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Good Beer Hunting

Mar 29, 2023

Spring is a time of emerging, reawakening, and growing beer sales after the category’s typical winter lull—at least for most breweries. But Ohio’s largest brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company, goes against that seasonal wisdom: Its slow season happens in the warmer months, while winter is its annual highpoint. What gives?

That’s just one of the questions writer and photographer David Nilsen attempts to answer in his latest piece titled “Lore of the Lakes — Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio,” which was published on February 1, 2023 as part of Good Beer Hunting’s Signifier series. Inspired by his own coming-of-age story as a beer drinker from Ohio, he dives into the brand’s history, legacy, and future, all of which seem tied together by two big questions: Just who is Great Lakes, and who is it becoming?

Today, David and I discuss how his story evolved from love letter to detailed look at the brewery’s operations and iconic beers themselves, like the beloved Christmas Ale that’s released each October. He doesn’t shy away from Great Lakes’ struggle to define itself in the face of a changing industry, and where it had to look to find inspiration. That inspiration is leading the brewery in interesting, and sometimes unexpected, directions, none of which are off-limits to the historic brand as it attempts to balance legacy and innovation. While the story of a beloved craft brewery and its cherished releases can often seem romantic, David reveals how the struggles behind the scenes aren’t always quite so charming. But there’s still plenty of beauty in each word and picture, so come on a journey to the shores of Lake Erie and hear all about it.