If absence truly makes the heart grow fonder, does the philosophy also apply to beer? Perhaps so, given the cult-like following in Madison for Red Eye Brewing. Its fans always seem to know when and where the brewery's limited releases of beer will turn up. Red Eye owner Kevin Eichelberger, a former Great Dane brewer, just sent one his latest brews to local taps in Madison. It's a full-bodied porter made with rye malt.
What is it? Rye Porter from Red Eye Brewing of Wausau, Wisconsin.
Style: The porter originated in England as the preferred brew of laborers who worked in the shipyards. The style can range from brown to deep black in color because of its chocolate and smoked brown malts. Hints of roastedness are quite common, with a moderate hoppiness. In the U.S., the porter style nearly vanished in the years following Prohibition, as light body lagers appealed more to masses. However, homebrewers and small craft beer makers have since revived this traditional brew of the laboring classes. The porter can range in alcohol from 4% to 5.5% ABV.
Background: Red Eye owner and brewmaster Kevin Eichelberger has been sending his beers to Madison periodically for the last couple of years. Not too surprisingly, perhaps because co-owner Dana Wolle lives in Madison, these beers turn up on draught at the Malt House and the Old Fashioned.
The brewery's Rye Porter is made with five different malts, including Black and Chocolate, which give it a strong foundation of sweetness. However, Eichelberger also adds two types of rye malt, enough for about 20% of total grist. Rye adds some dryness and a light spicy background. But it can be a little problematic for brewers, because if there's too much in the grist, the mash becomes extremely sticky and difficult to deal with in the brewing process.
Eichelberger uses a single variety of hops (Willamette) for bitterness. Red Eye Rye Rye Porter takes about three weeks to ferment out, at around 6% ABV. It's currently available at the Malt House, where it sells for $4.50/pint.
Later this month, Red Eye Scarlet 7 will make an appearance at the Old Fashioned. This brew is a Belgian dubbel that is made with caramelized black mission figs from California, and finishes around 7% ABV.
- Aroma: Firm malty nose.
- Appearance: Dark black color, with bronze highlights and a rocky brown head.
- Texture: Full-bodied, round with a slight silkiness.
- Taste: Smooth chocolate maltiness up front in the flavor profile, followed by a light, fruity background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty smooth, with a light, dry, spicy ending.
Glassware: The English pint glass gives this porter a little tradition, and is a great way to show off the beer's color and rocky brown head.
Pairs well with: The overall maltiness of the porter style makes this a very versatile meal beer, but the thought of matching modestly smoked brisket with the light spiciness from the rye malt leaves one yearning for barbecue season.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Red Eye Rye Porter has some deep and rich malty flavor. The chocolate tones are robust. With all the malt that goes into this beer, it could have come off too roasted, chewy and thick; instead, it's smooth if not silky. I did expect more dryness and spicy qualities from all the rye malt. This element seems to have kept the chocolate and black malts in check, and that allows for an overall clean impression. It's a very sessionable and enticing beer -- one pint just may not be enough for those who have fondness in their heart for Red Eye Brewing.