Sometimes inspiration comes when you’re least expecting
it. The idea to brew a roggenbier came after
taking the BJCP exam on January 7, 2006. One of
the questions came completely out of left-field and
took everyone by surprise. Describe the characteristics
of a Roggenbier and give commercial examples.
Huh?! Of course, it was in the study guide, but
really…come on guys!!! I’m pretty sure that no one
taking that test got the question right.
After that little moment of frustrated disbelief I thought
– Ok, I’m going to find out about this damn beer and
Roggenbier, or German Rye Beer was a popular beer
style in medieval northern Germany, where barley did
not grow very well. In the middle ages however, Roggenbeir
was outlawed, as the Bavarian Beer Purity
Law of 1516 forbid brewing with anything other than
barley. Rye was a dependable crop though, so it survived
as a hearty bread-making grain.
Roggenbier is basically a dunkelweizen that uses rye
in place of wheat in the grist. Rye, like wheat, has no
husk material and has large amounts of beta-glucans,
so lautering can be very slow. Combine this with the
traditional German decoction method, and you’ve got
a very long, sticky brew day on your hands. (Yes,
rice hulls are your friend!)
We started out with about 12 lbs. of grain and
mashed into 3.75 gallons of water. (Roughly 1.2 qt/
lb.) Our first rest was the Beta-Glucan rest, at 95ºF. I
would highly recommend performing this step
whether you’re doing a decoction or step-infusion
mash. The next step, after pulling a thick decoction
and eventually returning it to the main mash, was a
protein rest at 122ºF. We did our saccharafication rest (after pulling another decoction) at 148ºF, and
finally mashed out at 168ºF. At this point we added
our rice hulls and started to re-circulate. The run-off
was VERY slow and actually stuck twice, prompting
us to add more Rice Hulls. The mash was very viscous
and actually felt oily if you dipped your fingers
in the mash and rubbed them together. Our run-off
gravity was 1.040. We did not get as much efficiency
as we would have liked, but that’s what we
get for using 60% rye!
We really wanted to feature the flavor of the rye, so
we did not use a flavor-hop addition – only bittering
and aroma. And we kept those additions fairly
We used two strains of yeast – one hefeweizen
strain, and one Bavarian lager strain. The thought
behind this was that we would get some of the nice
banana-clove aromas from the hefeweizen yeast,
while the lager yeast would clean things up a little
and keep the ester production from going overboard.
The results were definitely worth the effort. The finished
beer was deeply copper and orange in color,
with a ridiculously long-lasting tight lace of foam.
The flavor was light and refreshing with a subtle
spiciness. The mouthfeel was quite creamy and
slightly oily, but the spicy quality of the rye helped
give it a clean, crisp finish.
It was definitely the longest, hardest brew day I’ve
experienced, but also probably the most rewarding.
We were very happy with the results. You might be
too…Give rye a try! (but do yourself a favor and cut
back on the 60% rye…)
Click here to read Jeremy and Steve's Roggen Ruse Rye Recipe!