Reunion '08 Red Rye Ale special release beer benefits a good cause

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For the past few years, Pete Slosberg of Pete's Brewing Company (as in Pete's Wicked this-and-that) has teamed up with Alan Shapiro, president of SBS Imports, and Bison Brewing's Daniel Del Grande to craft a limited, special release beer that benefits a good cause. The Reunion collaboration was inspired by the late Virginia McLean, a former coworker of Slosberg and Shapiro. The trio worked together when Pete's Brewing Company was in its early stages, at the forefront of the American craft brew movement in the mid-1980's. With 100 percent of Reunion proceeds benefiting the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research, almost $100,000 has been raised as of early 2008.

The Reunion fundraising effort began in 2007 with a 7.5 percent ABV imperial brown ale brewed with 6 organic malts and hopped/dry-hopped with 3 different varieties.

Reunion '08 Red Rye Ale is also made from all organic ingredients — barley, flaked rye, hops, caraway seeds, water, and yeast. It is essentially a chemical fertilizer-, pesticide- and additive-free version of Pete's Wicked Red, with a rye and caraway seed injection.

It pours into an American pint the color of cherry wood, kind of red, kind of brown with a thin layer of off-white cirrus cloud bubbles across the top. Aromas are fruity malt, like a Scottish Ale, with an added layer of clean grassiness from the organic hops.

For a rye beer, the bite is mild, and the hops bitterness that is often present in American red ales is negligible. This brew is all about the malt, which dominates with a tone of woodsy nuttiness, accompanied by a healthy dose of sweet caramel. Carbonation is low, yet taste buds tingle from the rye grain while also contending with a small amount of heat from the 6.5 percent ABV. And even though it's malty as hell, the finish is nice and dry, lingering on the palate forever the way rye beers tend to do.

The next collaboration — Reunion '09 — is a double white ale, with Terrapin Brewing added to the mix. It will be sold in kegs only, though, primarily in San Francisco — where Bison Brewery is located — and at Taco Mac bar locations throughout Georgia — home of Terrapin. So get your growlers ready, folks; it's time for a beer pilgrimage.

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