Skewed into a different style
A Review of Rye Hopper by French Broad Brewing Co.
Posted on 6/21/2011 by Chops
My co-founder and I are enjoying some tasty brews over at Tyler's Taproom in Durham, NC. Rye Hopper caught my eye as a local brew, described by French Broad Brewery as ''an Asheville interpretation of an American Rye Ale.'' This kind of description always makes me a bit nervous because it usually means one of two things. Either the brewery set out to make something truly unique and succeeded, or a resulting beer wasn't exactly right, but it was interesting enough to market and sell. This isn't to say that a misfit beer can't be tasty. It most certainly can and there are many delicious oddball beers out there. But sometimes a beer can get skewed right out if it's intended style. This is what I suspect happened to Rye Hopper.

First off, I should note that Rye Hopper is a very enjoyable beer. I would happily order more and enjoy them all. But here's the kicker, everything about it (aside from appearance) feels like a pale ale. In the glass, it has a very nice rye ale coloration, sitting in that happy middle ground between an amber and a warm brown. So you definitely have a rye expectation going in for that first whiff, which is where it starts to get confusing. No rye aroma to be found, smells just like a straight pale ale or a weaker IPA. But like the name suggests, it's a hoppy rye ale, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt.

The first sip is where it gets weird. It tastes exactly like a solid pale ale. No rye anywhere to be found, just that classic front loaded hoppy feel with a medium-bodied middle ground. Some light toasty and caramel notes, plus a bit of citrus swirling around. The finish is decently bitter and sticks around for a while. So needless to say, it was a bit confusing for me. I couldn't find any rye notes in the beer, which made me question my ability to taste rye malts. In an effort to make sense of it all, I let my co-founder take a sip. His eyebrows rumbled in bemusement as well, so I asked what it tastes like. ''Tastes like a pale ale,'' he responded. Vindication, but no less confusion.

Overall, Rye Hopper is a very nice beer. I'd really like to call it a nice pale ale, but French Broad says it's a rye ale. I can certainly recommend it as a good brew for most levels of beer drinker. It has a great taste, lovely body and I will certainly enjoy more of it in the future. But I have to ding it for the style, because it's just not a great representation.

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Rye Hopper by French Broad Brewing Co.
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