ALTHOUGH BURNING RIVER may get more attention amongst Great Lakes’ pale ales, their Commodore Perry IPA is a considerable force in its own right. Based on English tradition with some US hop substitutions, it may even be underrated at the moment, despite coming from one of the Midwest’s most well-established breweries. Such is the fast-paced, bold-is-better scene for IPAs in America.
Like the admirable Dortmunder Gold, Commodore has a simple two-part grain bill of Harrington 2-row pale and one caramel variety. (That same 2-row is the base malt for all Great Lakes’ year-round brews, though the remaining three are more complex.) Commodore actually uses a lighter Caramel variant for its color and body than Dortmunder, but likely in a greater quantity to darken its hues to copper and build up the body to medium (originally 18 Plato). Another addition to give its midsection more depth would not have gone awry. The aroma is complex though not confrontational, with some peach, citrus, and florals (from Cascade and Willamette) smoothing over the wet piney funk of Simcoe. On the palate its 7.5% is ABV only apparent on the finish when breathing back in; otherwise Commodore has a fairly narrow malt body, a little creaminess, and a dry finish with assertive but not untoward bitterness from its 70 IBUs. Carbonation levels are sensible, almost easy to overlook in retrospect. Overall it may not be as heroic as its namesake, but Commodore Perry readily fits alongside many other Great Lakes beers as a strong Stateside variation on European precedent. From many solid stones can a great and sturdy house be built.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by 12-10-13