The rye-based ale most local craft beer drinkers are familiar with is surely Real Ale's Full Moon Pale Rye Ale (the one with the blue label), which we quite enjoy and which has a nice mix of subtle flavors.
If you want to try that beer on steroids, you simply must pick up Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye, an incredibly fun beer we're ashamed to admit we hadn't sampled earlier. This ale has an 18 percent rye mix, according to its label, and weighs in at 8 percent alcohol (though that shows up only as a warm feeling in the gut and never obscures the flavor).
First off, it was impossible to miss the aroma, which was like huffing a loaf of deli rye straight from the oven. The rye gave each sip a dry, crisp feeling, and made the flavors seem that much more robust and punchy. It did the opposite in the finish, however, and lingered with the bitter hop flavors, creating an amazing aftertaste that wasn't really a taste at all -- it was more of a scent, floral and sugary, drifting up from the throat as we exhaled. It's a sensation we've not experienced from many beers, and it was very much welcome.
A friend described the complexity (some of it certainly thanks to the rye, and some likely due to the hops) like some weird candy that has ginger or spices or flowers in it. That's not far off.
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The curious thing about this beer is that the sweet or malty notes don't really show up in the middle of the tongue at all, but it still feels balanced because that impression is left in the aftertaste.
The hops are obvious but always in concert with the rye, which is so prominent it's hard to tell what character the hops would have without it. That's no complaint, however, as the flavors work extremely well together.
If you're not a fan of rye bread, this just isn't going to be the beer for you. But if you are, or if you're just neutral and aren't scared of some hops, this is a must-have.
This is a great beer. Try it.