Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The "Rye" of the Tiger

Rye.  It is a maligned grain.  Pliny the Elder once referred to rye as "a very poor food" that "only serves to avert starvation." Although grown in the wild in Anatolia and domestically by the Romans in a few hinterlands, rye nearly disappeared from the archaeological record for quite a while.  It reappeared in the Middle Ages, when farmers began to cultivate the grain in Central and Northern Europe.  Once harvested, people found a variety of uses for the grain, from bread to whiskey.

It would only be a matter of time until someone would try to brew beer with rye.  The "someone" was the Bavarians, who began to use rye in the Middle Ages to produce "Roggenbier" or a "Rye Beer."  However, a few bad harvests led to the decision that rye should be used to make bread rather than beer.  Then there was the Reinheitsgebot, or the Bavarian purity law.  That law declared that beer could be made only with barley, water, yeast, and hops, and rye nearly disappeared from the beer-making scene.  And that absence lasted for centuries.

More recently, craft brewers have revived the use of rye to produce beers.  One such brewer is Great Lakes Brewing Company, which incorporated rye malts in the production of a rye India Pale Ale that they called, the "Rye of the Tiger IPA."  Puns aside, brewers use rye with a purpose.  The grain provides a grainy, somewhat spicy flavor that contributes to the complexity of a beer. 

This spicy character is what Great Lakes sought to provide to the Rye of the Tiger.  It is all in the label: "[t]his kitty has claws.  Named for its one-two punch of fierce hops and sharp rye content, our Rye of the Tiger Pale Ale is a thrilling ale with bit, handcrafted for the fighter in all of us."  The brewers also describe the beer has being full bodied and loaded with hops, with the rye malt "adding a spicy complexity to every sip."

Great Lakes produces the Rye of the Tiger with four malts and three hops. The brewers use Harrington 2-Row Base Malt, Crystal 45, Biscuit and, of course, Rye malts.  They also use Columbus, Simcoe and Warrior hops. 

The Rye of the Tiger looks like any IPA, pouring an orange color with a light, off-white foam.  The aroma of this beer clearly suggests the hops, and, the contribution of the rye is a little difficult to sense.  There is some rye aroma, along with some grass or grain elements, but the hops clearly predominate.  The hops also prevail in the taste, with a combination of piny and citrusy elements at the forefront.  There is a malty background to the beer, and, in that malt one could get that spicy, grainy flavor from the rye.  The rye is definitely more present in the taste than the aroma.

When  it comes to pairing this beer, the brewers suggest fried chicken, milder blue cheeses and spiced desserts.  I think that this beer could generally be paired like any India Pale Ale, including grilled dishes like grilled steak, turkey or hamburgers.

A six pack of this beer runs about $9.99.  If you are interested in trying a different IPA, then this beer is definitely one to consider.


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