Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sierra Nevada - Ruthless Rye IPA Review

Brewery: Sierra Nevada (CA)
Style: Rye IPA

ABV: 6.6%
Grade: B+

I once tried to convince someone — who was holding a glass of wine at the time — that right now, these last few years, are without a doubt the best time in history to be a beer drinker. I am completely confident in this assertion, though it may sound like Viewpoint Bias if you don't really follow the beer world closely. But case in point, there are probably more distinct sub-styles of the IPA available today than there were styles of beer, at all, commercially available in America 40 years ago. East Coast IPA, West Coast IPA,  English IPA, wet-hopped IPA, single-hopped IPA, imperial IPA, triple IPA, Belgian IPA, black IPA, wheat IPA... and fairly recently, Rye IPA.

Rye IPAs are a fairly narrow genre, even considering they're already a sub-category of an already-specific style of beer defined by set attributes. I've yet to try a Rye IPA that's really taken me by surprise, and that's the case again with Sierra Nevada's recent entry into the style. Still, Ruthless Rye IPA manages to be distinct: it's drier than most, with a relatively slim amount of caramel malt flavors balancing out the dry rye flavors, making for a spicy, harsher beer that's no less flavorful. Others I've had are a three way balancing act — dry rye, sweet malt, fruity hops. The rye is truly what shines here, and I appreciate a beer that finally showcases its namesake to the extent that Ruthless does.

While the hops may contribute to that dry sticky mouthfeel a bit, they also add all the flavors you'd expect: citrus, floral, and a hint of pine. A touch of fruity sweetness remains, but very few beers I've had stick to the tongue with such lingering dryness as Ruthless Rye. There isn't much creaminess here, though it still has the silky smooth qualities you'd expect. It's a beer that hits you as more aggressive than its ABV would suggest, and yet remains decidedly drinkable. The flavor is maybe a bit more singular and specific than some of its peers, but works, for its boldness.

Availability: Only released for the first time in early 2012, Ruthless Rye is pretty easy to find, but it may only be a winter release. Look for it in sixpacks.

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