After spending the day skiing, I was happily surprised when I came home by a 12-pack of Terrapin Beer Co.‘s year-round offerings on my doorstep. The few “big” beers I’ve had a chance to sample from the brewery have impressed me immensely, and I’m happy to be able to sample some of their regular lineup. Not to sound like a slave to marketing, but I also find their “mascot” and the artwork on their bottles amazing.
Terrapin was founded by two brewers in Athens, GA in 2002, and has focused on making unique brews since the beginning. Their flagship beer, a pale ale brewed with rye, certainly proved this was a good area of focus – the Rye Pale Ale won the American Pale Ale Gold Medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival. Along with their four year-round offerings (the rye pale, a highly-hopped brown, a golden, and an unfiltered wheat brewed with honey), Terrapin offers four “extreme” seasonals, and experiments from head brewer Spike Buckowski. The brewery also collaborated with Left Hand Brewing on the rye-tacular Terra-Rye’Zd.
I’ll work my way through the Terrapin line-up, starting with the Rye Pale. From the bottle;
One of the more unique beers coming out of the South, the Terrapin Rye Pale Ale offer a new twist on a classic style. By using an exact amount of rye this beer offers a complex flavor and aroma that is … IN TUNE WITH YOUR TASTE.
Pour is a surprisingly light golden orange – while I know pales are usually pretty “light” colored beers, this one looks like a lager save the orange hue. The head is thin and dissolves quickly, but is sticky enough to lace the glass as the beer goes on. Nice and sweet nose, with some spiciness, piney hops and a hint of rye.
Balanced or well-rounded would be the best way to describe the flavor of Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale. There are sweet malt flavors at the front of a sip, hop bitterness at the back, and rye in the middle. The malts aren’t overly sweet, and the bitterness of the hops (and there are a lot – Amarillo, Cascade, East Kent Goldings, Fuggle and Magnum) is tempered by the rye’s spicyness. The mouthfeel is, like the appearance, a bit lighter than your typical pale ale. Carbonation is pretty mild, and the brew has a nice dry finish.
This is an intensely drinkable pale ale. The rye adds a bit of complexity that usually isn’t there in a pale, and the light body and dry finish make for a great session beer. I’d also say the Rye Pale would be a great lawnmower beer – even ice-cold, the strong rye and hop flavors would make for a far better tasting drink than your typical macro lager.
Terrapin’s beers are available in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and online at Bruisin’ Ales.