Now that Columbus Craft Beer Week has come to an end it’s worth looking back on some of the beers that deserve special mention. While my one pint of the official collaboration beer Dysfunctionale was neither here nor there, I did come across some exceptional beers while making the rounds. Everyone knows that Lineage makes a tasty kettle sour, but they really took things to a new level with the Barrel Aged Brett Saison. The Wolf’s Ridge/Urban Artifact/Market Garden collaboration Warmug improbably made a sour beer infused with both fruit and coffee seem like a good idea, and Wolf’s Ridge Tripel Whiskey, aged for 12 months in Watershed bourbon barrels, was gloriously decadent. However, no beer I tried could stand toe to toe with Barley’s Breakfast of Conquerors, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout infused with coarse ground Honduran coffee beans, and aged in barrels that were first used to make bourbon, then maple syrup, and finally this glorious beer. If you get a chance to try that beer do not pass it up.
One that almost slipped under my radar was the Ill Mannered/Sideswipe collaboration, Ill Side Rye IPA, until I read this testimonial by Steve Croyle on Facebook this past Saturday morning:
Sideswipe and Ill Mannered collaborated on a Rye IPA that might be the best beer in Columbus right now. Of course this is insanely fresh, so that helps, and you have to be partial to the rye, which I am. Still, I don’t say “wow” to often when I take a first sip.
I too am a big fan of rye-forward beers, so I made a pilgrimage up to Powell on Saturday evening and brought home a howler for closer inspection.
- Brewery: Ill Mannered/Sideswipe collaboration (Powell/Columbus, OH)
- Style: Rye IPA
- ABV: 7.0%
- IBUs: 60
Since this beer is not packaged and both breweries have a modest internet presence details are not easy to come by, so I reached out to Ill Mannered’s Tom Ayers for a little insight on the recipe. It’s made with an all-American array of hops—Magnum, Simcoe, Columbus and Chinook—including a very generous dry hop charge. Malted rye accounts for just over 20% of the malt bill. Otherwise pretty standard numbers for an IPA, 7% abv and 60 IBU.
Ill Side fills the glass with a translucent, deep golden liquid with a slight orange hue, and is topped with two fingers of soft and creamy white head. Initially there is a slight haze, but as the beer warms it disappears leaving a clear but still mildly translucent beer. The nose is redolent with the resinous, slightly dank odor of freshly picked Pacific Northwest hops. The first dozen or so sips follow a predictable pattern, a wave of assertive rye spiciness rises up and washes over my tongue, leaving the taste receptors on the side of my tongue tingling in its wake. By my second glass the rye flavors are not quite so dominant, either due to the warming of the beer or more likely the submission of my taste buds. I can start to pick out the smooth slightly caramel tinged notes of the underlying malts, and the fruity, coniferous hop character can be discerned at the finish. The mouthfeel is smooth, almost soft, for the first half of each sip, but that gives way to a dry, spicy finish that leaves you wanting another sip almost immediately, like some sort of Jedi mind trick.
Maybe it’s just my imagination but it seems like the “rye” character of some rye IPAs on the market has been dialed back from way things used to be. Maybe there is a perception that rye spiciness is a thing not to be overdone, like prevailing views on hop bitterness. There’s none of that mamby pamby thinking with this beer. All of the ingredients work in harmony to showcase the spicy flavor of the malted rye, which is unquestionably the star of the show. The old school hop flavors (and by that I mean 3-5 years ago) work nicely with the rye. I’ll bet it would make an amazing pairing with a freshly cooked reuben. I’m told there’s enough supply that this beer should be on at the Ill Mannered taproom in Powell for a couple more weeks, and presumably a similar amount at Sideswipe.
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers of this style, 8 = very good, a standout, 7 = a decent beer but there are better choices out there, 6 = below average, some flaws show through, 3-5 = poor, significant flaws and should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.