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Monday, January 28, 2013

BridgePort Takes a Rye Turn

I'm beginning to think Jeff Edgerton likes rye.  When he replaced Karl Ockert as BridgePort's brewmaster, he brought in a new slate of beers that included Kingpin--now a stalwart--which had among its selling points the inclusion of rye.  Now comes Smooth Ryed*, a single-hopped pale/IPA with 10% malted rye. 

Rye is a funny grain.  It is invariably described as "spicy," but in real-world situations you may get tannic, minty, soapy, or wheat-like.  I have not made a careful enough study to know how breweries evoke these different flavors--rye comes in various forms and can be used in the mash in various ways.  But whatever they're doing, it seems to result in different flavors.  I enjoy the spicy, minty, and wheat-like, but I'm not so hot on the soapy and I hate the tannic.  Picking up a bottle of rye beer is like spinning the roulette wheel.

Breweries have been using rye forever, but it seems like it has lately become even more the trend.  (Rye whiskey is having a moment as well, so maybe there's something to that--or maybe Sierra Nevada's Ruthless Rye is the culprit.)  It can be brewed dark, hoppy, sour, or light--or combinations of the above.  Jeff seems to like the way it interacts with hops, and in both Kingpin and Smooth Ryed I get an astringency that dances very close to the overly-tannic line.  They do frame the hops, and in the Centennial-bomb that is SR, this isn't a bad thing.  Smooth Ryed is a seriously juicy beer, more energetic and less severe than Kingpin.

Last week I mentioned the sad fortunes of MacTarnahan's/Portland Brewing, which has been casting around for decades to locate its voice.  BridgePort has had similar troubles at various times over the years.  Since Jeff Edgerton has taken over the reigns, though, BridgePort has become a more cohesive line.  Kingpin and Smooth Ryed are closer kin to the flagship IPA--along with pre-Edgerton Hop Czar--than were beers like Ropewalk and my beloved ESB.   They are also tacking a lot closer to where the beer geek lives than to whatever a marketing person might think the masses want.  Smooth Ryed is a burly 6.3% with 55 IBUs of zing (and with tons of late-hopping, it seem hoppier than that).  The rye is a further step in the direction of character instead of compromise.  An interesting development.

(Full disclosure: BridgePort sent me a sample of Smooth Ryed.)

*Horrible name.  You really need the image of the motorcyle on the label to jog your mind into reading it as "ride" rather than "wry-ed."  Smooth Ryde would have been better, but actaully, quickly abandoning the play-on-word concept would have been the best of all.  It's so bad I wonder if the name itself jeopardizes the beer.  For some reason rye causes breweries to make puns, and they should probably consider knocking it off.


  1. Thanks for the heads-up on this beer. I am a fan of rye beers (and an even bigger fan of rye whiskey), so I'll be on the lookout for this one.

    I feel it worth mentioning that rye beers have been very popular among homebrewers for more than a decade, with Denny Conn's Rye IPA ( a benchmark recipe. I have no way to prove it, but I'm convinced that the recent wave craft brewed rye beers has been largely inspired by the popularity of rye among homebrewers.

  2. I completely missed the "ride" pronounciation also. I was saying Rye ed. How about Rye'd?

  3. I don't know...I think Flat Tail's Mustache Rye'd Red Ale is a pretty funny name.