Review: Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 Rye Lager Brewed With Rye Grain

When I was growing up, I really didn't have many friends. I grew up with a form of autism that made me feel like I never belonged in social circles and I took on hobbies and I was obsessed with very specific hobbies.. that unfortunately continue to this day, thus this blog. I was never athletic in ANY sense but Wayne Gretzky was my idol from around 1993 to 1999, so whenever there was a hockey game with Gretzky on farmer vision, I'd watch it.. which was very rare. Since I couldn't see him on TV often, I collected hockey cards like crazy and got excited whenever I got a hockey card that had The Great One on it. I would spend hours upon hours playing NHL 94-97 on my Sega Genesis as teams with Gretzky on it, all because I wanted Gretzky to win because he's The Great One after all!.

I was at the Brandon Wine Festival a few months ago and my cousin's awesome wife Emanuelle happens to represent a good deal of wine brands from all over the world, so she just had to introduce me to Jeff, the territory manager for Andrew Peller Ltd, a wine portfolio that includes Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery. She mentioned that I was a beer geek and Jeff and I started talking about the Wayne Gretzky Rye Lager that just came out only weeks earlier - I knew of Gretzky's wines and his whisky but wasn't familiar with his beer.

Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 Rye Lager was released late last year, and I remember the first time I saw it at the local Liquor Mart.. I didn't want to try it because "it's another lager". It's easy to put your name on a lager because it will sell easier than an IPA or Stout, especially to the average consumer who isn't a snob like me. Within a few weeks of the release of the No. 99 Rye Lager, Kevin from my local LC was telling me I really should try it, it's a decent beer.. Kevin's typically much more of a wine guy than a beer guy but generally he isn't wrong when he says a beer is decent. Fast forward to now, several months later, here we are.. I'm finally trying out Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 Rye Lager.

From the notes given thanks to Jeff: "Brewed with rye grain, we have turned up the flavour of a classic lager giving it an added layer of depth, zest and freshness. Only four ingredients used; yeast, malted grain (rye and barley), hops (Hallertau hops), and pure water, naturally limestone-filtered through the UNESCO-protected Niagara Escarpment watershed.

If you know me, you know I absolutely love rye, rye should be used a lot more, not only in spirits but in beer and even in breads, rye grain just has a personality you never see in any other kind of grain, it's spicy, it's rich and it's typically malty/grainy to give it a nice biscuity presence to it.

Appearance: Pours a crisp and clear blonde lager with a liberal amount of carbonation in the body. There was a large wave of bubbles throughout the beer going up and down throughout the beer immediately after pouring into the glass. The head on the beer has a light to moderate amount of snow white foam on top, the head really doesn't go anywhere after several minutes since the pour.

Aroma: Crisp, sweet lager with notes of toasted grain, the beer is quite sweet like your typical lager, almost like a sweet corn aroma but I couldn't tell you if it actually contains that. I don't really get much of the rye except for a very very subtle amount of spiciness from the rye grain and a hint of sweet rye bread at the very end. I would have liked to see the rye pop out more in the aroma but this is a decent lager so far.

Taste: I get the barley popping out right from the very second it gets anywhere close to my palate - it's got a bit of a grainy, sweet, almost lemongrass-like taste to it. There's a grassy hop presence coming from the Hallertau hops, a hint of a bitterness as well but ever so slight.. nothing aggressive at all. The rye? I think it's there but it's very very subtle, I get a bit of a sweet breadiness from it, but not really the spice I was hoping for, but the aftertaste does have a hint of a rye bread vibe to it at the end.

Overall Thoughts: I have a rule that if any beer contains the world "Premium" on the label, it's going to be garbage.. but this is one of the few times in my life where a Premium beer (especially lager) wasn't bad. It was a crisp, easy drinking lager with a good amount of grassy hops, a bit of lemongrass and a hint of rye. I've stated many times on here that craft lagers will be a big trend in a few years, they're becoming pretty big in the US but in Canada craft beer drinkers are still going for more aggressive styles while macro lager drinkers rarely drift away from Bud Light or Michelob, but every Canadian knows who Wayne Gretzky is so if there was more promotion for this beer, especially on television or whatnot, more people would probably go out to try this. Look at Ryan Whitney's Pink Whitney vodka - MLCC brought in a couple thousand bottles to stores in all over Manitoba and it sold out in minutes at most stores (if even). I do feel like there needs to be more of a rye kick to this beer, I do get a bit of a Winnipeg rye bread kind of vibe but Winnipeg rye bread doesn't really contain much rye at all. Decent lager but bring on the rye! Oh, how about a No. 99 Rye Whisky barrel aged version of this? I'd try that.


zasquatchass said...

I was wondering is this a new brewery or did they buy an existing? are you planning for a visit?

Cody Lobreau said...

I couldn't find any information if they used a contract brewery but from the notes I've received, Wayne Gretzky's Estates Master Distiller is the brewmaster, so it's possible they could have a brewing facility in the same place as the distillery but with possibly a decent sized "test batch" facility with a canning line that could be retrofitted for future beverage ideas

Millie - Louise said...

Way too much foam, bland taste. I actually expected more from The King of Hockey.......