Sunday, August 21, 2011


Brewery: Bear Republic (CA)
Style: Rye IPA
ABV: 8%
Grade: A-

Rye beers are a weird class, because there's nothing particularly defining what a rye beer is — unlike hefeweizens, say, that have fairly strict guidelines outside just 'having some wheat.'  A rye beer is basically a rye beer as long as it has some rye in the grain bill, so far as I can tell. But all styles have to evolve somehow, and American brewers have seemingly come to the conclusion that rye is best served with liberal additions of hops, making them essentially IPAs with rye. Fine with me. Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye is actually classified as just an IPA, but "rye" is right there in the title, and I'm sure that's what most people think of it as.

Other rye beers I've had — Sixpoint's Righteous Rye, at least — have mostly focused on balancing those two flavors: rye, and hops. Hop Rod adds a third dimension, one that I wasn't aware was possible with rye in there. Hop Rod still tastes a lot like an English-influenced IPA with a strong, sweet malty palate, a smoothness that co-exists alongside the rye. Both are equally as prominent, and so balanced that you could switch back and forth from noticing one to the other — deciding one moment that this is a smooth malty IPA, then, no, wait, it's a dry hoppy rye-fest. And of course there's still the third dimension of the hops, adding a wonderful juiciness on top the sweet malts, and supplementing the dry bitter feel of the rye. The best IPAs are bitter and juicy at the same time, creating a false impression of sweetness through the complexity of hop flavors, and this beer has all that and more.

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