I will openly admit that I am partial to Great Lakes Brewing. This, for example, is named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Growing up near Lake Erie, the stories of Commodore Perry and his cry of "Don't give up the ship!"* were mandatory at school. He's given credit for 'saving' Lake Erie from the British and apparently a number of towns and places are named after him. When you're forced to learn about it, of course, anything that you're supposed to have respect for seems like a joke. I recall a number of lessons about Commodore Perry taught by our [fittingly] dear, drunken, social studies teacher. I wonder if the repetitive lessons were a result of heavy drinking, or if the drinking was a result of the repetitive lessons... Either way, I know the story, and it fills my heart with pride to know that Commodore Perry and the act of getting shitfaced (preferably in a public school) are linked in the mind of beer drinkers everywhere. So I may not be the world's most objective reviewer/drinker of Great Lakes' beers, but I do make an effort to be so. Because as much as I appreciate any nostalgia or loyalty to a local brewery, I don't think those warm, fuzzy feelings should be confused with what is and isn't Good Beer. That being said, every time I have pint of Great Lakes' beer, my expectations are exceeded. Their IPA, Commodore Perry, is no exception.
Ingredients: 2-row, caramel 30. Simcoe, fuggle, and cascade.
Initial impression: One of my favorite IPA's. A great example of balance despite the respectable gravity.
What I really like about this beer is that it's drinkable for being 7.5% alcohol. This is higher than many IPA's, but it's not obnoxious in this case. Commodore Perry doesn't get cloying and sweet, but you do know it's there. Hops are obviously very present without a lingering bitterness which some people find unappealing in an IPA (you can count me in that crowd). There is a very nice, soft, maltiness initially, though the palate is mostly and quickly filled with varying degrees of hopiness: fruity, bright, bitter, and then citrusy. I was surprised to see they use fuggle hops, which is unexpected in an American IPA, but it does make sense in retrospect. The earthy-bitter balance of fuggle hops is subtle but I think it really adds something to this beer.
In my opinion, 1.070 is just about the right original gravity range for an IPA. I don't know if theirs has always been that high, or this beer has been reworked and updated. Generally, this is considered slightly high for a standard IPA, and slightly low for a double or imperial IPA, but the balance and body that a specific gravity of that... um... gravity provides results in a beer that is hoppy and bitter as you would expect, without being harsh and/or one dimensional.
*I really can't beleive this isn't the name of 80's song. Am I forgetting one? Anyone?