In recent weeks I've noticed a new local beer trend, rye beers. Rye beers are nothing new per se, though I have the feeling that really delicious rye beers may be. Oregon brewers never shy from a challenge as evidenced by the number of unique beers being produced by home brewers and commercial brewers alike. The variety of beers available to Oregonians is impressive and is the reason many of us have stood in the beer isle for 30 minutes deciding on which beer to buy. Now we can add rye beers to the list of beers that are a must try. For this tasting I've gathered up as many rye beers I could find at the grocery store in an effort to review rye beers that are readily available.
Hailing from Sisters, Oregon is Three Creeks Brewing. Stonefly Rye Ale is the first offering from Three Creeks that I've tried. Everything I've read about rye beers is that the rye adds a spice to the beer. The Stonefly Rye doesn't exhibit anything resembling spicy at all, which I think is a good thing really. Stonefly is a session-able beer at 4.6% abv. Often session beers can be light bodied and boring. The addition of rye to a session beer in this case has added mouthfeel, aroma and a crisp, interesting flavor that lingers on the palette just long enough to make you want more.
Smooth Ryed is Bridgeport Brewings' rye ale offering. A dangerous mix of 6.3% abv, easy-drinking malty goodness and a biting finish, Smooth Ryed will run you over if you're not looking. Amber colored with a much more pronounced rye flavor than Stonefly, Smooth Ryed is an interesting beer and worth a try. I'm willing to bet that this beer is amazing on tap. If you're local to Portland, be sure to visit Bridgeport Brewery for this and many other fresh, beautifully crafted beers.
While I am meant to be writing about Oregon beers, I do venture out every now and again. To that end, I thought it'd be fun to check out how California is fairing on the rye beers. Ruthless Rye from Sierra Nevada is a warm amber color with an enticing hoppy nose. On the palette, Ruthless tastes of fresh, bright hops, mellow malts and just a hint of rye, hops linger giving Ruthless a long hoppy finish. This is an expertly crafted beer, I'll be looking for it on draft.
Wow! I know what I'll be drinking on St. Patrick's day, O'Ryely IPA from Widmer Brothers brewing. O'Ryely pours out a seductive warm caramel color, begging to be enjoyed. The latest beer from Widmer Brothers Brewing Rotator IPA series, O'Ryely delights the senses with a citrus and spice aroma followed on the palette by perfectly balanced hops, malt and subtle rye flavors with a clean, warm finish. There's a reason Widmer is a staple in these parts; interesting beers that are always a joy to drink. I'm excited to drink this beer on draft at the Widner brewery.
My personal favorite of the rye beers I've tasted (research, it's all for research) is Hop Rye'it from 10 Barrel Brewing out of Bend, Oregon. Balanced, with a unique grain flavor provided by the addition of rye, the hops provide a strong backbone for the light sweetness of malt to dance on your tongue. I've enjoyed every beer I've had from 10 Barrel and Hop Rye'it is no exception. If you like hops, my recommendation is skip the rest of the rye beers and go straight for 10 Barrel. If your local is pouring 10 Barrel on draft, even better.
Based on the beers I tried; brewers have made some fantastic beers using rye as an added ingredient, no small task I'm sure. It's reassuring to know that because rye is such a hardy crop after the zombie apocalypse we'll still be able to make great beer.