You're probably seeing beers with rye used in the brewing process more frequently these days at your favorite watering hole and beer retailer. But rye beers aren't new.
Back in 2002, Terrapin Beer Co., of Athens, Ga., won a Gold Medal for American Pale Ale with its Rye Pale Ale. Other breweries that dabble in rye include Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and its Wookey Jack Black IPA, Sierra Nevada (Ruthless Rye), Dogfish Head (Ryehoboth) and Samuel Adams (Revolutionary Rye Ale).
Brewers use rye as a way to add a new dimension to beer. Rye typically imparts a spicy flavor and injects other complexities. Here are some recent rye releases:
Boulevard Grainstorm Black Rye I.P.A. (750 ml. bottles and draft, boulevard.com). Kansas City, Mo.-based Boulevard Brewing Co. delivers a twist on a twist with this limited-edition brew. Black India Pale Ales, achieved with dark roasted malts, have been a style on the rise. Now brewers are tweaking black IPAs with a dose of rye.
Malted rye imparts a spicy crispness that makes Grainstorm eminently quaffable despite its 7.7% alcohol level. Its pleasantly bitter introduction is achieved with a blend of four types of hops (Amarillo, Bravo, Citra and Simcoe). Make sure to take a look at the label, an American folk artsy design that mashes up the beer's ingredients and the USA TODAY weather map.
Green Flash Road Warrior (12 oz. and 22 oz. bottles and draft, greenflashbrew.com). For a bit more bitterness and a bit more booze, try this seasonal Imperial IPA from San Diego's Green Flash Brewing Co.
Road Warrior pours like a reddish ale with an upfront piney aroma. Delicate and clean, the ale drinks like a beer much below its 9% ABV.
Green Flash created the beer as a tribute to its road-tested sales team, and as an alternative to summer's lawnmower beers — as with the Grainstorm, rye adds to the refreshment factor.
The Bruery Smoking Wood (22 oz. bottles, www.bruery.com). This Los ! Angeles area brewery — it's in Placentia, Calif. — takes rye beer to another level by aging a rye porter in rye whiskey barrels.
The beer pours out dark as oil, topped with a small layer of milk chocolate foam. From the outset, Smoking Wood exudes a sweet, complex flavor — and make no mistake — a boozy kick. It clocks in at 10% ABV.
In addition to vanilla expressions, a woody smokiness is evident from beachwood- and cherrywood-smoked malt. If you've already tried lower-alcohol rye beers, like Stone Brewing Co.'s Spröcketbier, a rye Kolsch, this is a nice way to take your rye research to the next level.
Next Round takes a regular look at new and recently released craft beers. If there's one on your radar, or if you have suggestions or questions, contact Mike Snider via e-mail. And follow Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.