One of the benefits of being a beer seeker for 30 years is you get to experience trends in brewing that have been in decline, suddenly appear brand new. Take the style known as Roggenbier, a medieval ale, as the German Beer Institute points out, made with rye malt. Abandoned for centuries, this ale style is undergoing a revival in the United States, and now receiving national attention, through the introduction of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s latest seasonal, Ruthless Rye IPA.
The use of rye malt in brewing has quite a history. In Finland, Sahti is produced using rye combined with juniper berries. In Eastern Europe, Kvass was created as a very low alcohol drink that existed before the invention of modern soft drinks. Rye malt has been around for a very long time, although mostly unnoticed.
With Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA, you have a dark copper-coloured pour with a spicy nose. With a first drink, the rye becomes quite apparent. Sierra Nevada’s famous hops personality is given a twist here. The peppery notes from the rye abound in this recipe, while the extensive use of whole hop cones, combine with the malts to deliver a complex tasting experience. This has a bit of a bite in the long dry finish, which may be somewhat of a shock to a younger hop focused audience. Thankfully there is also full malt support for the hops abundance. Very well achieved flavour complexity that is astounding in its uncompromising quality.
The old and new combine in interesting combinations. Nowadays, there is all the talk about the craft can beer revolution. But I think back to 20 years ago when friends I knew could not believe I was enjoying beer out of a can. And when they tried what I was drinking, they were quite surprised to find they enjoyed it too. That was Genesee Bock Beer from Rochester, New York. They could not believe such a tasty beer came out of a can. I offered up the thought that the Ball corporation made very good aluminum cans, but that wasn’t the answer. The recipe dated back to 1951, but that was just modern production history, for actually Genesee Bock dates back to 1878.
What a joy it is to have this year’s batch of what is quintessentially an American classic. A flavourful can of beer, long before that notion was even considered cool.