This is the third review in the Beer Camp series. The other posts can be found here:
CANfusion “Rye Bock” – Sierra Nevada / Oscar Blues
Traditional bocks are normally on the darker, maltier, and sweeter side…and are a favorite style of mine. I can’t say I’ve ever had a rye bock before, but it would make sense that the addition of rye would bring a spicier, possible less sweet take on this classic beer style. The pour shows me two conflicting visuals:
- Not much head…maybe a half inch at best. Yellowish white in color and made up of mostly small bubbles.
- High overall carbonation…presenting itself in a large volume of large size bubbles rising up from all surfaces on the glass, and serving to maintain a solid foam layer on the surface.
These two things occurring seem a bit odd to me, as normally when you see this much suspended carbonation, you also get a head so big that you have to pour carefully to just empty the bottle (can). The color is sort of an orange amber. Honestly is much lighter than I expected- it’s pretty similar in color to the last one I reviewed, and that was an India Pale Lager. Of course, the taste will be the true judge, but right now, this really doesn’t look like a bock to me.
Let’s bring it in for a smell. Overall aroma is very mild- you really have to get close to smell anything at all. When you do, you are rewarded with a nice combination of hops up front, but a nice caramel malty sweetness right behind. I really don’t smell anything that I would identify as a “rye” aroma…if there is such a thing. I am wondering if my nose isn’t working…it’s really difficult to smell anything at all in this, though what is there is good :) I should mention that my favorite IPA’s are on the sweeter, maltier side. This has the indications that it could be in the same direction as those. I hope it is.
We taste. Hmm. I would not call this a bock. There really isn’t enough dark roast, sweetness, maltiness, or any of that to lead me in that direction. The flavor is dominated by hops, like the aroma, but unlike the aroma, the bock flavors are just not there in the taste. To me, this is an IPA. Then again, you do get the noticeable edge from the rye…it almost bring the flavor to the sour side, while being medium bitter and spicy at the same time. So I guess we would say this is a RyePA.
I do wonder why they didn’t just call this a RyePA. This doesn’t look or taste like a bock. Maybe they named it after smelling it, but before tasting. Something else interesting to note is that at 45 IBU, this tastes every bit as bitter as Electric Ray did to me, and that was at 70 IBU. Perhaps it is the rye flavor that is making me think that, even though chemically this should be much less bitter.
If you’re a fan of IPAs, or if you’re a fan of rye beers (though I imagine there are a lot less of those), you’ll probably enjoy this. For me, there’s not really enough unique going on to make this stand out in my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s good- and it was enjoyable to drink, but compared to the unique flavor combinations that I’ve tasted in Beer Camp so far…this falls toward the bottom. The question is- how far down…
Alt Route “Altbier” – Sierra Nevada / Victory
I don’t think I’ve ever had an altbier. Let’s figure out what they are. The long and short of it is that it is an old German style, often amber in color, made with hybrid ale and lager yeast, and is fermented warm, but aged cool, for an interesting mixture of ale flavor but lager texture and refreshment. Sounds intriguing to me, let’s see how this one goes.
Alt Route pours easily into a craft beer glass (which is the closest thing I have to a straight sided Altbier glass) and raises about 3/4″ of yellowish white head. Carbonation size looks quite small, lending the head a creamy look. Lots of lacing on the glass. I only see a few small bubbles rising in the glass indicating that this is likely light on carbonation. Color is copper orange/brown and it is totally clear. I am intrigued by the look.
The aroma is honestly kind of weird. It lacks the sweeter, maltier notes I expected, and smells predominantly bitter and even a bit sour. Honestly I don’t like the smell very much…I’m hoping the taste will be much better. I’m guessing it’s the combination of citrus hop aroma mixed with grain base that is just giving me a weird impression here.
I immediately understand why this style seems to have a lot of fans. Assuming Alt Route is a good representation of the style (and I have no basis to know if it is or not), it miraculously hits you with 10 different intense flavors blasting onto your tongue, but then just as quickly as the flavors hit you, they fade to an extrememly smooth finish that takes you back to the basics of grain and hops. It really is a wow kind of experience. You’ve got hop bite and finish akin to an IPA, flavor depth similar to a well balanced pale ale, some roasty flavors from darker styles, a bit of alcohol peeking out, and the palate of an amber lager.
It’s interesting, because there aren’t really any particular flavors that stick out as “unique” by themselves- the various hop flavors, citrus, pine, and general bitter, the dark roast, the caramel, the fruitiness that you get from German wheat beers, etc… It’s the combination and the packaging that makes this unique and fun. And by packaging I don’t mean the bottle, I mean cramming all of those flavors into a smooth, easy drinking beer, that somehow comes in at 6.6 ABV and 50 IBU, though you probably wouldn’t guess it if you didn’t know.
This was a really fun review for me. I got to try a new style, and (based on other reviews) got to try a good one at that…it currently sits at number 13 of all Altbiers on ratebeer (though the rankings of newer beers can be subject to big swings due to smaller sample size). This will slot in near the top of the pack for now, and you can bet I will be seeking out some other Altbiers for further “research…”
As I said in the intro, one of my goals in reviewing this 12 pack was to rank the beers from best to worst, and then compare my rankings to others that have done so. Half way through the sampler, here’s where we stand, best on top, worst on the bottom:
- Maillard’s Odyssey
- Alt Route
- Yvan the Great
- Electric Ray
- Torpedo Pilsner
The question remains, can any of the remaining 6 dethrone Maillard’s Odyssey to grab the top spot? Will one fall below Torpedo Pilsner for the worst of the bunch? Stay tuned, the next review will be out in a few days…