Friday, January 4, 2013

Boulevard's Rye-On-Rye

Today’s review is of one bottle, consumed in two parts, published in one post, but in two sections.   

Got it? 

Think of this post as half-review and half-taste experiment.   

Understanding why may explain much about Rye-On-Rye by the Boulevard Brewing Company.

Rye-On-Rye by the Boulevard Brewing Company
Batch 2013-1
12% ABV
47 IBUs

But, first, some context: 

Rye-On-Rye was introduced to me via moderate fanfare amongst the beer community I trust most.   

Allowing their praise alone to guide, I approached Rye-On-Rye absent of my own due diligence.  That is to say that I knew nothing about this beer other than I really enjoy Boulevard’s Tank 7, and rye beers are among my favorites. 

And, as stated, those I trust enjoyed this year’s Rye-On-Rye. 

So, I anticipated Rye-On-Rye to be something in taste similar to two beers I deeply admire (both highlighted by rye), Founder’s Red’s Rye P.A., and Firestone Walker’s Wookie Jack.   

You now know my basic expectation at the time of first encountering Rye-On-Rye.  Now, let’s talk about the beer. 

Rye-On-Rye poured a very dark copper.  I don’t think identifying it as brown would be overstatement. 

A big, thick head quickly developed, and just as quickly settled to become a thin, icing-like layer. 

Tackling this beer (and I do think “tackling,” is appropriate), I was immediately introduced to a 12.0% alcohol beer, by volume, and one that does not - at least not initially - mask nearly any of it.   

The blast from the alcohol should have been no surprise, despite how surprised I was.  The scent was enormous with daunting bourbon overtones.  I should have been prepared. 

My palate was warmed by the alcohol, but not nearly as much as my throat.  And, I can’t lie; the experience, initially, was not exactly pleasant.   

Please recall that I was anticipating the refined balance of Wookey Jack, but was instead met by a vicious challenge to my very manhood. 

For a moment, I may have even gone so far as to describe Rye-On-Rye as cloying.   

But here’s the thing, as I continued to savor Rye-On-Rye, the more it mellowed.  As it did, qualities that its fans adore were beginning to emerge.   

The thought developed that this may be a beer worth cellaring. Time seemed to be Rye-On-Rye’s friend. 

However, being that this particular bomber was already uncorked, such an option seemed restricted.   

Instead, I have saved what remained of that bottle and intend to try again now.  Hopefully the duration of days finished the job that minutes had started.   

So, please continue to read as we journey together toward section two, the taste-experiment.   

Day two. Actually some days removed from the tasting described above.   

Rye-On-Rye produces nearly no head, but maintains some soda-like bubbling. 

I am struck by the remarkable hue of this beer.  Perhaps “copper” or even brown failed to adequately describe Rye-On-Rye’s appearance.   

The term for the exact color escapes me.  However, when one conjures Halloween, I imagine that thought is shaded in the same tint as displayed by this beer.

The hint of bourbon is still active in the aroma, but not nearly as overwhelming as it had been during initial sampling. Sniffing hard, the scent rushes through the nostrils and delivers quickly the same gentle burning in the back of the throat that I recall from Rye-On-Rye’s taste. 

I cautiously sip.   

This beer has certainly mellowed.  While the flavor of the bourbon has evened, its warming effect remains.   

What I do not get from this beer, despite Boulevard’s chosen nomenclature, is much notice of rye.   

I have not had many barleywines; however, Rye-On-Rye reminds me of some barleywines I have tried. 

I am beginning to extract more from this beer.  A caramel sweetness for one. Definitely some pecan residue.  Even a very slight hint of vanilla.  And maybe a grape wine-like thing going on. 

The mouthfeel is quite even, contains little carbonation, and leaves mild sugar stickiness on the teeth. 

All of which are leading me to believe that I truly like the Rye in this Boulevard beer but may be less keen about it being “On Rye.”  This is to say that I would love to try this beer sans barrel-aging. 

Yet, I appreciate the bourbon aspect, although it may be excessive in this particular case. 

However, the complexity of Rye-On-Rye is growing on me, as it did during the first tasting. 

It may be my masculinity attempting to rebuff Rye-On-Rye’s attack, but I find myself truly appreciating this beer. 

I have consistently stated on this blog, rewards complex beers over the boring, so long as the complexity is also enjoyable.  Rye-On-Rye is a beer that the consumer learns to love.  I sure have.   

And so far as being distinct, this beer is very little like anything I have had before. 

Rye-On-Rye deserves, and receives, no less than 3.5 of five possible stars.  I also recommend it, with the note to approach more prepared than I. 


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