Beer and Metal: Three Floyds' Rye da Tiger


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Given that you're apparently voluntarily reading something with "beer" in the headline, I'll assume I don't have to explain to you who Three Floyds are or what they do. Let's just get down to business. Rye da Tiger is a double rye IPA, an amped-up version of a beer the brewery released in collaboration with Reckless for Record Store Day in April—that one, in an even more obvious metal reference, was called Rye'd da Lightning. A rye IPA, to get remedial for a moment, replaces a substantial portion of the barley malt in a traditional IPA with rye, usually also malted. Rye can impart much more foreground flavor than barley, depending on how much you use—"grassy" and "peppery" are beer nerds' favorite words to describe it.

Rye da Tiger is the color of dark honey with a blush of pink, though I suppose that last could've been a side effect of the red tablecloth in my friends' dining room. Its bone-white head thins quickly to a lacy ring, but the beer itself is substantial and chewy. Unless you pour it with borderline monastic patience, you'll end up with a bit of sediment on the bottom of your glass. Go ahead and drink it—it's just as tasty as everything else in the bottle.

Nick Floyd has said Rye da Tiger uses a lot of New Zealand hops for exotic fruit flavors—lychee and kumquat, for instance, rather than the pine and citrus provided by more familiar American varieties. I won't pretend that my tasting notes include the words "lychee" or "kumquat" (I'm not that advanced), but I did smell orange marmalade, something sweetly floral that for lack of a better vocabulary in this department I'll call honeysuckle or jasmine, green hay, and a lick of rye spiciness that could've passed for young radish. Maybe a bit of juniper and ruby grapefruit? Oh and I know what yuzu smells like, so I could persuade myself I was getting some of that too. The aroma of this beer is frankly wonderful, and I spent an unseemly amount of time with my nose in the glass between sips.

OK, so the red tablecloth wasnt the best idea
  • OK, so the red tablecloth wasn't the best idea

The taste is just as extravagantly fruity as the smell—tangerine, blood orange, sour peach, lemongrass—except those flavors blend with a lot of extra business from the rye. The malts add pumpernickel toast, sugar cookie, pepper, and even a little cumin. The lingering hop bitterness, like white grapefruit rind, is the kind that somehow registers as "juicy" because it actually makes your mouth water. You probably won't pay less than 13 dollars for a bomber of Rye da Tiger, which I agree is a sticking point, but if you've got a table full of people to share it with—and luckily I did—I think you'll find it will improve your after-dinner conversation by at least 13 dollars' worth. Even if one of you is taking notes like a berk.

So that covers the beer. And the metal? Thankfully it's not much of a stretch to make the connection this time. No disrespect to the Pixies, whose "River Euphrates" also uses the line "ride the tiger" (over and over), but the folks at Three Floyds clearly intend to pay homage here to the late, great Ronnie James Dio and his classic song "Holy Diver."

I mean really. Look at that label and tell me it doesn't have Dio all over it.


In the words of the man himself: "Ride the tiger / You can see his stripes but you know he's clean / Oh don't you see what I mean."

Honestly, no, I've never had much of an idea what you mean, Ronnie. And it looks like you ought to put down that sword before you hurt yourself. But you were a class act all the way, and I hope "Holy Diver" always occupies an exalted place in the metal pantheon.

Rye da Tiger was released in September, so it's hard to find now, but last week there was a bunch at the Sheridan "L" Lounge, under the Red Line tracks—the one where the sign says "LIQUORS D LICATES EN." Happy hunting! Maybe we'll all luck out and Three Floyds will decide this stuff is just too good to brew only once.

Philip Montoro writes about beer and metal, singly or in combination, every Monday.


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