What does The Catcher in the Rye catch? Is this a baseball thing? Or is it a rye thing? What is rye, anyway? We mean, we know it’s food because they put it in rye bread, but can you eat it on its own? Rye is used to make some of the world’s driest, spiciest whiskeys. It’s also used to brew craft beer. That’s rye-t. Rye has been a part of the brewer’s tool kit since at least the Middle Ages. Bavarian Germans have been making roggenbier — a style similar to the German wheat beer, but made with rye instead of wheat — for at least that long. “Rustic” is one descriptor that has been applied to the flavor of rye in beer. It brings sharp, almost bitter spiciness with softer, bready undertones. Imagine the crust of a freshly baked loaf of rye bread crusted with cracked black pepper. In this country, any rye beer brewing that may have occurred was quashed by Prohibition, its spicy product lost to the homogenization of the American beer landscape that followed. But adventurous American craft brewers have brought it back, and the number of rye beers available has proliferated in the past decade, including the five in our beer flight Craft Beer Crosscut 7.29.17: A Flight of Rye.
Three Magnets Brewing Co. is an appropriate name for the downtown Olympia brewery. Their strengths have pulled large crowds since their opening in November 2014. Three Magnets’ Second Anniversary Sour Red Rye Ale is aged in red wine puncheons for 18 months and then bottle conditioned. An aroma of mixed berry fruit emanates from the glass — attributed to both the mixed fermentation of Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces and the generous use of chocolate and rye malts. Ripened chocolate covered marionberries coat the tongue with a thin veneer of tart lychee. The subtle sourness invites you in for more and the moderate carbonation works perfectly in combination with the red wine barrel treatment.
5% ABV, 32 IBU
In 2012, longtime friends Devon Bray and Thomas Poffenroth opened Loowit Brewing Company in downtown Vancouver, Washington, helping revive the city and quickly became a force in the Southwest Washington beer scene. In 2016, Loowit Brewing won a Silver Award at the prestigious World Beer Cup for their Grimlock Rye Porter, an American Porter featuring dark malts that provide pleasant flavors of chocolate, toffee, coffee and toast. The addition of rye malt builds the complexity of the malt profile by adding a touch of rye spiciness to the finish.
6.5% ABV, 77 IBU
All the Black Raven Brewing craft beers reference in some way historical or literary ravens of note, starting with the Trickster IPA, a multiple award-winning tropical fruit IPA to BeakTweaker Citrus IPA, brewed with rye malt. The seasonal BeakTweaker is built on a firm base of barley and rye malts, with bold citrus flavors and aromatics. Indeed, dip your beak into this one for a nice lemon kick with rye spiciness. Waves of citrus and bitter hops dominate this one. The firm bitterness combines with citrus hop characteristics accented by the addition of black lemon, orange peel and lemon peel. There is enough of a rye balance in the malt profile to keep everything in check.
7% ABV, 80 IBU
People have been making pilgrimages to Portland for Alan Sprints’ beer since the dark ages — back when hazy and sour beers weren’t made that way intentionally. Hair of the Dog brewed an IPA named after planet Earth with organic Pilsner malt, rye malt and a combo of intense hops. Somewhat pungent in the nose with tons of herbal, floral, citrus grapefruit, raw honey and fresh mint the Blue Dot is a full-bodied, smooth and creamy IPA. Then the hops come to play with a raw leafy coarseness and big smack of grapefruit, ripe pineapple and some sticky resins on the palate. This is all backed by a malt sweetness, touch of honey and a spicy character unique to the addition of rye.
7.5% ABV, 100 IBU
Sonoma. Bear. Hop Shovel belongs in this flight. Bear Republic Brewing has a new school IPA. Those who dig the Sonoma County, California, brewery’s Racer 5 should enjoy the mightier Hop Shovel. Hop Shovel is dry, but with a soft and rounded mouthfeel achieved by using a high proportion of wheat and rye. Hop varieties Mosaic, Meridian and Denali provide an abundance of flavor and aroma. Firm, precise aromatics dig citrus-forward at first, piling up to a roundness of tangerine and cantaloupe with hints of the tropics. Digging deeper, the flavors follow through with plump fruits, a streamlined feel and brightly bitter grapefruit and lemons.