Beer Review 0179: Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

Bear Republic, makers of what is widely regarded as one of the best India Pale Ales in the United States (Racer 5 IPA, which I rated 90 points), also make an Imperial-strength IPA that uses 18% rye malt.

Located in Cloverdale, California, Bear Republic master brewer Richard G. Norgrove says, “I feel home brewing is the laboratory where true advancement of beer styles is coming from.” Using only the highest quality ingredients, Bear Republic have a great motto:

Respect life, don’t drink and drive
Make beer, not bombs
Real ale is alive

Cheers to that!

Technically, rye is regarded as an adjunct ingredient (similar to how Budweiser uses rice, or Miller uses corn) but it does lend a spicy character to beer that enhances flavor and aroma, and doesn’t take away.

Hop Rod Rye is brewed to 8% ABV (alcohol by volume), 80 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and won a gold metal at the California State Fair in 2009.

The pour delivered a deep amber/copper colored beer, topped with a small, soapy and frothy head that had a lasting quality. The beer was quite hazy and was filled with chunky pieces of particles and sediment; Hop Rod Rye is proudly advertised as being unfiltered on the bottle. As with most beers brewed with rye, the lacing was excellent, sticking to the glass in totally solid sheets. I’m not a master brewer by any means, but rye must have excellent head retention/lacing qualities.

I expected the rye to be front and center on the nose, but I was surprised to find one hell of an IPA at hand — big and bright, up front are classic notes of California grapefruit and pine, backed by a delicate floral note and some orange citrus. But the malts are there, too; the rye plays a supporting role alongside caramel malt and some general roasted notes. Very nice, and not what I expected.

On the taste, there’s a mild citrus hit at the start, which flows into a moderately bitter kick that showcases the rye with a tiny bit of spice and pepper. The middle features a great battle between grapefruit and caramel, showing superior balance between sweet and bitter, before the bitter wins out and the finish hits a high note, drying the mouth out thanks to the 80 IBUs. It’s here where the rye really comes out to play, even moreso as the drink warms, giving off a bread-like spice and playing well with the heavy amount of bitterness.

Color me very impressed with Hop Rod Rye — not only does this taste great, but it’s quite complex and you can absolutely tell someone spent some time tinkering on this recipe to make it great. People often talk about balance in beer; well, this one showcases it and then some. This is just an excellent drink, an IPA with a slight twist, if you will.

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, 92 points. Price: $2.49 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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