Catcher in the Rye: A Blind Test of Beer
My heart was left in rye-francisco. I began my infatuation with rye beers after putting pieces together. Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye was the first. Real Ale Full Moon Rye Pale Ale was the second. There is a spicy nature to rye malts that can not be manufactured by other malts.
So I decided it was time. A blind taste test of some rye beers. I invited a friend over and we hit it up quickly. There was a nervousness in the air for sure over how our local Real Ale would compete. We had just completed a visit of the brewery last Friday. Real Ale is close to our homes and our hearts. But from the perspective of the general populous/review the odds were stacked against it. My wife poured the beers as we discussed our approach.
Real Ale Full Moon Rye IPA
Bear Republic Hop Rod
He'Brews Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.
Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye
Grapevine Lakefire Rye Pale Ale
Saint Arnold's Blue Icon Rye IPA
The beer selection included some of the best. Three of the beers were from Texas. The other three are wildly acclaimed on the internet. Three of them had not graced my lips. Two of them were on the wish list of my guest. Real Ale Full Moon is one of my favorite all-around beers. I really wanted to know how it stacked up in a blind test. I had planned the event over a week in advance and was a little nervous. I really hoped Real Ale would be in the top three.
The results? I was over-reliant on my nose. There were many great smelling beers that didn't pan out. There were a couple I thought I recognized that were ultimately wrong. The flavors stood out against each other significantly. What follows is just a brief summary of my notes and conclusions.
The smell was nothing impressive. The full bodied flavor was impressive. Not a long lasting finish but the most pleasant of the group. I thought this was Lenny's. I ranked it second. It was Bear Republic's Hop Rod.
There was a dry crispness in the smell. The dry hopped malts revealed themselves. There was a smooth and hoppy flavor throughout. I ranked this first thinking it must be the venerable Lenny's. It was Real Ale Full Moon.
This beer was almost too sweet to drink. It was like honey candy that was overwhelming compared to everything else. An imperial IPA? Maybe. Rye just wasn't there. I thought this was the Hop Rod. I ranked it last. It was the highly vetted Lenny's.
The smell was rye and sweet. Hoppy flavor and gentle sweetness. It was familiar. I thought based on smell that it was Real Ale. By flavor, I ranked it third. It was the Saint Arnold's Icon.
The color on this was light. I should have known it was Lakefire. With a lame after taste and pour hops I should have known it was a Pale Ale in an IPA world. I wrongly presumed it was Saint Arnolds. This was ranked the worst.
This had Sierra Nevada written all over it. Pine cone scent revealed western hops. It had spicy and expansive flavor. The lacking after-taste was typically of SN dry hopping. This came in at a very enjoyable fourth.
So there we were. Me and my buddy. Both confident That Beer #5 was the best. Neither of us thought the answer would be that simple. We have two different flavor profiles. I am significantly more the hop head and rye lover. Nevertheless, we both agreed that Real Ale Full Moon was the top rye beer. The Hop Rod was unanimous second. We differed on wether Sierra Nevada or Saint Arnold's was third and fourth.
The joy I felt was pretty intense. There was a strong sense of pride in the Texas product from Real Ale. I was already an apologist for their beer but the blind testing merely reaffirmed their dominance in a vibrant field of the beer world. I hope the beer world gets more rye beers in the future. I now know Real Ale is ready to take on the challengers.