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Friday, March 30, 2007

Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.

Every now and then, the Wine Canine likes a good brew. And today seemed like a perfect day to have one -- sunny, mid-70s, and the end of the week! (Well, it's just a symbolic end since I work tomorrow, but it still feels as though a little pressure is off.)

What I was really after was an outstanding American ESB, but the helpful on-staff beer enthusiast at the Payless in Zionsville (the big one, not the one next to the Bentley dealer) suggested that I try a new brew they had just gotten in called Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A., an India Pale Ale made with rye malt. It was $6 for a 22 ounce bottle, and at 10 percent alcohol I figured that one would be plenty. (At least it would hold me until tonight's Chardonnay was chilled -- more on that later.)

It's almost worth six bucks just to read the bottle. This ale is made under the He’Brew label ("The Chosen Beer"), which is in turn made by the Shmaltz Brewing Company of Saratoga, New York. The brew itself, a tribute to the late comic Lenny Bruce ("late" in this case meaning "dead for 40 years"), is indeed bitter and sweet, and really quite good. It is very dark for an IPA -- dark enough that when it is poured into a clear glass it is a match for the brown bottle in which it is delivered.

My first thought on being confronted with a rye-malt ale was of rye bread, and I had a little trouble wrapping my mind around what that flavor would be like. But rye bread doesn't taste like rye -- it tastes like the caraway seeds that flavor it, and this ale is nothing like that. It's thick, dark, rich and mouthfilling, and it satisfied my craving for an ESB; the front of the tongue gets the sweetness going in, and the back of the tongue gets the bitterness on the finish.

Initially, I wryly typed "Is this a malt beverage, or is it life?" as the last line of the above paragraph, and allowed myself a congratulatory sip for how clever I was. Then I read the tiny type on the side label, which says (in part -- it's kind of like reading a Dr. Bronner's bottle): "...savor the provocative spirit of Lenny's R.I.P.A., our He’Brew monument to the richness, the bitterness and the sacred sweetness that is life...L’Chaim!"

So maybe I'm not clever -- but at least I get it. If you're a devotee of IPAs and ESBs, you should too.
M. Zane Grey, 6:35 PM