I don’t think about Redhook often. The brewery has been around forever (since 1981), and Redhook ESB was a constant companion in my college years. But when was the last time I reached for one of their beers? It was definitely before I had kids. Probably before I was married. Maybe before I was actually old enough to drink legally.
While Redhook was one of the craft brewing pioneers, it’s now owned by Craft Brew Alliance (along with Widmer Brothers and Kona Brewing and a few others). The original buyout in the mid-‘90s was earth shattering. Anheuser-Busch bought a 25% stake in the company and Jim Koch called it a declaration of war. Anheuser-Busch now owns a 32% stake. And the war rages on.
A lot of people won’t reach for a Redhook out of principle, but I’ve never been one to get held up by my principles. I just haven’t had anything from this brewery in decades because there are so many other options out there, and maybe I had one too many ESB’s when I was younger.
Because of my previous dalliances with Redhook’s ESB and because of their association with “the evil empire,” I didn’t expect much from their two new beers, a golden rye ale and a pale ale, but beer snobbery aside, both beers could end up being a welcome addition to my summer line up.
There’s not much going on with the nose of this “Golden Rye Ale.” It pours a clear yellow, with a slightly copper tinge. The thin head disappears almost immediately. It has a clear, crisp body and soft fruity notes that come in half way through the sip—mostly lemon and orange, but just the sweeter side of these fruits. A mild hop bitterness swoops in, but it’s not strong enough to overpower the fruit. Given the name, I expected a little bit of bite from the rye, but everything in this beer is so soft and mild, there’s no room for any spice or sharp edges. It’s a straight forward and simple beer, and that’s a compliment. It’s the kind of beer you want to go back for over and over.
Brewery: Redhook Brewery
City: Seattle, Washington
Style: Rye ale
The pour is slightly hazy, with a deeper copper tone than the Summerhook. The nose is more interesting too, with bright notes of citrus. And that nose gives you a sense of what’s to come in the sip. Redhook’s American Pale has a creamy mouthfeel and a full body. A slight bitterness gives way to some pretty intense fruit—mostly lemon, but just the sweetness of the lemon without any of that tart, puckering factor. Imagine a lemon chess pie. That’s what’s going on here. The finish is crisp, which is surprising considering the lush body at the forefront of the sip, and the lemon carries through long after the beer has left your palate. But the malt bill holds its own, keeping the beer from becoming just another fruity hop bomb.
Is Pale a game-changing beer? No. It’s a straight forward, some would say classic, take on the American Pale style. It’s balanced, incredibly sessionable and easy drinking, and just complex enough to keep you going back for more.
Style: American pale