Angeles International Beer Competition 2014; Silver Medal for Gluten Free Beer – Great America Beer Festival 2011 & 2008 & 2007; Gold Medal – Los Angeles County Fair 2008; Bronze Medal – World Beer Championship; Gold Medal for Experimental Beer – Great America Beer Festival;
Recommendation: Recommended for enjoyers of the Light or Pilsner style, especially those with gluten related allergies or diets.
Thoughts: Swapping out the traditional Pilsen malt for rice and sorghum to eliminate gluten, and the Saaz hops for Willamette and Zeus for unknown reasons, this beer is not a true pilsner by any means, but a worthy alternative. With a light gold color, snowy white head, and mildly hoppy aroma commonly associated with the pilsner, few will realize this is not a true pilsner until tasting. The flavor itself is mild, sweet and delightfully smooth, but lacks the hop-derived bitterness commonly associated with a pilsner. Yet New Grist emulates a bohemian pilsner in just about every other way, making for an excellent beer for those who cannot enjoy a true pilsner due to their health or diet.
Style: India Style Session Ale
Awards: Gold Medal for Best American Style Pale Ale – Los Angeles International Beer Competition
Recommendation: For the adventurous type who enjoy a bitter beer. For those who have not tried the IPA style, this is a good local entry point. Seasoned IPA drinkers may feel it is too weak in terms of bitterness and aroma.
Thoughts: Not as strong in the way of bitterness and hopiness as Lakefront’s dedicated India Pale Ale, but full of citrus and aroma flavor from cascade and citra hops added at the end of the brewing process, Extended Play is a slightly milder IPA. With a crisp bite, deep amber color, fruity flavor with a hint of caramel, and long lasting head, Extended Play is a fine introduction to the immensely popular IPA style.
East Side Dark
Style: Munich Dunkel Lager
Awards – Silver for Bohemian-Style Schwarzbier – European Beer Star 2013; The Best Beer Overall – Chicago Beer Society Tasting 2010; Gold Medal – San Diego County Fair 2007; Regional Champion – US Beer Tasting Championship 2004; Silver Medal – World Beer Championship 2003; First Place – Chicago Beer Society Tasting 1992.
Recommendation: Strongly recommended for anyone who enjoys a darker beer. While not a beer that can be consumed one after another like a pilsner, East Side Dark is as smooth and refreshing as it is tasty and well-crafted. For those who have not yet tried a dark lager, this is a good local entry point to the style.
Thoughts: Smooth and creamy with a complex flavor of roasted malt and toasted biscuit enhanced by a hint of dark chocolate, East Side Dark is not the most potent dark lager available on the Wisconsin market but highly drinkable. And with a deep brown, almost-black color, longstanding and creamy off-white head, and clean coffee-like aroma, this beer is appealing to the eye and nose. Upon first sip, consumers will notice this beer features a mild bitterness as opposed to the strong bitterness of some of its competitors. East Side Dark also lacks the offensive wet dog smell that some dark lagers have, especially those that have warmed or sat on the shelf too long. All told, East Side Dark is one of Lakefront’s finest brands and a strong offering to the world of Bavarian-style dark lagers.
Style: Czech Pilsner
Awards: Silver Medal: European Beer Star Award 2009
Recommendation: Highly recommended to those who enjoy an old world style Pilsner.
Thoughts: This is a true pilsner in every definition of the world. Sporting a deep golden hue, a long lasting white head, and a mild aroma, Klisch hits all the marks at first glance. Upon taking a sip, Klisch features a bold, malty flavor that isn’t overly sweet or bitter, and finishes with a smooth, dry finish that is true to the original Czech Pilsner style.
Style: Amber Lager
Awards: Bronze Medal for 5C – American Style Amber Lager – Australian International Beer Awards 2014; Silver Medal for American-Style Amber Lager – Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition 2013; Bronze Medal for American-Style Amber Lager – World Beer Cup 2010; Grand Champion – US Beer Tasting Championship 2007; Gold Medal – San Diego County Fair 2007; Silver Medal – World Beer Championship; Bronze for Amber/Vienna – Great America Beer Festival 1991; Award of Merit – Chicago Beer Society Tasting 1991.
Recommendation: Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys beer.
Thoughts: A well-balanced amber beer featuring a mild aroma and off-white head, Riverwest Stein is one of Lakefront’s most popular brands and for good reason. The beer is one of the most drinkable beers in the lineup. Made with roasted barley and caramel malt, the beer has a light and refreshing malt profile that is perfectly balanced with three kinds of American hops that provide just enough bitterness to offset the sweetness of the malt without ruining the balance of flavors.
Style: Imperial Amber Ale
Awards: Silver Medal – Beerfest Asia 2012; Bronze Medal for Imperial Red Ale – San Diego Beer Festival 2014.
Recommendation: For those who enjoy IPA or Russian Imperial Stouts. Not recommended for those new to beer.
Thoughts: A hybrid beer, Bridge Burner is a complex beer marrying the high gravity and hop ratio of a Russian Imperial Stout with an American red ale. As a result, Bridge Burner features the strong, frothy tan head of a stout, the deep copper color of an amber, and the hoppy aroma of an IPA, giving the consumer the best qualities of three styles in one package. And so, like many of the beers under the Lakefront banner, Bridge Burner is a smooth and easily drinkable beer. Its flavor is complex to say the least. Heavy on the hops with a creamy caramel character, this beer finishes with a dry, smoky bite reminiscent of a Scottish red ale. While a little too strong to take down in large gulps, Bridge Burner is a fine sipping beer that quickly draws a drinker back in for more.
Style: India Pale Ale
Recommendation: One of the bitterest beer in the lineup, IPA is not recommended for anyone who does not enjoy a hoppy or bitter beer, but highly recommended for serious IPA drinkers and the adventurous drinker.
Thoughts: With a long lasting off-white head, a deep gold color, and an inviting flowery-citrus aroma, Lakefront’s IPA draws you in quick. IPA is a style whose bittering hops giving it a distinct flavor and aroma that many may find offensive, and Lakefront’s take on the style is no exception. While crisp and quite flavorful, hops greatly overpower the malt and will hang on your breath for a good while. While some enjoy this, the beer tends to render weaker beers, especially pilsners, flavorless, so it’s best to drink IPA exclusively or save it for last.
Style: Organic Coffee Stout
Recommendation: Highly recommended to those who enjoy the stout style and strong coffee, especially those who were turned off to the style by flat tasting commercial stouts.
Thoughts: Named for the Milwaukee coffee house from which it derives it coffee ingredients, this stout features a deep black color and long-lasting, tan head, hitting all of the visual marks of a stout. A quick sniff reveals a subtle coffee aroma coupled with the bitter-sweetness of Perle hops. Upon tasting, the coffee flavor instantly stands out but does not override the combination of caramel and dark chocolate. Incredibly smooth with a crisp bite and a complex flavor, this stout is an easy drinker but a bit high in the alcohol as expected of a stout.
Style: Organic Extra Special Bitter-British Style
Awards: Bronze Medal for Classic English-Style Pale Ale – San Diego International Beer Competition 2013.
Recommendation: Best suited for those who enjoy IPA, Belgian white, or a strong English ale.
Thoughts: With a strong white head, mild aroma, and reddish-brown hue, this beer is well crafted to the eye. But despite its name, ESB isn’t as bitter as one would think, and is actually less so than the standard IPA. ESB is actually more notable for its smooth, malty character. In fact, the complex blend of hop bitterness coupled with a rich nutty flavor with a hint of caramel is dominant characteristic in this beer.
Style: American Red Ale
Awards: Regional Champion for Amber/Red Ale – Winter US Beer Tasting Championship 2013; Silver Medal for American-Style Amber/Red Ale – Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition 2013; Bronze Medal – Australian International Beer Awards 2012; Silver Medal for American-Style Amber/Red Ale – Great America Beer Festival 2012.
Recommendation: For those who enjoy a bitter beer, particularly IPA lovers.
Thoughts: With a translucent deep red color, off white head, and powerfully aromatic aroma, Fixed Gear easily draws in a potential drinker. Strangely, this red ale tastes more in line with an IPA than a Red Ale. Though it has a clean, crisp flavor with a hint of caramel, the bittering hops are overly dominant. Nonetheless, Fixed Gear is a fine beer but geared more for a specific type of beer enthusiast.