Rye beer

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A glass and bottle of rye beer

Rye beer refers to any beer in which rye (generally malted) is substituted for some portion of the barley malt.

One example of this is roggenbier which is a specialty beer produced with up to sixty percent rye malt. The style originated in Bavaria, in southern Germany and is brewed with the same type of yeast as a German hefeweizen resulting in a similar light, dry, spicy taste.

In the United States another style of rye beer is being developed by homebrewers and microbreweries. In some examples, the hop presence is pushed to the point where they resemble American India pale ales.[1] This style is often called a "Rye-P-A," a take-off of the abbreviation for an India Pale Ale, "IPA."

Finnish sahti is another style of rye beer, produced by brewing rye with juniper berries and wild yeast.

Another type of rye beer is kvass, although the alcohol is low enough to be considered a non-alcoholic beer in many cases.

A rauchroggen could be made by drying some rye malt over an open flame rather than in a kiln, though this is currently only done in a few microbreweries in Southern California and one in France.[2][3]


Rye is the grain of hardier Northern climates, where other grains are difficult to grow. It is strongly flavorful and usually imparts a spicy, bready note when used for beer. Growing interest in rye as a brewing grain means that it is getting used in more and more styles. [4]

Brewers throughout Europe made beer with rye for many centuries, and in fact beer was often made with whatever grain was at hand. During the medieval period after a series of bad harvests, many German states decided that rye should be reserved for bread making, and its use in beer declined. In 1516, the German Purity laws were adopted in Bavaria (called Reinheitsgebot), and dictated that only barley would be used for brewing. The purity law was eventually extended to all of Germany, and rye beers declined and disappeared.

Almost 500 years later, in 1988, a handful of Bavarian brewers began brewing rye beer again. The modern version is dark, with a formulation similar to Dunkelweizen, but using rye as about half of the typical grain bill. It is not clear how close modern rye beer is to the historic version.

Many American microbreweries produce wide variations of rye beer. Some are made using traditional American yeast and hops resulting in a cleaner finish and hoppier flavor. A popular US variant called “Rye-P-A” resembles an India Pale Ale (IPA) in flavor – with a very strong hop presence. Rye porters, saison, ales, and wheat variations are also popular[5]. New York’s Ithaca Beer makes the brawny Old Habit strong ale with a quartet of rye malts and ages it in whiskey barrels. Missouri’s O’Fallon Brewery offers the buttery Hemp Hop Rye. California’s Bear Republic and Texas’ Real Ale are resuscitating Germany’s hefeweizen-like roggenbier, while New Belgium is tinkering with Finland’s ancient sahti style, which derives its forest-fresh profile from juniper and, of course, rye. [6]


Until the 15th Century, it was common in Germany, particularly in Bavaria, to use rye malt for brewing beer.[citation needed] However, after a period of bad harvests, it was ruled that rye would only be used for baking bread, (thus only barley was to be used for beer, see the German law known as the Reinheitsgebot). Roggenbier virtually disappeared for almost five hundred years. In 1988, it reappeared in Bavaria.

The modern version of roggenbier is typically about 5% ABV and is fairly dark in colour. The flavour is grainy, often having a hearty flavour similar to pumpernickel bread. Typically, at least 50 percent of the malts used to make the beer are made from rye.[7]


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