If you’re a beer fan, you’re sure to have heard about the style taking the industry by storm: rye beer. These beers with added rye have devout followers and enthusiasts. It is a style every beer drinker should try at least once.
Read on for a guide on everything you need to know about rye beers and some tasty examples to try!
What is a Rye Beer?
All beers brewed with rye are classified as beer with rye. It has a significant amount (at least 10%) of rye in its grain bill and a strong rye flavor.
Rye is typically added to the malt mixture to make the beer more spicy and earthy. Due to its unique flavor profile, rye works best with complex beers like Pale Ales, Stouts, and IPAs. It is also commonly used with lagers and pilsners.
In recent years, rye beer has become a trendy brew style.
Origin of the Rye Beer
The development of classifying rye beers as an entirely new beer style is fairly recent. But the tradition of adding rye to beers goes centuries back.
The first known German rye beer was the classic Roggenbier. It began in 15th century Bavaria, brewed using rye malt. Unfortunately, this variation quickly disappeared due to a series of bad harvests that restricted the use of rye for rye bread baking. This pushed barley’s popularity for beer making and rye remained forgotten for centuries.
Today, rye has a widespread fan base and many applications in the world of beer. The American brewers of rye beer picked up this bold ingredient and didn’t hesitate to experiment.
Let’s break down the flavor profile of this drink.
Characteristics of a Rye Beer
The amount of rye used during the brewing process differs from brewer to brewer, so it can be challenging to pinpoint specific rye characters.
Here are the universal notes and flavors to expect:
Flavor And Aroma
The hop flavor and bitterness of rye beer are low to medium. The beer has a bitterness rate between 10 and 80 International Bitterness Unit (IBU).
The rye beer tastes similar to pumpernickel bread. Darker versions with higher rye percentages have a malt character of low roasted malts. It hints at cocoa, chocolate, or caramel. It has spicy flavors with low-level fruity esters.
The aromatic profile of this simple beer has notes of toffee, caramel, and biscuit flavors. Its low-level roasted malt characters and astringency balance well with low to medium malt sweetness. The addition of wild yeasts or oak barrel aging produces a sour accent flavor.
Feeling Inside the Mouth
When rye is added to any beer, it contributes a signature dry, astringent spice. Depending on the hops used, the dry drink might get an even drier finish.
It typically has a low to high carbonation rate. The finish length and body largely vary depending on the amount of added rye. The head is typically creamy as it dries out the beers.
The addition of rye gives the beer a reddish tone which becomes darker the more is added. The lighter versions have a straw to copper tint, while the darker ones are amber in color or have a dark brown color.
The versions served with yeast will appear a little hazy to very cloudy.
Rye beer has an alcohol by volume (ABV) rate between 4% and 7%.
Food Items That Complement Rye Beer
This spicy beer pairs best with Mexican and Indian food. You can also try pairing it with these food items:
- Jerk Chicken
- Mild Blue
- Mild Cheddar
- Savory Bread Pudding
- Banana Pudding
Can I Brew My Own Rye Beer at Home?
It’s best to start with ten percent rye if you’re brewing it for the first time.
10 Well Known Rye Beer Brands
1. Red’s Rye IPA, Founders Brewing Company
Red Rye IPA is at the top of the list with an ABV of 6.6%. It has a distinctive flavor and hop bitterness with a rating of 70 IBU.
It’s brewed using Amarillo hops and four varieties of Belgian caramel malts. This makes it a crimson surprise with a rich and balanced maltiness. The head is a creamy tan, while the finish is spicy and crisp.
2. Ruthless Rye IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Ruthless Rye IPA is all about rustic grains and a refined, assertive flavor profile. It has an alcohol content or ABV of 6.6% and IBU of 58.
3. Hop Rod Rye, Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Hop Rod Rye IPA has an ABV of 8%t and an IBU of 60. This American-made rye beer has a piney aromatic profile and a robust malt bill.
4. Rye-on-Rye, Boulevard Brewing Co.
Rye-on-Rye from Boulevard Brewing Co. has a sweet and spicy taste with notes of vanilla, charred oak, and citrusy hops. This specialty beer has a high ABV of 12% and has a lingering dry finish unique to rye beers.
5. Cane And Ebel, Two Brothers Brewing Company
This seasonal beer from Two Brothers Brewing Company is a Red Rye IPA. The Cane and Ebel provides a nice balance of bitter taste and creamy sweetness with a smooth, dry finish.
This American beer has an ABV of 7% and an IBU of 68.
6. Route Des Épices, Brasserie Dieu du Ciel!
Route Des Épices has 5.3% ABV and is a rye pale ale brewed using green and black pepper. This gives it a nice peppery finish.
The beer tastes of fresh cereal malt with hints of fruit and caramel flavors.
7. Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, Real Ale Brewing Company
This one from Real Ale Brewing Company is the perfect, full-bodied American-style Rye Indian Pale Ale. It has a unique, tasty blend of sweet maltiness of rye and malted barley.
The brewery is no longer selling this product, but they did publish the recipe for enthusiasts to try!
8. RastafaRye Ale, Blue Point Brewing Company
The RastafaRye Ale is an award-winning brew that provides a complex taste of spicy-floral toasted rye malts.
Unfortunately, the beer is discontinued, so you’re out of luck. You could instead try the other range of beers from Blue Point Brewing Company.
9. LUX, Bissell Brothers Brewing Co.
10. Kentucky Ryed Chiquen, Against The Grain Brewery & Smokehouse
Kentucky Ryed Chiquen is a barrel-aged rye amber ale with an ABV of 8.6%. It is a malty and mellow American rye beer with a bite.
Wrapping Up Rye Beer
Rye beer has been gaining a ton of popularity among enthusiasts all over the world. It is a spicy new beer style with a history that dates back centuries.
There’s an endless list to try for newcomers with varieties like whisky, barrel-aged beers, and more.
If rye beers with German roots make you curious about other products by German brewers, then the next one to try is the German Pilsner! To read about other kinds of beer you may not be familiar with, read our other beer styles blog posts.