There are countless variations on the India Pale Ale on beer store shelves, but there is only a small handful of rye IPAs. Sierra Nevada released its Ruthless Rye as a spring seasonal. Actually, the label says that the beer is for the “tumultuous transition into spring.” So, like the Harpoon Long Thaw, reviewed earlier in this column, the Ruthless Rye is a heartier take on a spring beer.
The beer pours a burnt orange color with a frothy white head that dissipates fairly quickly. The first scent is of herbal, pine-resin hops. The hops provide a lot of plant-like flavors and become a little bit grassy with warmth. They also provide a lot of citrus flavors, dominated by orange and then grapefruit. The bitterness is actually fairly mild compared to many other IPAs. The malt provides a good balance. There’s some good, fruity and caramel malt sweetness. There’s some cider notes. Surprisingly, a hefeweissen-esque banana note comes out over time. The rye gives the beer some black-pepper spice and some sourness in the finish. The finish is very dry, more on account of the rye than the hops. That being said, the rye is not the dominant flavor, but kind of sneaks into the background.
This is a good beer, and it’s good to see another rye beer readily available. Still it would be nice if the rye was a more prevalent part of this brew. There are better rye beers out there, although this one would make a fine introduction for the curious.