When it comes to flavorful (without going over the top) beer styles, a well-made Rye (roggen) Beer is hard to beat. Originating in Germany, as far back as the 14th century, perhaps earlier, Roggenbier have a wide varying percentage of malted rye in the brew kettle (generally 20% - 60%).No rye beers are made from 100% rye.
The often misunderstood, German Beer Purity Law, Reinheitsgebot (1516) actually went into effect as a result of a few poor grain harvests in Germany. The bread makers needed the surviving wheat and rye grains to bake bread. Barley wasn’t a grain suitable to bread baking, so the government stepped in and decreed Reinheitsgebot; only the use of water, barley and hops could be used for brewing beer. Notice that yeast wasn’t even mentioned? That’s because they didn’t fully understand yeast’s contribution to the brewing process at the time. Anyway, as a result of the law, Roggenbier (Rye beer) went into an almost 500 year hiatus. Thank God, America has never suffered a bread-makers lobby! Yeah, well prohibition sucked, but that asinine law only lasted 13 years.
American Rye Beer and German Roggenbier are similar to each other in that they both use rye in the brew process. They are separate in that the American versions tend to be hoppier and generally have a bit higher alcohol by volume (ABV) rating. The Roggenbier tend to use a higher percentage of rye in the mix, allowing the natural tart sourness of the rye to edge forward, while the hop bitterness is a bit more subdued.
One of the oldest beer styles in the world, Finnish Sahti is a rye ale brewed with wild yeast and juniper branch as a bittering agent. The shelf life of Sahti is rather short, so I suggest you fly to Finland and get it fresh from the source. But at least finish this article first.
Wolnzacher Roggenbier – Wolnzacher Burgerbrau – Wolnzacher, Germany – 5.5% ABV
After a nearly 5 minute pour (seemed an eternity), due to overly enthusiastic carbonation, the bartender at the wonderful Publick House in Brookline presented my beer in a tall matching mug. Bits of yeast and unfiltered rye goodness continued rising in the still slowly cascading tannish head. The color mutated from an almost clear rusty amber to a completely cloudy and opaque rust. The aroma is very much like rye crackers with just a hint of lemons and whiff of malt. Rye dominates the flavor department. A faint clove and spicy taste mingles and blends with mild lemon and orange zest. The body is a bit grainy and edgy, but not altogether an unpleasurable experience. I hope to find this locally in order to present it at our small tasting group. This is an interesting brew!
Thurn und Taxis – Furstliche Brauerei – Regensburg, Germany – 5.3% ABV
16.9 oz. dark brown bottle. Freshness date on label.
Served in a 20oz nonic tumbler.
It pours a cola-shaded dark amber color with a fast-foaming, yet fast-fading off-white head. Some sticky and webby lacing last halfway through the glass.
The aroma is at first wet malty, then the smell of rye crackers push through. The light smell of mixed fruit with a little citrus and dried flowers fades in and out. A faint whiff of white rum is noticed, as is a little fresh cut grass.
Tastes of fresh rye, dried malt, caramel, figs, peppery spices, ripe pear and resinous hops (in that order) come through separate, yet balanced nicely. Just a touch of metallic tang is revealed in the aftertaste. A hint of dark rum comes out in the breath.
This a is very nice summertime beer. It starts out dry in the finish, then more full and wet as it warms.
Great BBQ beer!
Schremser Bio-Roggen – Brauerei Schrems – Schrems, Austria – 5.2% ABV
On tap at The Draft House Tower Bridge, London. Served in a fluted Schrems glass.
It pours an orange-hued tannish color with a medium-sized off-white head. Some trailing and patchy lace clings all the way down.
A smell of dry rye cracker crumbs comes to mind. Smells of peat and cut hay mingle with whiffs of floral and resinous hops.
The rye flavor seems a bit subdued for the style. The flavor profiles, in general are mellow and pleasant. Light marbled rye, dry malt, caramel, resiny and metallic hop and a touch of mild citrus tartness blend quite nicely. A little sourness is noticed in the finish.
The dryness diminishes and the sweetness becomes more prevalent as it warms.
Truly a nice likeable beer!
American/New England Rye Beer
Harpoon Rich and Dan’s Rye IPA – Rye Ale – Harpoon Brewing – Boston, MA – 6.9% ABV 22oz brown bottle. No freshness date. Served in a standard pint glass.
It pours a brassy yellow color with a firm white head and tons of sticky lacing.
The smell is very much like Harpoon's IPA with a dry resinous hop hit along with dried hay, mixed citrus and a bit of alcohol fuminess. A faint smell of spruce is noticed in the background.
Rye and caraway spice tastes cuts through the resinous and citrusy hops and dried malt clearly and cleanly. The hop resins have a somewhat minty and piney taste that fills the mouth.
Very good cookout ale, especially with game meat.
Mayflower Summer Rye
Willamantic Mail Rail Rye
Samuel Adams Revolutionary Rye Ale (Limit Seasonal)
Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye – Bear Republic Brewing – Healdsburg, California – 8% ABV
It pours an old worn leather with a solid beige head and loads of lace. A strong floral hop aroma dominates while strong smells of rye crackers and whiff of alcohol creep up. This potent brew is just bursting with unrestrained flavors. Wild malt (6 row?) and edgy rye flavors are completely separate from sharp grapefruit, zesty orange peel, light lemon and a hint of metallic tanginess. A touch of toffee sweetness does little to counter sharp flavors, but that's ok. All of these sharp edged flavors are accompanied by a constantly noticeable alcohol kick. This beer is unrelenting in its wild character and never mellows or sweetens further, even when it warms. I love this stuff!
Summer heat is Roggenbier weather. Cool summer evenings on beach beg for stronger a bit stronger versions of Rye Ales.
Quote: “Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself,
To make love, and celebrate the good days” – Egyptian saying