As a critic, is it unfair to dock a beer slightly for being exactly what you expect it to be? How should one rate innovation or unexpectedness—on a grading scale or rubric? What priority do you give to the novel?
Those were a few of the questions I recently found myself pondering over a bottle of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s seasonal rye IPA release, Rye of the Tiger. A popular and widely emulated style in recent years, rye IPAs have proven to be a great example of disparate flavors working perfectly in tandem. You’ll see quite a few other styles modified with rye as well, especially rye stouts, but in IPAs this wayward grain has been welcomed with particular gusto.
This copper ale has a pleasant, archetypal aroma that hits all of the typical checkmarks of the style. Hops are citric and grassy and fleeting on top of a strong malt presence of caramel and unmistakable rye. The rye grain tends to contribute a spicy, peppery quality very much like rye bread itself, and as with rye whiskey, these beers tend to be lighter of body and drier than comparable beers of the same alcoholic strength. Some beer bars, recognizing these qualities, have even turned to crafting beer cocktails where rye ales are used in place of or to complement rye whiskies.
The beer is slick, almost oily on the tongue, with medium-high bitterness and an immediate impression of rye. Hops are grassy and bitter orange, like an orange marmalade with plenty of pith. It’s definitely on the drier side, but there is a vein of richer malt present, a very light English toffee flavor that keeps it from being too puckering and one-note bitter.
There’s really not much else to say, except that with spring and summer upon us, this modern, thriving sub-style of IPA looks to be represented in full force. As rye IPAs go, Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger is a solid entry that fits in favorably alongside its now numerous competitors. If IPAs with a spicy twist of rye are your thing, keep an eye out for this seasonal release.
Brewery: Great Lakes Brewing Co.
City: Cleveland, Ohio
Style: American rye IPA
Availability: Spring seasonal, 12-oz. bottles