Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale (Terrapin Beer Company)

I believe that when you travel, you should sample the local beer, and you should try to find something to bring home that you can't normally buy. We took a trek down South after the holidays, and I picked up a six-pack of Terrapin Rye Pale Ale. I've testified enough about my love of rye here, here, and here that I guess I don't need to go into it again.

Terrapin Beer Company is located in Athens, Georgia, a town well-known as the home of the University of Georgia and a very vibrant music scene that spawned the B-52s, R.E.M., and many other national acts. As far as I can tell, Terrapin is the only brewery in Athens with any kind of distribution. According to the lore on their website, this rye pale ale was the brewery's first release.

On the label of the bottle is a picture of Terrapin's spokesturtle in full bucolic mode: standin' a field of rye, chompin' on a rye stalk, wearin' a bandana and a straw hat, and pluckin' a banjo. I am reminded of those free-spirited dancing turtles on the cover of the Grateful Dead's "Terrapin Station" album.

The beer pours a light amber-gold with not much head, and what little there is dies down very quickly to a thin film. The aroma is not hugely expressive: clean hops, maybe a slight hint of malt.

To the taste, there is a little zap of rye spiciness before the carbonation, then after, a fruity malt middle that levels off a little sooner than one hopes. Nicely carbonated, medium bodied, with about the right amount of substance to the mouthfeel. There is some nice hops flavor in the ride out, but not much of the peppery signature I look for when I've plunked my money down on a rye beer.

Measured against your average American mass market beer, Terrapin Rye Pale Ale is quite flavorful and not a bad drink. However, to my taste it is not zesty enough and lacks excitement at any instant along the flavor curve. In comparison with the best craft-brewed rye pale ales, it doesn't muscle its way to the top of the pack. My caveat would be, according to the freshness dating on the label, I missed the optimum consumption window by three weeks. Still looking forward to giving Terrapin's other brews a try.

From the bottle's label:

One of the more unique beers coming out of the South, the Terrapin Rye Pale Ale offers a new twist on a classic style. By using an exact amount of rye this beer offers a complex flavor and aroma that is... IN TUNE WITH YOUR TASTE

Featured beer:
Rye Pale Ale

Honorable mentions:
Hop Rod Rye
Red's Rye PA
Hop Head Red Ale

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