In 2014 the BJCP announced their first update in four years. It brought the elimination and addition of many styles, including full representation of a number of IPA variants, with black IPA and rye IPA coming out of the specialty category. Right on queue, Founders chose early 2015 to bring back their short lived 2006 dark rye IPA known simply as Founders Black Rye. While it doesn’t fit perfectly in either style, the beer is an interesting hybrid of the two.
At first glance what we have here is a stout, or porter. Getting anywhere close however lets your olfactory sense know this a different creature. A Cascadian dark or black pale ale perhaps? No, there is something spicy lingering.
A few years back a good friend, Hop Bunny G of HopBunnies.com, told me how she was loving rye beers at the moment. I confessed I wasn’t sure I could tell rye malts, like those in Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye IPA, from the stuff in Wheat Thins. Recently though, having had more exposure to them, I am starting to pick out that pumpernickel aroma and spicy kick that rye adds to a beer. This is what you take in when smelling a fresh poured Founders Black Rye.
Fresh, Founders Black Rye has a piquant pine nose, awash with dry hop aromatics, showing that this is intended as an IPA, to be consumed fresh. Don’t age beer, especially this one. The head is large, light brown, with foamy bubbles that last a good while and cling to the glass. The mouthfeel is medium, with less thickness to the body than we might expect in a beer this dark, with good carbonation. The taste is another surprise, while the malts give a subtle Heath Bar flavor, they are not oily or as present as a hoppy porter. The spiciness from the rye blends with the pine, although without much roasted sweetness. The finish is slightly astringent, and mostly dry and clean.
Founders Black Rye is a conundrum of an ale. Even with the expanded BJCP categories, it defies style definitions, existing as complex rye IPA, hidden within the coating of “de-bitterized black rye malts”. The overall effect is a complex, tasty brew. Not likely the first choice for hopheads, Black Rye offers a great way to get a huge hop taste, in a more complex IPA. A real winner you should pick-up and try yourself.