2014's beer reviews begin with an American classic: Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic in northern California, recently arrived on these shores with its stablemates Racer 5 and Red Rocket. I'm a new covert to hop-forward rye beers, with Kinnegar Rustbucket and Dungarvan's Mahon Falls showing how its done. And now it turns out the Americans are making them as well. Well done them.
Hop Rod Rye is 8% ABV and made with a whole 18% of rye. Fancy! No, I don't know if that's good either. Can't argue with the aroma: super fresh mandarins laced with acidic pine. The flavour blends the elements beautifully: mouthwatering bitterness, the juicy fruitiness -- and the less subtle toffee elements of the amber malts are offset by the grassiness of the rye.
All of these bits, by themselves, can unbalance a beer badly but they really work well together here. It's not an easy drinker, and makes one very aware of everything that's in it, but as heavy hoppy American beers go, it's definitely up there.