Best Beer Friends Forever!

“Alright…on the count of three…1, 2, 3!”

That’s what Adam Essman, Wisconsin Market Manager at Great Lakes Brewing Co., said to his friend Cary Jaworski, Regional Sales Representative from Lakefront Brewery, before the two lifted a giant barrel filled with Cascade hops inside the Great Lakes brewhouse. Together, the two navigated the bulky container up a narrow flight of stairs and dumped its contents of whole-flower hops into the Hopback, a giant tank where late-addition hops are added to give a beer one more round of hop oil extraction before it hits the fermentation tanks. As Mark Hunger and Luther Paul, head brewers of Great Lakes and Lakefront, respectively, watched on, Adam and Cary lifted the empty barrel above their heads in triumph. High fives were given, laughs were had, and beer was made.

There aren’t many industries where you see two competing companies work together, let alone having this much fun while doing it. But if there’s one truth in the craft beer world, it’s that beer tastes better with friends. With similar history, philosophy, and love of brewing, Great Lakes and Lakefront are as close as peas and carrots (or hops and malt). I sat down with Adam and Cary to find out more about the similarities between the Great Lakes and Lakefront and the inspiration behind Beer Friends Hoppy Lager, their latest collaborative effort.

Tell me a little about Beer Friends Hoppy Lager.
Cary Jaworski: Lakefront and Great Lakes are both known for brewing lagers, but we knew we wanted to do something a little different for this collaboration.
Adam Essman: We’re calling Beer Friends a Hoppy Lager because that’s pretty much what it is. It’s a really crisp, easy drinking beer packed with five different hop varieties.

I think people tend to associate hops with ales more than lagers, so it begs the question…what can we expect with a Hoppy Lager? 
CJ: Beer Friends is being brewed for the Great Taste of the Midwest happening in early August, so we knew we wanted something refreshing to drink in the dog days of summer. Lagers tend to fit that bill, but we love the flavors we get from super hoppy ales.
AE: We used Mosaic, Simcoe, Cascade, Citra, and Azacca hops because the brewers love the citrus and tropical fruit profiles they each have. Paired with the Great Lakes house lager yeast, Beer Friends is going to be an extremely clean and fruity beer perfect for a hot day.

This isn’t the first time Lakefront and Great Lakes have collaborated.
AE: That’s right. We teamed up last year for All Together Now Hopfenweizen, another experimental brew made at Lakefront’s brewery.

Why collaborate?
CJ: It’s just fun. Our brewers get a chance to try something new while learning a thing or two from each other and fans get to try a new beer from two breweries they admire.
AE: Plus, the similarities between the two breweries is insane. We were both founded around the same time in the same region.
CJ: Both Great Lakes and Lakefront were started by brothers and continue to be independent, family-owned businesses that want to act as positive forces within their communities.
AE: And we love innovative brewing. Not only have we both rolled out cans at the same time, but we have diverse beer portfolios.
CJ: Exactly. Lakefront was one of the first breweries to bring back fruit beers after Prohibition, while Great Lakes is widely credited as the brewery that made Christmas ales a thing.

Where can fans try Beer Friends Hoppy Lager?
AE: Beer Friends Hoppy Lager will debut at Madison’s Rigby Pub & Grill on Friday, August 11 as part of our pre-Taste party. Anyone attending Great Taste of the Midwest can try it on at the Great Lakes and Lakefront’s shared booth on August 12.
CJ: After that, a limited amount of Beer Friends kegs will be distributed to select locations throughout Lakefront’s and Great Lakes’ distribution markets.