Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the wry folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the good humor to set you at ease as they help you discover the wine, whiskey, and beer that suits you best.
Rye (Secale cereale) is a grass grown extensively as a grain and as a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe (Triticeae) and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskeys, some vodkas, and animal fodder. It can also be eaten whole, either as boiled rye berries, or by being rolled, similar to rolled oats.
Rye beer refers to any beer in which rye (generally malted) is substituted for some portion of the barley malt.
One example of this is roggenbier which is a specialty beer produced with up to sixty percent rye malt. The style originated in Bavaria, in southern Germany and is brewed with the same type of yeast as a German hefeweizen resulting in a similar light, dry, spicy taste.
In the United States another style of rye beer is being developed by homebrewers and microbreweries. In some examples, the hop presence is pushed to the point where they resemble American India pale ales. This style is often called a "Rye-P-A," a take-off of the abbreviation for an India Pale Ale, "IPA."
While they can include a wide range of styles, rye beers tend to have unique flavors. Even though they’re not all that common, I’ve usually enjoyed the ryes that I’ve come across. Red Hook used to make a rye ale that was tasty. It evolved into the less tasty Sunrye before disappearing altogether. Among ryes that I’ve tried of late, Two Brothers Cane and Abel and Summit India Style Rye Ale have been stellar examples. Until I recently reviewed a list of rye beers, I wasn’t even aware that Goose Island’s Mild Winter and Surly’s Fest fell into that category. They too are beers worth reaching for.
Another rye beer of distinction is Red’s Rye PA from Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founders is among the brewers that have been added as part of the recent craft beer expansion at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. They are held in high regard among beer fans through the country. Red’s Rye P.A. is the beer of the week:
Serious hop bitterness, along with an unyielding grapefruit bouquet from the Amarillo dry-hop, balances the malty richness of four varieties of imported Belgian caramel malts. Pours a spectacular crimson with a creamy tan head. A generous addition of rye malt accentuates a spicy, crisp finish.
12oz stubby brown bottle. White label with a red sketching of a rather twisted looking chap whom I presume is Red.
Alcohol by Volume: 6.6%
COLOR (0-2): Copper brown, partially clouded. 2
AROMA (0-2): Piney and citrusy. 2
HEAD (0-2): Tan color, small bubbles, moderate volume, but excellent lacing. 2
TASTE (0-5): Strong hop flavors-pine, citrus, and floral-nicely blended with slightly sweet caramel malt and rye. You can pick up a little heat too. Medium-bodied, smooth mouthfeel, and moderately drinkable. 4
AFTERTASTE (0-2): Bitter, rich, and lasting. 2
OVERALL (0-6): This is a great combination of the heavy hop flavors you would expect to find in an IPA with caramel malt and rye. Very well-balanced and complex. Even with all the interesting flavor it still goes down fairly easy and doesn’t feel overly heavy. This is a damn fine beer and definitely lives up to its reputation. 5
TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17