Great Northern is a sales phenomenon – it’s gone from obscurity to the most popular damn beer in the Australian market in little over 10 years.
But does it taste good? And what kind of drinkers does it suit?
We answer both these questions in this in depth article about Great Northern Original.
History: When was Great Northern released?
Great Northern was released in 2010 when the Australian beer market was changing but was still dominated by traditional favorites Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught and XXXX.
These were comparatively full bodied lagers.
Gradually drinkers tastes were tending in two directions – at one end you had the beer devotees who were embracing the choice of imported beers such as Peroni and Asahi, and the new generation of craft beers with IPAs, pale ales and pilseners coming out of small local breweries.
At the other end you had a larger group of drinkers that were interested in a refreshing beer but didn’t want too much bitterness and hop character interfering with a “clean” or crisp beer taste. These folk were also interested – while they may not have admitted it – in a beer that was lower in alcohol and lower in calories to what was on offer.
Enter Great Northern.
Great Northern is a lager. Great Northern Brewing says it is “brewed using a light-stable hop to avoid the impact of sunlight, pale malt and lager yeast to produce a fruity, clean, refreshing lager”.
“With its fruity aroma, low bitterness and clean, crisp finish, it’s the ultimate refreshment for the Great Northern conditions.”
When it comes to flavor, I found Great Northern to be sorely lacking. I got very faint hop notes and low levels of bitterness. I also got some cereal sweetness and others have detected a baked bread flavor. This is a light body, easy drinking beer with very low bitterness levels.
Great Northern Original is a heavily carbonated beer and that’s reflected in the mouthfeel, which to me is too frothy and insubstantial.
Like most mainstream mass produced beers, Great Northern doesn’t have a strong smell. In terms of the nose, I got a slightly fruity around with some floral notes, tropical fruits and citrus.
Great Northern Original pours a clear deep golden bright white head.
Calories and Nutritional Information
Great Northern Original has 117 calories in each 375ml can or bottle. Great Northern Super Crisp has 100 calories and Great Northern Zero has 68 calories. While it is a slightly sweet tasting beer, it has no sugar as the lager yeast consumes any excess during the brewing process.
Great Northern sits at the lower end of the alcohol content range for Australian lagers with 4.2% ABV (alcohol by volume).
What’s the Best Way to Drink Great Northern?
Great Northern is a beer best drunk in warm climates. It’s refreshing and crisp, but lacks flavor and character (think Corona as a comparison). It should be drunk well chilled to avoid the beer warming up when you are half-way through enjoying one.
Can, bottle or glass?
Great Northern is normally drunk in a bottle. It comes in a distinctive clear bottle with a marlin on the label. But for convenience’s sake, it also comes in cans and this is a popular way for beer drinkers to enjoy a Great Northern too. Given the outdoor lifestyle that it aligns with, cans are a good option because they are lighter and more sturdy to pack into your car for a hiking of fishing trip.
Thanks to it’s light body and subtle bitterness, Great Northern is a beer that be drunk easily without food. But if you are pairing it with food, I’d be thinking the kind of foods you’d drink Corona with – spicy tacos, chips and seafood. At a pinch, it is a reasonable barbecue beer, although I’d favour something a bit more bitter with more hops involved to drink with meat.
Who Would it Suit: casual beer drinkers, those in hot climates
To be frank, Great Northern suits drinkers with an uncomplicated palate. It is a good beer for people who are put off by strong flavour in their beer and prefer sweet or mild flavors to dry or bitter tastes. The guy who recently helped me in moving house swears by Great Northern – it’s easily his favorite beer.
As the advertising suggests, it is a good beer for a warmer climate. I couldn’t think of many worse beers to drink at a footy match in Melbourne in the depths of winter, but on a hot day at beach or on the golf course in Queensland, it’s a different story.
Great Northern Variants
Great Northern also offers a mid-strength version – Great Northern Super Crisp – that has a similar taste and flavor profile and a slightly lower alcohol content (3.5% ABV).
Then there is the newest addition from the Great Northern Brewery, Great Northern Zero. This is a zero alcohol version as the name suggests.
What Do Drinkers Think Great Of Great Northern?
We’ve gathered the good, the bad and the ugly of Great Northern reviews from Beer Advocate.
|Beer Advocate Reviewer||Quote|
|Jugs McGhee||“Insipid neutral borderline watery brew. Sharply over carbonated, inhibiting drinkability. High cereal sweetness.”|
|vk4tux||“This is not a good beer for a bbq or evening out. It lacks flavour, carbonation and body. It is like slightly flavoured cold water to drink, and I actually prefer the taste of cold wateer to this. Ok for an initial thirst quencher, and then boring after that.”|
|1aumaxx1||“Easy to drink and sessionable. There isn’t a lot of character to be found in the beer, but can be had quite cheap and beats most of the budget, mainstream mass-produced beers in the Australian market. I see it being a reasonable barbecue beer, and something mild for casual beer drinkers. After all, it’s good enough, very cheap and you probably won’t be reaching for a premium craft beer after you’ve devoured chilli salsa soaked Doritos and a few snags.”|
|Crazy Davros||“Pours gold with a fading head.Nose shows cooked vegetables, grainy malt, cardboard notes, stale malt and faint spicy hints. Not great.Sweet plain malt as a flavour first up followed by cardboard notes and stale beer. Finishes with an off-putting weak finish with very low bitterness.Very watery body.”|
Final Thoughts: Is Great Northern a Good Great Beer?
For me – no. It lacks taste, it’s flavour is weak and it is too sweet. I am after much more character in my beer and my tastes run towards pale ales and IPAs. If I drink lager, I prefer it to have more aroma, bitterness, flavor, mouthfeel and character.
I do concede it is a reasonable beer to drink in our northern states where it is compatible with the year-round outdoor lifestyle and drinkers want a crisp, refreshing and easy drinking beer over something a bit more challenging.
And you can’t argue with numbers – the majority of Australian beer drinkers beg to differ and they are snapping this beer up in droves.