Rye beer refers to any beer in which rye (generally malted) is substituted for some portion of the barley. Rye beers are considered specialty beers that are brewed with unusual fermentables such as rice, corn, or wheat.
One example of this is Roggenbier, which is a specialty beer produced with up to 60% 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 hops presence is pushed to the point where they resemble American India pale ales (IPAs). This style is often called a Rye IPA, or just a "Rye-P-A", a take-off of the abbreviation for an India Pale Ale: "IPA".
Another type of rye beer is the traditional Slavic kvass, although the alcohol is low enough to be considered a non-alcoholic beer in many cases; it is made using bread that has been steeped and fermented.
Until the 15th century, in Germany, particularly in Bavaria, rye malt commonly was used for brewing beer. After a period of bad harvests, though, it was ruled that rye would be used only for baking bread, thus only barley was to be used for beer; see the German law known as the Reinheitsgebot. Roggenbier disappeared for almost 500 years.
In the late 1980s, the Spezialbrauerei Schierling near Regensburg created the first modern Roggenbier, Schierlinger Roggen, using a modified, patented mashing regimen to cope with the effects of the highly viscous rye wort.
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% of the malts used to make the beer are made from rye.
To date, very few German breweries produce Roggenbier.
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