We continue our series with the spicy Rye IPA and the sometimes angry but always delicious, Red IPA.
Rye is a hearty cereal grain that imparts pepper-like flavors and complex spiciness to beer. Those characteristics blend tremendously well with American hops especially those with citrus notes. The bitterness will tend to linger a bit longer than a traditional IPA as a result of the rye. These are hop forward beers with a dry finish and clean profile that allow the hops and spiciness to come through.
Cane & Ebel, 7.0% ABV, Two Brothers Brewing Company
My selections are all about love at first sight, or in these cases, love at first sip. Are the beers below the very best in their category? That is definitely debatable but they were my first loves in each of the categories and a couple of my first real-life beer loves.
This is probably my easiest decision of all of the IPAs and it isn't because there no viable alternatives to Cane & Ebel. Founders Red’s Rye is a strong option to make my list of best new beers to me in Quarter 3 and there are a plethora of other outstanding rye options that I adore. However, I always go back to my first love: Cane & Ebel. It appealed to me before I liked craft beer. I still enjoyed it when I began to love craft beer. It is sweet, spicy, malty, fruity, caramel and dry all in one amazing bottle. It used to be one of the only rye options but even though it now has stiff competition it still owns a special place in my life.
Ruthless Rye, 6.6% ABV, Sierra Nevada Brewing, California
I look forward to the release of Ruthless Rye every year. It’s not a hop bomb like a lot of beers we have discussed this month but it is balanced with a perfect herbal, piney and citrus tinged aroma and flavor from the hops. Sierra Nevada uses Chinook, Citra and Equinox as the finishing hops which explains the wonderful hop notes. The rye adds a nice pepper flavor that plays very well with the herbal and citrus hop character. A great beer for the fall and winter and it pairs well with bold flavors.
Sierra Nevada will not be releasing Ruthless on its own this year which is very disappointing. It will be in their 4-Way IPA 12 pack alongside Torpedo, Golden IPA and Blindfold Black IPA. If you can’t find Ruthless at your shop I made sure to beef up the runners up for you.
Lenny’s RIPA, 10% ABV, Shmaltz Brewing, New York
Red’s Rye IPA, 6.6% ABV, Founders Brewing, Michigan
Rye of the Tiger, 7.5% ABV, Great Lakes Brewing, Ohio
Hop Rod Rye, 8% ABV, Bear Republic Brewing, California
Road Warrior, 9% ABV, Green Flashing Brewing, California
Red IPAs are hoppy and bitter like a traditional American IPAs but with a sweeter caramel and toffee character from the dark and caramel malts that are added to give the beer its red color. The malt profiles are complex but the hops are still the stars of the show. The American and new world hops that are added often add a tropical, citrus, floral, herbal and spicy character. While the malt adds sweetness and and complexity this beer should still be dry.
Nugget Nectar, 7.5% ABV, Tröegs Brewing, Pennsylvania
The color was piercing and the first sip blew me away. "This is the acclaimed Nugget Nectar?" I quietly said to anyone within earshot. It was unlike anything I had ever had. The story might sound like I conjured it up out of nowhere but it is 100% true and I remember the bartender staring at me like I had 4 heads after I muttered the simple statement. I was outside of Cincinnati a few years ago, holed up at a bar near my hotel and I was drinking a few beers after a job interview in a foreign city. The thoughts continues to race through my head: would I accept a job offer, did they like my plan, and is this the right job to take to uproot my life? But after that sip, all of those thoughts took a backseat to the delicious beer. Everything would be okay, no matter what path I chose. I have had Nugget Nectar a few times since then and it is still wonderful but I will never forget how it calmed me down that night when I needed it most.
Blood of the Unicorn, 6.5% ABV, Pipeworks Brewing, Illinois
Pipeworks began canning beer this past July and Blood of the Unicorn was the second beer that they decided to can. With all the highly rated and hoppy beers in their repertoire that decision says a lot about this beer. Although the canned version is 2% lower in ABV it still packs the same hoppy punch as the imperial version in 22oz bottles. Blood of the Unicorn, aside from being a great name, is the perfect example of a Red IPA. It’s a hop forward beer with an alluring pine and citrus aroma. Once you get a whiff you can’t help but take a giant gulp! The malt profile is complex and balances the hop bitterness well. I wouldn’t call this a “balanced” beer as it’s all about the hops but the malt is not muted. Get it fresh and enjoy it while the weather is still warm. It goes great with grilled food (link pizza and chicken articles).