This post is big #200 for Hoppy Boston. Considering the fact that I started this blog on a bit of a whim I never really thought I would get to this point, but here I am. Two hundred posts in and I am still having a blast writing the blog and interacting with my readers and fellow craft beer enthusiasts. I would like to pretend that I had a big plan for post #200, but it kind of snuck up on me. I figure it is appropriate that this post is another beer review since I started this blog as an excuse to try any and every craft beer and share my thoughts. Other blogs had been great resources in helping me find great local beer, and I hoped to do the same for my readers. I guess it’s fitting that this review is of a beer that is common in Boston, but flies under the radar a little, Harpoon Brewery’s Rich and Dan’s Rye IPA. Harpoon founders Rich and Dan brewed this beer to celebrate the brewery’s 25th anniversary, and it quickly became a fan favorite. This beer was brewed to be complex, with complicated but still complementary malt and hop flavors. Rich and Dan’s Rye IPA is brewed with Pale, Caramel, Vienna and Rye malts along with Chinook, Centennial and Falconer’s Flight hops. It is available year round in 12 oz. bottles and on draft.
Harpoon Rich and Dan’s Rye IPA pours a clear deep amber with a moderate cream colored head. The smell is mostly earthy and floral hops with some muted malty notes. The hops are the first thing you taste too, touches of pine, cut grass and a little lemon. The malts meld well with the hoppiness contributing a bold and spicy rye flavor and just a hint of caramel. The flavor is accompanied by a solid but not mouth puckering bitterness. This is the right combination of malt and hops. It is challenging to find the right hop profile to complement the spiciness of rye, but when done right I love rye IPAs. The beer is medium bodied and drinkable, but packs a little punch at 6.9% ABV. This is a really good beer, Harpoon’s flagship IPA is one of the beers that introduced me to the style, but I like this beer significantly more. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Harpoon Reviews:
Harpoon Citra Victorious, Harpoon The Long Thaw, Harpoon Beer Hall/First Frost Ale, Harpoon Saison Various
The story behind Westfield River Brewing Company is reminiscent to the way many other small breweries begin – a group of friends hanging out, enjoying great beer, and making grand plans that didn’t include their current jobs. Founded in 2012 in Westfield, MA these friends set out to make a variety of drinkable, but still flavorful beers. A much better plan than working a 9-5 job that you have no passion for! Westfiled River is currently in the process of moving their operation to Southwick, MA. The new brewery and tasting room should be open to the public this Fall. In the meantime you can sample their selections on draft and in 12 oz. cans distributed throughout the state. Westfield River Brewing Company’s flagship beer is Charlie in the Rye IPA, named after the brewers’ favorite dog. Charlie in the Rye is brewed with caramel malt, rye and honey providing sweet and spicy notes to balance the heaping additions of Falconer’s Flight hops.
Westfield River Charlie in the Rye pours a deep amber, slightly cloudy with a mild cream-colored head. The smell starts with a big burst of juicy citrus hops, followed by some spicy undertones of rye. The malts come through stronger in the flavor, with spicy rye, grainy barley and just a hint of sweetness from the honey. There is also significant hop flavor, touches of lemon, grapefruit and pine. The beer is medium bodied, complex but drinkable, with a mild but noticeable hop bitterness. At 5.8% ABV it isn’t a session beer, but it is low enough in alcohol that it won’t put you under the table if you have a couple. The finish is clean with a little hoppy bite on the tongue. This is a very solid version of a rye IPA, nicely melding the diverse flavors together. I’ll definitely be trying more beers from Westfield River in the future. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
There is no doubt that the craft beer business is booming – it seems like a new brewery opens in the Northeast every month! Each week local and national craft breweries release new and exciting beers, giving the consumer an overwhelming number of options. Unlike many macro-brew drinkers, craft beer connoisseurs tend to drink many different brands and styles. Even before I started this blog I would gravitate towards trying new things. This presents a quandary for established craft brewers, how do you balance making the styles your loyal customers know and love with producing innovative beers to attract new drinkers? One brewery currently accomplishing this balancing act is Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, VT. Otter Creek started brewing their line of craft ales in 1991, and merged with Wolaver’s Organic Ales in 2002. Otter Creek is known for year-round releases like their popular Copper Ale and Stovepipe Porter along with a set of seasonal releases. Their beers are currently distributed to 22 states. To accommodate the changing craft beer market Otter Creek has started to develop some new beer styles that complement their existing line-up. One of these new releases is Kind Ryed IPA, a rye IPA brewed with large additions of American hops.
Otter Creek Kind Ryed IPA pours a slightly cloudy orange with a mild off-white head. The smell is all American hops, bursts of citrus and tropical fruit followed by some mild pine aromas. The taste is very hop-forward too, strong flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and guava with some mild resin and earthy notes. The malt provides a nice balance, you get the spicy and woodsy notes from the rye along with a touch of caramel. Rye IPAs can vary quite a bit in the balance of flavors between the rye malt and hop flavors, and both are present here but the hops are stronger (which is my personal preference). The beer is pleasantly carbonated with a medium body. At 6.5% ABV it is solid but still very drinkable. The finish is slightly bitter, with a pleasantly hoppy after taste. With great American hop flavor and solid support from the rye malts, Otter Creek Kind Ryed IPA is one of the better rye IPAs I’ve tried. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Vermont has become a haven for innovative microbreweries, and one of the founders of this movement is Magic Hat brewing company, which has been brewing in South Burlington since 1994. Magic Hat brews popular year-round beers, such as their ubiquitous #9, as well as seasonals and single batch beers. With the growing popularity of microbrews in general and of the IPA style in particular Magic Hat began their IPA on tour series. Available in 6-packs and variety 12-packs the IPA on tour series shows the range of the style, using different malts, varieties of hops and yeast strains to make very different beers that all fit somewhere in the IPA style. One of the newest members of the IPA on tour pantheon is Ticket to Rye, a rye IPA. When done correctly, the use of rye as an adjunct grain in hop-forward ales provides a spicy note to the malt that complements the bitterness of the hops.
Ticket to Rye pours an amber-red with a stable off-white head. The first whiff gives a mild, grassy hop aroma. The first taste gives a good hop bitterness that you would expect form the 80 IBU’s. The malt backbone provides good balance, and with the rye providing a spiciness that complements without dominating the flavor profile. At 7.1% ABV this borders on a double IPA, without being two heavy or overly bitter. Hoppy Boston Score: 4.0/5.