Smuttynose Ry(e)an Ale

Smuttynose Brewing Co.

Portsmouth, NH

Ry(e)an Ale

8% ABV

There are a handful of breweries out there that I never seem to give enough credit to, even though whenever I have one of their beers I’m extremely impressed. Smuttynose is one of those breweries. I’ve never had a bad beer from them, but they’ve never been one of my go-to breweries. But I’ll be damned if that’s not going to change after trying Ry(e)an.

Having never heard of this one, I was surprised to see it when it showed up in a recent trade. I was even more surprised when some of my friends in the Northeast freaked when they heard I got my hands on a bottle. Now that I know the backstory, I can understand the excitement.

Ry(e)an is a rye ale brewed exclusively for Julio’s Liquors in Westboro, MA, and is aged in Sazarec rye whiskey, Buffalo Trace bourbon and Four Roses bourbon barrels hand-picked by the store’s whiskey club. You can’t get it anywhere else except at the store, so it’s insanely exclusive. Also, it’s an absolutely freaking amazing beer.

The bourbon wafts out of the bottle as soon as it’s opened. The pour is a deep amber verging on a brown. It’s topped off with a razor-thin head that’s there and gone. Some light lacing and nice alcohol legs, too.

You can tell this is a big, big beer from the nose alone. Huge notes of cherries, toffee, caramel, figs, plums and vanilla. There’s a nice slight spiciness from the rye that tingles in your nose. And it’s all coated with a thick layer of bourbon and oak. An absolutely gorgeous smelling beer.

What’s most surprising about this, especially since it’s a rye beer, is that there’s no bite on the tongue. Instead, it’s this amazingly robust and velvety-smooth flavor that coats your entire mouth. The sweeter cherry, fig and vanilla notes come through first, and the caramel and toffee notes come out on the end. The bourbon is very present throughout. There are definite hints of oakiness and vanilla from the barrels there, too. The rye comes through most noticeably on the back as there’s a great dry finish that’s a nice contrast to the smoothness of the rest of the beer.

I love rye beers. The bitter bite that the rye imparts in the brewing process gives the beers a really great punch. But Ry(e)an was like no rye beer – hell, no bourbon barrel-aged beer – I’ve had before. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was as smooth as velvet. Contrast that with that rye bite on the back, and this is definitely one to put on your “to-drink” list.

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