Feed the Beast: How We Hop Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA

The legendary Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA, our current release in the Imperial IPA Series, launches an intense hop attack amid torrid tropical fruit flavors. Just how do we cram this scary amount of hop flavor into a 16 ounce can? While the “extra” four ounces help, it’s really our ingredient selection and brewing process that make Bessie the beast that she is. Face your fears – let’s learn about how we craft this hop behemoth.

Bessie’s been around. A longtime pub exclusive beer, this Imperial IPA quickly earned a cult following for its unprecedented hoppiness, leading us to package it for the first time in 2008. While 14 years might not seem like a long time, a lot changed in the world of hops in that period. Up until 2010, most hops grown in the United States were bred for high levels of alpha acid content. This satisfied the desire of large industrial brewers to hop their beer as efficiently as possible – more alpha acid, more bitterness to extract, more bang for your bitter buck. Craft brewers adopted high alpha hops such as Magnum, Nugget, and Columbus to amp up the bitterness of their hoppiest concoctions. At 80 IBU, Lake Erie Monster’s firm, clean bitterness is a result of being formulated when these high alpha hops dominated the industry. While some of the essential oil-rich aroma hops available at the time produced flavors such as grapefruit and pine, many others exhibited a closer link to their British parentage, such the grassy, herbal Willamette used in Lake Erie Monster.

Around 2000, craft beer had become a large enough industry that hop breeders began to develop varietals tailored to craft brewers’ specific requests and consumer tastes. Roughly a decade later (did you know it takes about ten years to bring a new hop to market?) a slew of exciting new hops such as Mosaic, Citra, and Galaxy were at brewers’ fingertips. While some of these new hops retained robust alpha acid content, they were also off the charts with fascinating new essential oils, producing flavors and aromas of tropical fruit, stone fruit, and berries. The “dual purpose” hop Simcoe, one of the first of these 2000’s era developments in hop breeding, is the vehicle for Lake Erie Monster’s flavors of peach and apricot – not to mention the bite! 

We feed Bessie this combo of Simcoe and Willamette hops throughout the brewing process to fuel her deliciously vicious attack. Just as Lake Erie Monster’s hop selection is a little bit old school, so too is its hopping method in the brew kettle. Today’s aroma obsessed brewers tend to load up their wort with hops right at the end the boil, to keep as many of those precious essential oils from volatilizing (and we do that too, for aroma-bombs like TropiCoastal Tropical IPA and Hazecraft IPA). Back in the day, though, brewers followed a regular schedule of hop additions every 15 minutes throughout a 60 minute boil, and it’s in this tradition that our brewers craft Lake Erie Monster. This produces a beer more balanced between hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. A little bit of everything – or, in the case of Lake Erie Monster, a lot of everything! And as if this all weren’t enough, we hit this beastly brew with a one-two punch of whirlpool and hopback additions to create a truly fearsome amount of flavor.

Lake Erie Monster’s classic hoppiness has satisfied IPA lovers for over a decade. Don’t be afraid – let Bessie quench your hop-seeking palate, too! Use our Beer Finder to track down everyone’s favorite cryptid near you.

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