Try Rye… in Your Beer

try rye in beerThe bold flavor of rye complements taste palettes that are trending in that direction. Earlier we looked at the rye whiskey comeback, but let’s not overlook the popularity of rye in beer.

Rye beer substitutes malted rye for a portion of barley malt and dates back centuries. It started with Roggenbier (literally German for rye beer) in the 15th century when rye malt was used most commonly for brewing in Bavaria. According to KegWorks.com, bad rye harvests led to regulations that rye could only be used for bread production and ultimately led to the Reinheitsgebot or beer purity law. The law was issued on April 23, 1516 and regulated beer’s ingredients, production process, and quality. It stipulated that only barley, hops, and water could be used to brew beer. It’s still the oldest, valid food-quality law in Germany, according to German Beer Institute’s “Three Millennia of German Brewing.”

Brewing with Rye

Although rye lends a bolder flavor, brewing with this grain can be particularly challenging because as a grain, it’s husk-less. Imbibe Magazine’s Against the Grain,” notes that the husk of barley keeps the mash loose and provides drainage to the wort (the liquid that ultimately becomes beer). Without husks, rye, on the other hand, can create a sticky mess that may become something like concrete, according to Matt Van Wyk, Oakshire Brewing’s brewmaster.

Because this coagulation is common with heftier percentages of rye, adding enzymes or rice hulls can help prevent it from becoming sticky goo without altering the flavor.

Brewing challenge aside, Bear Republic Brewing Co. decided to attempt a 100 percent rye beer. Quoted in Imbibe’s article, brewmaster Peter Kruger said transforming the brewing process from impossible to merely “very, very difficult,” required careful monitoring of mash temperature and a very long brewing process – 17 hours rather than the typical eight. “That,” he said, “was not a fun day.” The result was Easy Ryeder, a beer that Kruger has sworn off brewing again.

Best Rye Beers

BeerInfo.com compiled a list of the top ten rye beers from results of the U.S. Open Beer Championship, Great American Beer Festival, and Ratebeer.com. The results are:

  1. LowRyeDer – Sweetwater Brewing – Georgia
  2. Rastafa Rye – Blue Point Brewing – New York
  3. Lazy Magnolia Brewing – Mississippi
  4. Rye Smile – Triple Rock Brewery – California
  5. Founders Red’s Rye PA – Founders Brewing Company – Michigan
  6. Sixpoint Righteous Ale – Sixpoint Craft Ales – New York
  7. Rye P.A. Hatter – New Holland Brewing – Michigan
  8. Rugbrød – The Bruery – California
  9. Cane & Ebel – Two Brothers Brewing – Illinois
  10. 10. Rye-on-Rye – Boulevard Brewing – Missouri

Rye may not be worth tap space in your restaurant or pub, but you may certainly want to offer a bottled choice, so when your patrons want to experiment and try rye in beer, you can serve it up.