Nick Carr on February 17, 2020 0 Comments Not too long ago a mention of rye even among brewing circles was more likely to conjure images of thick, dense, dark bread and maybe a whiskey chaser; not so much the next addition to your beer recipe. It’s not a standard brewing ingredient, but it does have a link to brewing’s past and has become much more popular in the last few years. Throughout brewing history, when it did find its way to the brew pot, inevitably it was because first choice ingredients were not available. It’s hardier than barley and is a staple to the cultures in Central and Northern Europe where the grain is able to thrive despite the cold weather. So, it’s not surprising that the three beer styles heavily linked to the use of rye come from these regions Russian Vauss, Finnish Sahti, and Bavarian Roggenbier. But rye has found wider use, beyond these traditional styles, in modern craft brewing. It brings a fresh lively complexity of grainy, spicy, and sharp flavors while increasing body and drying the finish. However, there is a dark side to rye. It isn’t the most forgiving grain where brewing is concerned. Rye does not have a hull and is higher in beta-glucan and protein content; factors often contributing to slow runoffs and a stuck sparge. Because of its strong flavors and the difficulties that chalk up during the brewing process, rye is a bit like a supporting actor — hard to work with, but boy does he enhance the overall movie. Despite rye’s cantankerousness, it has been successfully put to work in everything from stouts to pale ales, porters to cream ales, brown ales to blondes, and IPAs. IPAs remain the most popular craft beer style and American craft brewers have continually redefined the edges of the style. One of the more serendipitous ideas was the addition of rye. Rye’s spicy, complex character can play extremely well with the hoppy bitterness of an IPA. Who had the bright idea first? Probably a homebrewer, but commercially it is a little harder to nail down. Terrapin’s first beer, back when they opened up in 2002, was their Terrapin Rye Pale Ale. Not quite an IPA, but on the right track. That same year Bear Republic Brewing Company won Gold at the Chicago Real Ale Festival with their Hop Rod Rye, a beer using 18% rye and clocking in at 8.0% ABV with 80 IBU. An IPA if I ever did see one and one of the earliest, if not the earliest, examples of the style. Characteristics The guidelines for the Rye IPA are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The details below are a summary of what a Rye IPA should represent. The BJCP classifies the Rye IPA beer style under category number 21, “IPA” and it can be found in the guidelines as sub-category (21B), “Specialty IPA.” Other beer styles under this category include: Belgian IPA Black IPA Brown IPA Red IPA White IPA Appearance The color will range from medium gold into light amber with reddish highlights. The head will be medium and white to off-white in color. Retention should be good. Good clarity, except in the case of dry-hopped examples that have not been filtered; these will be slightly hazy. Aroma Malt aroma should be clean, low to moderately-low in intensity, and carry possible background notes of grain, low maltiness, and/or a peppery/spicy rye character. Strong hop aroma featuring characteristics of American or New World hops is expected. Qualities may include citrus, spicy, pine (resinous), melon, berry, floral, tropical fruit, or stone fruit, etc. If dry-hopped, it may have added fresh hop aroma. Though grassiness, this should be kept to a minimum. This fresh aroma is considered a positive; however, it is not a requirement for the style. Alcohol aromas may be present but should be minimal. A neutral fermentation character is acceptable, but examples can also carry slight fruitiness from the yeast. An ever-expanding hop character is acceptable as new American and New World hop varieties continue to be released. Mouthfeel Should have a smooth feel across the palate; moderately light to medium body. Carbonation can range from medium to moderately high. Very light and smooth alcohol warming is acceptable as long as it doesn’t take away from the overall balance. Hop astringency should not be harsh. Taste Malt profile can range from low to medium-low and should be relatively clean with light malty/grainy character; possible light notes of toast and caramel. The lightly spicy/peppery flavor of rye malt should be noticeable. Hop bitterness can range from moderately high to very high. It should have a medium to very high hop flavor of American or New World character. This can include berry, pine, spicy, floral, citrus, stone and tropical fruit, and melon. Stronger versions may present slight clean alcohol flavors. There may be some fruitiness from the yeast, but it is not required for the style. The finish will be dry, partially because of the addition of rye malt. Bitterness, hop flavor, and overall dryness may stretch into the aftertaste, however, it shouldn’t result in any harsh qualities. Pairing Rye IPA works well with many of the same pairings as an American IPA. But, with the added complexity of the rye, these beers can work especially well with spicy cuisines, such as Mexican and Indian foods. Sit down to some chile rellenos, smoked salmon tacos and a good salsa bringing the heat, jerked chicken, or lentil curry. One standout pairing can be had with a Rueben sandwich on rye bread w/ spicy mustard. Don’t forget the sauerkraut. Then there’s all the old classics; hamburger with all the fixings, a thick grilled steak, or spicy sausage pizza (optional bonus: green chiles). For cheeses, stay away from the mild and safe. These beers need something to bang against and mild cheeses will likely be completely overwhelmed by the brazenness. Stick to cheese with some clout of their own; aged blue cheese, such as Camembert or a smoky Gouda. For dessert, just like the cheese, you gotta think bold flavors. Pair with spice cake, citrus curd tart, or spiced rice pudding. Serving For best presentation and greatest appreciation, a Rye IPA should be served at around 42-46°F in an IPA or Tulip glass. They are best stored at cellar temperatures away from light and enjoyed within 6 months of bottling. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Award-Winning Examples of the Style: Jacaranda Rye IPA from Claremont Craft Ales (Claremont, CA) Great American Beer Festival Winner; English-Style IPA Category; Bronze; 2017. Availability: Year Round Concrete Dinosaur from Right Brain Brewing Company (Traverse City, MI) Great American Beer Festival Winner; Rye Beer Category; Silver; 2015. Availability: Year Round 3 Flowers IPA from Marin Brewing Company (Larkspur, CA) Great American Beer Festival Winner; Rye Beer Category; Gold; 2011. Availability: Year Round. World Beer Cup Winner; Rye Beer Category; Silver; 2012. Uncle Dave’s Rye IPA from Discretion Brewing Company (Soquel, CA). World Beer Cup Winner; Rye Beer Category; Bronze; 2016. Availability: Rotating Habitus from Mike Hess Brewing Company (San Diego, CA). World Beer Cup Winner; Rye Beer Category; Gold; 2014. Availability: Year Round Other Examples of Kentucky Common To Try Reds Rey IPA from Founders Brewing Company Rye Of The Tiger from Great Lakes Brewing Company Black Market Brewing Company: Rye IPA Sky High Rye From Arcadia Ales Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic Brewing Company Rye IPA from Lengthwise Brewing Company Divided Sky from 4 Hands Brewing Company Red Ryeot from La Cumbre Brewing Company (Read Our Review) Full Moon from Real Ale Brewing Company Rhye IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Company Rye IPA from Sequoia Brewing Company (An English IPA) Original Gravity: 1.056 – 1.075 Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014 ABV: 5.5 – 8.0% IBU: 50 – 75 SRM: 6 – 14 In modern craft home brewing, Rye brings a fresh lively complexity of grainy, spicy, and sharp flavors while increasing body and drying the finish. Try the addition of Rye in your next home brew and see what new flavors you can create.