Founder's Red Rye Pale Ale (Food Memories of 2011, No. 14)

Every day in December, I'm writing a short post about some food memory from 2011, mostly to be more thankful for all the great food and drink I've been lucky enough to have this year.

I found a new favorite beer this year: Founders Red's Rye Pale Ale. Throughout the year, I've encountered a number of different beers from Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Founders Brewery. The Dirty Bastard, for example, wowed me with its high alcohol content (8.5 percent) and complexity without being overwrought.

But the Red Rye was really shocking. The word "rye" is usually enough to turn me off. I hate caraway, and when I hear "rye," I psychologically taste that bitter seed, regardless of whatever is really happening in my mouth.

The first time I tasted the Red Rye, it was on a whim at a bar in New York. Nothing else on the beer board spoke to me that day, and I had had nothing but good luck with Founders in the past. So I slogged back a 3 ounce taste and said, "That's good. I'll have one."

Red Rye is fairly hoppy (70 IBU) and is balanced with an alcohol content (6.6 percent) that gives structure without being hot. The brewery describes its bouquet as "grapefruit" and good malt notes. The color is rich, while the beer is still light. When describing a beer, I always ask myself whether I A) shave to put it down often while trying to finish the first one, B) could finish one but only one, or C) drink more than one back to back. Red Rye falls somewhere between B and C for me. When I finish one, I sort of want another, but it's flavorful enough that I'm unsure whether I'll be able to finish it.