New Holland Charkoota Rye: When Pigs Fly

I admire New Holland for swinging for the fences with their High Gravity series of big beers.  Some are excellent, like the oak aged Dragon’s Milk and some are very good like their Night Tripper Imperial Stout.

But when you go big, you can fail big, and that’s the case with Charkoota Rye, a smoked rye dopplebock that was crafted to pair  with all kinds of pig, especially the barbecued kind.  Well, until those pigs start flying, I’m not buying this beer again, as I found it to be mostly repellent.  

Here’s how New Holland describes Charkoota Rye:

Charkoota Rye is a Smoked Rye Dopplebock. An homage to all things Pig, including Porkapalooza and the age-old tradition of Charcuterie, Charkoota Rye’s malty backbone is derived from a blend of rye and four other malts, including malted barley smoked over cherry wood by our very own brewers, John and Jeff.

Its smoke-forward body is balanced with tones of deep mollasses and caramel, with a crisp, clean lager finish. Delightful by itself, Charkoota is best served with its succulent counterpart, Pork.

19° Plato, Alc. 7.75% by Vol.

That description makes it sound very interesting, but instead it’s mostly “interesting,” in the way folks politely describe something that’s isn’t very good.

The main issue I had with the beer was wasn’t the smoke-forward character – I dig smoked beers.  Nor was it the addition of rye, because that grain can do interesting things (the kind without the quotes) to the body of the beer.  No, it was the fact that this beer tasted a lot like olives, the dark green Italian kind with the pits in them.  I happen to love olives, but not as the dominant flavor in a beer.

I can see why this beer would pair well with barbecue, because a zesty BBQ sauce would overwhelm the olive flavor to the point that it was almost undetectable.  It would also knock the smoke down a bit as well, leaving the sweet malt flavors as the star of the show.

I suppose it could  go well with grilled pork or fatty fish, especially when served with a tapenade.  But I’d rather find a beer that complements the flavors in foods, not one that mimics them.  And I really don’t want a beer that  needs a food pairing to hide its flaws.

Charkoota Rye is one of those beers that polarizes people.  I’m sure some folks will think it’s a brilliant beer and proudly serve it to their friends at a backyard barbecue.  For me it’s a total miss, but one I was happy to have the chance to dislike.

I admire New Holland for brewing, bottling and sharing this beer, because it’s this spirit of experimentation that leads to some very cool beers, including my current favorite, their excellent Dragon’s Milk.  So keep up the good work fellas – maybe I’ll love the next one.

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Categories: Beer, review


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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11 Comments on “New Holland Charkoota Rye: When Pigs Fly”

  1. Don
    August 10, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Could be this beer would be great in food. Say if you marinated a Pork Shoulder in it, or used it to make a home made barbecue sauce. But I would agree, sounds like it isn’t too great for just drinking.

  2. August 11, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    That was like striking out and the Dad tells you it’s ok cause ya went down swinging. There will be other at bats and and in this case other beers. I’m so teary eyed I’m gonna have to console myself with beer.

    • August 11, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

      Enjoy your beer, John, and I agree – it’s great to go down swinging. I love New Holland for that. Of course Dogfish Head swings wild and hit often, but who’s counting? 🙂

  3. August 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    It funny you should mention them as I consoled myself with a Dogfish Head 90. The tears have finally abated. Mmmmmmmm, so good.

    • August 11, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

      Ha ha – a good beer can cure a lot.

  4. Pepe
    February 23, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I am so glad I found this post. Just cracked this 22oz bad boy open last night and after much battle with myself ended up dumping the last quarter glass down the drain. First time for that. And I too tasted olives heavily but thought my palate must have been screwed up. I also thought the smoke was way overbearing. Did mask the high alcohol content well though, which made me nice and warm.

    • February 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      Thanks for chiming in, Pepe.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who tasted olives in this puppy. I love Dragon’s Milk and think Night Tripper is great. Don and I also loved New Holland’s artisinal spirits, but this beer is sink worthy!

  5. April 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Heresy! And I hate olives.


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