Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hop Rod Rye (Bear Republic Brewery)

Mainly based upon my admiration of their Racer 5 IPA and Red Rocket Ale, I decided once more to chip in a Bear Republic brew to the Beer Club. Another factor was my mild obsession with rye: I like the toast, love the whiskey, and am beginning to fancy it as a beer ingredient, too. Rye imparts a distinctive spiciness to whatever it is included in, be it pumpernickel bread or bourbon or beer.

There is an ancient German brewing style called roggenbier that uses 20 to 25 percent rye in its grain component. In the American market you will see a variety of beers with "rye" in the name, some of them ales and some lagers. It's hard to know how much grain they're putting into these beers. (I got the stiff arm from Great Divide's communication officer when I inquired by email about the percentage of rye in their Hoss Rye Lager. "Unfortunately, all of our malt blends are proprietary...")

I'm sure that someone out there is brewing an authentic roggenbier, but many of the style designations I see are things like "rye bock," "red rye," "black rye," and the perhaps inevitable "rye PA." Anyway, I figured Bear Republic could be trusted to do something good with rye, regardless of what they called it.

The beer pours amber brown, with about an inch of ecru-colored head. It leaves lovely curtains of lace in the glass. The aroma is zesty and floral, with malt in the middle and molasses in the background. As it warms, the molasses note turns to caramel and becomes more predominant.

The taste is sweet and peppery, with a huge spike of dense rye in the middle. The flavor is complex, collapsing inward on the tongue in a swirl of opposing sweet and bitter elements -- spicy sharpness, buffeted by caramel in the wind-down. I do find the aftertaste quite bitter and sticky. I guess that's a consequence of what they needed to do to get this extraordinary flavor. (You know, flying buttresses aren't particularly attractive either, but they allow you to build a cathedral that's magnificent from the inside.)

This is the third brew I've had from Bear Republic that is truly excellent. The hallmarks of all three are well-executed ideas and LOTS of flavor. Impress me once, good for you. Impress me twice, good for me. Impress me three times? I'm gonna tell the world about it! So people, listen up: try this company's stuff. Their success is the beer world's gain.

From the bottle's label:

Hop Rod Rye is a high performance, turbo charged, alcohol burnin' monster ale with dual overhead hops injection, made with 18% rye.

Don't drink & drag. Sediment at bottom of bottle may be a result of the truckload of hops in this non-filtered ale.

Featured beer:
Hop Rod Rye

Honorable mentions:
Racer 5 IPA
Red Rocket Ale
Hoss Rye Lager

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