There’s a new wave of alternative fermentables in American beer, making way for a renaissance in rye brews.
U.S. brewers are producing dozens of different “roggenbiers,” the German word for rye beer. Rye releases from large breweries such as Tenth and Blake’s Leinenkugel Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to smaller breweries such as Blue Point Brewing Co. of Patchogue, NY, highlight the creativity of brewing with alternative grains.
A bit about brewing with rye: Virtually all beers begin with “base malt,” a standard form of barley malt that provides the base for the brew. Rye adds a slightly sour or sharp note to the bready flavors normally found in barley malt. Rye also thickens as it cooks and congeals even further as it cools, making it something of a challenge as a brewing ingredient.
Bell’s Rye Stout (Bell’s Brewery)
Rye Stout presents the earthy flavor of rye in a stout, with dark-chocolate flavors predominating over coffee notes. Smooth and lighter in body than several in the Bell’s stout portfolio, Rye Stout weighs in at 6.5% ABV. Bell’s is also releasing the Tritic Ale, brewed with triticale—a hybrid of wheat and rye—later in 2013. Suggested food pairing: grilled aged Cheddar cheese on pumpernickel bread.
Big Eddy Ryewine Ale and Canoe Paddler
(Leinenkugel Brewing Co./Tenth and Blake)
Canoe Paddler is a twist on the traditional Kölsch beer style. Based on the light flavor, I’d guess less than 10% rye malt was added to the base, as the flavor is still quite sweet, through accented with Czech Saaz, Sterling and Styrian Goldings hops. Canoe Paddler is the spring and summer seasonal, about 5% ABV. Under the Big Eddy label, Leinenkugel has released the summer Ryewine Ale, a bigger, bolder rye and wheat malt ale with significant hops bitterness and peppery notes at 10% ABV, a limited release. Suggested pairing: aged goat cheese and grilled pears.
Red’s Rye Pale Ale (Founders Brewing Co.)
Red’s Rye, a year-round release from Founders Brewing Co., is one of the first rye beers brewed by a major craft brewery. It’s more hoppy than rye up front, with a big grapefruit bouquet from dry hopping with Amarillo hops, brewed with a base of four varieties of imported Belgian caramel malts. Pours a spectacular crimson with a creamy tan head. A generous addition of rye malt accentuates a spicy, crisp finish to this 6.6% ABV ale. Suggested pairing: balsamic-glazed grilled romaine hearts with kalamata olives and aged goat cheese.
Ticket to Rye (Magic Hat Brewing Co.)
A rye-based India Pale Ale that opens with a hint of spicy rye on the palate, blended with Apollo and Nugget hops. The result is a warming 7.1% ABV ale, with greater hops aromatics dominating the aftertaste, thanks to dry hopping with Nugget. Part of the IPA on Tour series, Ticket to Rye was introduced in spring 2013. Suggested pairings: grilled vegetables with lemon vinaigrette and smoked sea salt.
RastafaRye Ale (Blue Point Brewing Co.)
Brewed with rye malt, and blended with fresh West Coast hops to produce a beer with immediate hops flavors of orange and grapefruit, followed by the gentle tang of rye in the finish. Brewed since 2008, sales of RastafaRye Ale directly benefits children’s charities in the Caribbean. The 7.5% ABV ale is available year round and sold on draft, cask, and in 22-oz. bottles. Suggested pairings: Caribbean food, jerk-spiced grilled chicken.
Reppin’ Red Ale (Berghoff Brewing Co./Stevens Point Brewery)
Contract brewed by the Stevens Point Brewery, the new Berghoff Reppin’ Red Ale blends seven malts for caramel and toasted toffee flavors accented with the peppery spiciness of rye and hopped with Pacific Northwest hops. The ale weighs in at 6.2% ABV and is available on draft and bottled. Suggest pairings: blue cheese, carrot cake.
Ruthless Rye (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)
Ruthless Rye, a robust IPA, balances fruity, citrus and herbal hop notes with the spiciness of the rye malt. Rye adds hints of black pepper and dryness to the finish of the 6.6% ABV ale. Brewed with a blend of pale malt, chocolate, caramel and rye malts, the ale has great body, amplified with Bravo, Chinook, Citra and proprietary specialty hops. Suggested pairings: salty salumi, prosciutto, Asiago cheese, and marinated artichokes. ·
Lucy Saunders is a freelance food and beer writer based in Milwaukee, WI.