Whisky Advocate

Review: two whiskey barrel aged rye beers

August 4th, 2010

The reason why I initially named the magazine “Malt Advocate” is because the magazine equally covered beer and whisky. (Malt being the common thread.) I was a beer writer before I wrote about whisky.

I still have been reviewing beer, freelance,  for America’s longest running beer magazine, All About Beer. (A great magazine, by the way, if you are a beer enthusiast.)

I’ve now decided to focus my beer reviewing efforts back here, under the Malt Advocate umbrella. So, to kick things off,  I thought I would write about these two beers I recently received. Both have a whiskey connection: the are beers made with rye and aged in whiskey barrels. Their oak aging is evident but not excessive. They are best enjoyed at cellar temperature. And as you can see from my rating, I like both of them.

HE’BREW “R.I.P.A on Rye”(beer on left) is a rye double IPA aged in rye whiskey barrels.  (Six year old Sazerac Rye barrel, in case you were going to ask.) It checks in at 10% ABV. A sipping beer for sure. The bitter hop notes mask some of the rye spice, but there’s still plenty of rye spice to go around. I can really taste the spicy and citrus rye notes in the beer, along with the caramel, vanilla,  apricot, dark chocolate, espresso bean, and gritty, dry, rye barrel notes emerging and concentrating on the finish. Very bold and dynamic. ($12)

Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

RY(e)AN ALE is beer produced by Smuttynose brewery for Julio’s Liquors. It’s simply described as a “rye ale aged in bourbon barrels.” (Buffalo Trace and Four Roses, for the record.) It doesn’t have the hoppy bitterness like the HE’BREW beer (it’s smoother too!), but it sure is full-bodied  (as it should be, if it wants to stand up to the wood) and fairly strong, logging in at 7.7% ABV. I can smell and taste the charred oak influence. It’s rich, sweet and malty, with chewy caramel, molasses, malted milk balls, plum skin, black cherry, licorice and pleasant orchard fruit for balance. Liquid Dessert! ($9)

Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

32 Responses to “Review: two whiskey barrel aged rye beers”

  1. deansheen says:

    Cant wait to try them both. Really looking forward to the HE’BREW for the Sazerac factor. I like HE’BREW’s Lennys RiPA and the guys that run that brewery seem to be nice people.

    Smuttynose puts out a consistent quality product as well.

    Good to see the beers back John.

  2. mongo says:

    “does whiskey count as beer?”

    • John Hansell says:

      Fundamentally, whiskey is distilled beer.

      • mongo says:

        sorry, john, that was just a random homer simpson quote. there’s one for every occasion.

        however, i should say that the one whisky barrel matured beer i’ve tried (some sort of bourbon barrel thing from oregon, if memory serves) made me think that beer should remain beer and not try to be whisky. but i’ll try to keep a more open mind.

  3. bgulien says:

    Now that’s a good idea.
    Now for the whisk[e]y matured in a beer barrel. ;-)

    • John Hansell says:

      That’s been done. By William Grant, I believe.(A Glenfiddich?) It was never imported to the U.S. and I never tasted it. But, I imagine someone out there has and can chime in here.

      • A Swiss Single Malt, Santis Malt from the Appenzeller region did this. I picked it up when I went over there in April. I have my review done (not posted yet) but overall the whisky is pretty darn good – you get some good hints of the beer (which I didn’t expect).

        I’d be happy to send you a sample of my bottle. Dr. Whisky will be getting one shortly, too.

      • Red_Arremer says:

        I think I heard that the standard Grants blend spends some in casks that previously held ale (or has a portion of whisky in it that does). Is that true?

      • George Jetson says:

        Chiming in here as requested. You are thinking of the Grant’s Ale Cask blended whisky (perish the thought). It’s okay, but nothing I’d go to great lengths to put my hands on. It was released at the same time as the Sherry Cask n.a.s. , which is a better blended in my book. To tell you the truth, I’be hard pressed to single out the Ale Cask from the standard n.a.s. Family Reserve in a blind tasting.

  4. Tanguy says:

    Will the Ry(e) an Ale be available in Chicago( at Binnies)?

    • DavidG says:

      The He’brew is in Binny’s – call before to insure that your location has it. I have bought it in South Loop and Glen Elyn. I really enjoyed it, and unfortunately this will be the only kosher run of this particular iteration of He’brew. I am cellering a 6-pack of bombers to hold me over. I can’t wait for the new limited Goose Island Bourbon County Stouts.

      • Barry Jay says:

        Goose Island…yes indeed, they make a wonderful IPA.. I’m also glad to see a beer pop in here now and again. Even other week or so, my neighbors meet in the woods behind the house to have a “Captain’s meeting” where we sample beers…,,none of us own boats so how it got the name escapes me. Anyway, tonight we’re going to sample Dogfish’s Squall IPA and Namaste. It’s always a crap shoot for me as to whether I’ll enjoy it….being the devoted Hop head that I am!

      • George Jetson says:

        Then you I’ll love the Bourbon County Coffee Stout. It’s made with Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso, sort of the melding of two Chicago institutions in one bottle.

    • PeteR says:

      Tanguy, you should contact brett@binnys.com. While Brett’s the Whiskey guy at Binny’s, he may have some pull with Binny’s beer person.

    • Tim says:

      Ry(e)an Ale is only available at Julios and they were nearing the end of their stock when I picked up my last case 2 weeks ago. My understanding is that this was matured in 9 ex-bourbon and rye barrels from single barrel bottlings selected by the Loch and Key Society during past Bourbon Crusades to Kentucky so there was quite a bit available. Amazing beer that has been getting better as it cellars – I see a noticable shift in the 3 months or so since it was released. Ryan will put some aside for you if call.

      http://www.lochandkey.com/WhiskeyClub/index.php
      http://www.juliosliquors.com/

      I look forward to enjoying this for the next couple of years and currently have 23 bottles stashed in the bunker.

      The last Bourbon Crusade to Kentucky was in late June and we sampled over 60 barrels at 5 distilleries over 3 days and chose 13 (I think… maybe 14 ;) which should start hitting the shelf within the next few weeks. An astonishing selection of bourbon for central MA with many single barrel bottlings currently stocked. They’re also starting to bottle for us UCF in some cases due to our insistent pestering.

      Cheers! Tim

  5. Matchsticks says:

    Just for fun – be neat to see you review Coors Light or Bud Light or for Malt Advocate – Curious how high up from zero the score would be. :)

  6. Red_Arremer says:

    It’s interesting to see beers here, but my girlfriend’s the beer person– not me.

    As long as you’re including more under the MA “umbrella” is there any chance you might review some rums?

  7. Zak Davis says:

    Hi John and all. This is Zak Davis, the Western Regional Sales Manager for Shmaltz Brewing Company, the makers of RIPA on RYE. First off, John, thanks so much for taking the time to review the beer. I’m so glad to see that you enjoyed it. We’ve been thrilled with that product and are really excited for our next batch to come out in the near future. Everyone else, thanks for all of the interest and support. This beer was a huge success for us this year and it has become a little tough to find on shelves, but don’t worry, we will be working more and more with barrels (Sazerac and other) and you can rest assured that there will be much more deliciousness down the road…including a Barrel Aged Vertical Jewbelation Blend. L’Chaim!! ~Zak

  8. B.J. Reed says:

    I recently tried the Smokehead Beer that came with my Smokehead 18 YO and it was amazing – Like drinking smoke- If you have a chance to try that one do not pass it up!

    • John Hansell says:

      You didn’t get the 18 here in the US, did you? AFAIK, it’s not being sold here yet.

      • B.J. Reed says:

        No, got it in UK – It is totally different than original younger version – I found it light with peat very muted compared to its younger brother.

  9. Matt L. says:

    Glad to see the beer coverage coming back. I recall MA steering me towards rather a few good beers back in the day. Personally, I think it lends a good sense of balance. Most of us can afford to try new premium beers far more often than we can buy a high-end bottle of whisk(e)y. And I, for one, need something to help me stop salivating as I read each new issue.

  10. TheMandarin says:

    I picked up a bottle of Ry(e)an Ale a few weeks back and it really was quite good. I normally pass beer over but as a Four Roses fan I wanted to check this out…especially after a positive recommendation from a friend. I’d say it was one of the better summer drinks I’ve had this year.

    To go a little off topic, the stand out “hot-weather” drinks I’ve had this summer would be Zuidan gin & tonic, Asyla with ice & water, my go-to Powers with ice & water, and a great bargain bourbon with ice…I’ll get back with the name.

  11. Ernest says:

    I was up in Newburyport Mass on vacation two weeks ago and stopped by Julios Liquors. Ryan was there and very helpful with beer and whiskey choices. I believe that the Trye)n Ale is only sold at Julios. They did a Buffalo Trace aged beer last year as well. Berkshire Brewing Co was the brewer

  12. Iain Russell says:

    An Edinburgh beer called Innes & Gunn is matured in whisky casks and many people love it. But I just couldn’t take to it – I have to confess it’s the only beer I’ve bought that I’ve had to pour down the sink. It was just too sickly sweet for my tastes – which might not be anything to do with the whisky cask maturation process, of course…

© Copyright 2014. Whisky Advocate. All rights reserved.