I'm beginning to think Jeff Edgerton likes rye. When he replaced Karl Ockert as BridgePort's brewmaster, he brought in a new slate of beers that included Kingpin--now a stalwart--which had among its selling points the inclusion of rye. Now comes Smooth Ryed*, a single-hopped pale/IPA with 10% malted rye.
Breweries have been using rye forever, but it seems like it has lately become even more the trend. (Rye whiskey is having a moment as well, so maybe there's something to that--or maybe Sierra Nevada's Ruthless Rye is the culprit.) It can be brewed dark, hoppy, sour, or light--or combinations of the above. Jeff seems to like the way it interacts with hops, and in both Kingpin and Smooth Ryed I get an astringency that dances very close to the overly-tannic line. They do frame the hops, and in the Centennial-bomb that is SR, this isn't a bad thing. Smooth Ryed is a seriously juicy beer, more energetic and less severe than Kingpin.
Last week I mentioned the sad fortunes of MacTarnahan's/Portland Brewing, which has been casting around for decades to locate its voice. BridgePort has had similar troubles at various times over the years. Since Jeff Edgerton has taken over the reigns, though, BridgePort has become a more cohesive line. Kingpin and Smooth Ryed are closer kin to the flagship IPA--along with pre-Edgerton Hop Czar--than were beers like Ropewalk and my beloved ESB. They are also tacking a lot closer to where the beer geek lives than to whatever a marketing person might think the masses want. Smooth Ryed is a burly 6.3% with 55 IBUs of zing (and with tons of late-hopping, it seem hoppier than that). The rye is a further step in the direction of character instead of compromise. An interesting development.
(Full disclosure: BridgePort sent me a sample of Smooth Ryed.)
*Horrible name. You really need the image of the motorcyle on the label to jog your mind into reading it as "ride" rather than "wry-ed." Smooth Ryde would have been better, but actaully, quickly abandoning the play-on-word concept would have been the best of all. It's so bad I wonder if the name itself jeopardizes the beer. For some reason rye causes breweries to make puns, and they should probably consider knocking it off.