If you’ve worked your way through the rye beer spectrum, which includes styles as diverse as black lagers and pale ales, it’s time for a deeper dive into one subset of the rye rainbow: rye IPAs. Here, brewers have added a percentage of rye to the grain bill, lending richness and spice. Lucky for IPA lovers, it’s a natural pair to hop bitterness. As you taste through these seven exemplary rye IPAs, notice where rye peeks out from beneath the hops: a woody complement to pine flavors, or a prickly exclamation point after a bitter swallow.
Southern Prohibition Pow! Rye in the Kisser: Billed as a “rye spring ale,” this beer makes generous use of Lemondrop hops, which are easily detectable in its perfumey, lemon blossom aroma. The sip is juicy orange through and through, with a creamy body that wraps up with a resinous, bitter finish. Rye influence is subtle, adding some heft to the body and a kick on the swallow.
Thump Keg Rye IPA: Brewed to evoke the flavors of George Dickel rye whiskey, this rye IPA should appeal equally to bourbon barrel fans. Rye woodiness connects with mustier hop scents coming off the garnet pour, with strong vanilla that carries through to the sip. Resinous hop flavor hums underneath warm vanilla and notable malt sweetness, finishing with hop bitterness that lasts and lasts.
Terrapin Mosaic: The nose is all Mosaic hops on this spring seasonal: there’s plenty of grapefruit, but also a sort of grungy, sweaty scent that isn’t nearly as unpleasant as it sounds. Rye spice comes in quick on the smooth sip, then gives way to pine needles and sweet orange at the finish. It’s complex, and an excellent crash course in how Mosaic hops to boot.
Founders Black Rye: Back for the first time since 2006, this “rye black IPA” is actually… an excellent stout. There’s dark malt roast on the nose, but with enough wet grass-heavy German hops to make the IPA label not a complete misnomer. Flavors of macadamia nut and coffee roast herald a luscious stout, while the rye rushes in to dry out the finish.
Smuttynose Rhye IPA: If you’re a fan of East Coast IPAs, get your hands on this bottle. (Call it the Notorious B.I.G. of rye IPAs—or don’t.) Light orange and sweet onion hops are balanced by a firm caramel backbone, but with a prickly rye mouthfeel and low bitterness.
Reuben’s Brews Roasted Rye IPA: From aroma to initial sip, you’d wonder where the rye is in this balanced IPA. You’ll find earthy hops and toffee malt on the nose, with more toasted malt flavor and firm bitterness in the mouth. Then, the aha! moment at the finish: a peppery rye exclamation point dots the swallow.
Central Coast Catch 23: Like the Founders Black Rye, this is another black IPA that doesn’t quite hit that style square-on. Make no mistake, it’s still a great beer, but there’s not much dark roasted malt flavor. The nose offers a spectrum of hop aromas: grapefruit, grass and cattiness. This is a solid imperial (7.5%) IPA, with dark roast flavor that’s subtle at best. Some bitterness from those malts mingles with hop bitterness at the finish, with rye contributing some richness to the smooth swallow.