Beer Review 0371: Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger IPA

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2013 marks Great Lakes Brewing Company’s (Cleveland, Ohio) 25th anniversary, and they’re celebrating with style. Already this year, they’ve released a new beer, Alchemy Hour Imperial IPA (rated 91 points by this website) and now we’ve got another new one, Rye of the Tiger IPA.

Started by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway on September 6, 1988, not one single microbrewery existed in Cleveland at that time. The city had once boasted thirty breweries, but that was way back in the 1800’s. Great Lakes opened by vowing to use only natural ingredients, and they operate on a “triple bottom line,” meaning they are a profiting business while engaging in responsible economic, social, and environmental practices. Each Great Lakes bottle has three waves of water on the neck label — it symbolizes the triple bottom line, as well as beer’s main ingredient: water.

Rye of the Tiger is a new spring seasonal, coming in at 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and a whopping 92 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Brewed with Columbus, Warrior, and Simcoe hops, this brew uses plenty of rye malt and is named after a tiger because it has a rye bite.

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Release from the bottle delivered a small, sudsy head that had a lasting quality. This beer is dark golden in color and has a slightly hazy body. There are no particles or sediment, and lacing was excellent, leaving behind foggy sheets of foam that cling nicely to the glass.

When Great Lakes say ‘rye,’ they aren’t kidding. Rye malt is the first thing on the nose — very bready and spicy. There are some hops here, but it’s kind of a 2:1 ratio. The alpha acids bring some general citrus, grapefruit and lemon to the party, and a small note of orange peel. Stick your nose a foot away from the glass, and this brew smells very beery. Nice and pleasant, but not complex or overly impressive.

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On the palate, just when you think you’re getting a juicy, highly citric hoppy beer, your taste buds are slammed with arresting rye. Those initial notes are grapefruit and orange, then a heavy dose of bitterness that walks a balanced edge and flirts with turning crushed aspirin medicinal, but doesn’t. The rye reminded me of very dark bread crust, and it had a gentle spiciness to it that played with the ample bitterness nicely. For such a jarring flavor, this beer goes down smooth, and actually has a creamy body. This one is full-flavored, for sure.

If you enjoy rye in beer, well, here it is! I found Rye of the Tiger to be intense but smooth; however, as I got about halfway through the bottle, the intense rye tends to linger too long on the palate and affects the nice, ripe hoppy flavors you got at the beginning of the sip when first enjoying. I’d say this one is worth a try, but stay away if you don’t dig rye or massive, nearly overwhelming bitterness. I think once is probably enough for me, but I definitely didn’t dislike this brew.

Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger IPA, 87 points. Price: $1.79 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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