Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, CA
Ruthless Rye IPA

Much-maligned rye has made a serious comeback and I am a huge proponent of its revival. It’s most commonly added to IPAs to impart some peppery spice to the bitterness already present. So, in the hands of Sierra, this is an exciting addition to an already strong seasonal line.

Pour carefully: a billowing, crackling, faintly tan head explodes over the top of the beer. As it descends slowly, it sticks to the inside of the glass. Extremely fine carbonation can just be seen – the clarity is excellent, but the beer is dark. The color is a clear toffee brown, like burnished oak.

The aroma is initially a bit like wet socks. There is pine sap, faint lemon, and the contradictory aromas of damp wood and burnt pumpkin seeds. The mouthfeel is very good, starting off with a creaminess that coats the mouth, but which is instantly stripped away by an intense woody bitterness, like a dortmunder. That drifts backwards with the swallow, giving way to a combination of intense citrus bite and the nuttiness of those toasted pepitas from the aroma.

This is a fascinating beer – it is neither pure hop bomb, nor just a peppery rye ale. It has the lager-like qualities of a German pilsner, but the piney tartness of an IPA. Certainly, it’s one of the most interesting beers I’ve had in a while, and it’ll wreck your palate for anything milder to follow, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t badass. I’m biased: I love Sierra, but this really is a sick brew.

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