Sometimes brewers exercise their creativity by using different ingredients.  While malted barley has been the grain of choice for brewers for centuries, it has also been the case that different grains have been used in brewing beer.  Today, we are tasting two beers brewed with Rye used in the grain bill.  Both beers belong to a ‘hybrid’ style – they are a form of speciality IPA called (creatively) ‘Rye IPA’.

Our two beers for today are Tempest Brewing Company’s Marmalade on Rye and 12 Acres Rye IPA.

Ingredients in Brewing –

It is 501 years since the Rheinheitsgebot was enacted in Germany – the ‘German Purity Laws’, or the very first piece of consumer protection legislation.  Ever since, and with many marketing campaigns focused on promoting beers with ‘only four ingredients’, a belief has crept into common knowledge that beer can (or should) only be brewed with four ingredients – Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast and Water.  While so many people accept this as gospel, the reality is slightly different.

The following is an English translation of the ‘German Purity Laws’ of 1516 –

“We hereby proclaim and decree, by Authority of our Province, that henceforth in the Duchy of Bavaria, in the country as well as in the cities and marketplaces, the following rules apply to the sale of beer:

“From Michaelmas [September 29th] to Georgi [April 23rd], the price for one Mass [Bavarian Litre] or one Kopf[(bowl-shaped container for fluids, not quite one Mass] is not to exceed one Pfennig Munich value [currency of the day], and

“From Georgi to Michaelmas, the Mass shall not be sold for more than two Pfennig of the same value, the Kopf not more than three Heller [Heller usually one-half Pfennig].

“If this not be adhered to, the punishment stated below shall be administered.

“Should any person brew, or otherwise have, other beer than March beer [Marzenbier], it is not to be sold any higher than one Pfennig per Mass.

“Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in the future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water.  Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance shall be punished by the Court authorities confiscating such barrels of beer without fail.

“Should, however, an innkeeper in the country, city or markets buy two or three pails of beer [containing 60 Mass] and sell it again to the common peasantry, he alone shall be permitted to charge one Heller more for the Mass or the Kopf than mentioned above.  Furthermore, should there arise a scarcity and subsequent price increase of the barley [also considering that the times of harvest differ, due to location], WE, the Bavarian Duchy, shall have the right to order curtailments for the good of all concerned.”

There are a few things to note from the above.

First of all, the ‘German Purity Laws’ actually focused on ingredients almost as a secondary consideration.  In actual fact, most of the legislation focused on the price of beer.  In the above translation it is clear that just one paragraph mentioned ingredients, while the other six were all talking about pricing.  The intent of the prohibition on using other ingredients was to try to make sure that brewers did not try to brew their beer using cheaper ingredients or methods to maximize their profits, and its relevance in the legislation was that, by restricting the upper price of the beer, reducing the cost was the only other way to go to increase profit per barrel.

Secondly, while many people refer to the above as the ‘Reinheitsgebot’, this name was coined much more recently than 1516.  Originally, the restriction on the use of other ingredients was referred to as the ‘Surrogatverbot’ (or ‘Adjunct Prohibition’).  On March 4th 1918, an obscure member of the Bavarian State Parliament – Hans Rauch – coined the term ‘Reinheitsgebot’ for this law.

Thirdly, the above translation only references three ingredients.  In 1516, yeast had not been discovered, though the concept of fermentation and the idea that something was causing it was within the brewers’ awareness.  Only in the late 17th century – after the discovery of microorganisms such as yeast – could this vital ingredient be included as an ‘allowable’ ingredient in the Beer Purity Laws.

Fourthly, the law in question has undergone many adaptations over time. When one reads the above translation of the German text, a further translation of the English text is required – hence the square bracket asides above to explain what a ‘Mass’, ‘Kopf’, ‘Pfennig’, ‘Heller’ were as well as what ‘Georgi’ and ‘Michaelmas’ mean.  Much of what was relevant to the 1516 law is no longer relevant today, and so the legislation has changed over time to maintain its relevance.

It is perhaps much underappreciated fact that there are really two Purity Laws today – the Bavarian and the German.  While the Bavarian version still restricts the use of anything but barley malt, hops, water and yeast for all bottom fermented beer (lagers), it allows for the additional use of malted wheat and malted rye, for instance, in the brewing of top-fermented beers (ales) only.  The German version, on the other hand, is more lenient with lagers for example.  In 1516, the country of Germany as it exists today did not exist, so references to the ‘German Purity Laws of 1516’ are just a little inaccurate.

All of the above to point out that we should not look askew when we see brewers using ingredients like Rye in brewing beer.  In point of fact, one of the other ingredients mentioned in the 1516 law – hops – has only been used in brewing in about the last 1,000 years, so for almost five times this length of time (we are brewing for around 6,000 years), hops did not even exist as an ingredient in beer, and alternatives (like herbs and spices) were used to add flavour to beer.  But that is a story for another day!

Rye IPA –

When brewing beer, malted barley is typically the grain of choice.  Because malted barley has a husk, it makes it a better grain to use in brewing – the husk becomes an integral part of the brewing process, acting as a filter bed during the ‘lautering’ stage of brewing.  In a similar way, wheat is particularly suited to making bread.  However, the basic elements contained in different grains are essentially the same, with variations in other features of the grain.  Starches and proteins are present in different types of grains in the same way that humans and animals can share the same building blocks in their bodies while being quite different in the way that these building blocks are put together.

Just as rye can be used to make bread – rye-bread (or ‘Ryvita’ as many people would know it using the brand name for a common form of rye bread) – so too can rye be used in brewing beer.  Where different grains are used in brewing beer, these different grains are sometimes called ‘adjuncts’.  Often adjuncts are blended into the grain bill used in brewing a particular type of beer – a certain proportion of malted barley would still form the foundation of the beer, and (often a smaller) percentage of adjunct would be included.

When used in brewing, rye increases the complexity of beer flavour.  It can give a spicy quality and can lend a smooth mouthfeel.  Rye sometimes adds a reddish tinge to beers in which it is used.  Malted rye is usually only used in small amounts – a common proportion would be about 10% to 20% of the grain bill.  One style of beer that is defined by the use of rye in brewing is the german ‘Roggenbier’ (or ‘Rye Beer’), and in this beer, the proportion of rye used in usually higher – often 30% or more.

Hybrid beer styles involve combining the essential elements of two beer styles.  India Pale Ales (commonly abbreviated to ‘IPA’s’ nowadays) are one of the most common styles of beers in the craft beer movement.  Given that this movement is based around creativity and differentiation, it is no surprise that innovative brewers have sought to vary IPA’s.  The family of styles known as ‘Speciality IPA’s’ often involve hybrid styles between the IPA style and another style of beer.  So, you can have ‘Red IPA’s’ (a hybrid between Red Ale and IPA), ‘White IPA’s’ (a hybrid between Witbier – or ‘white beer’ – and IPA) and many other variants.  Rye IPA is quite simply a hybrid style between a rye beer and an IPA.

Marmalade on Rye –

Beer Style                         –  Rye Double IPA (Imperial India Pale Ale)

Alcohol by Volume         –  9.0% a.b.v.

Brewed by                        –  Tempest Brewing Company

Brewed in                         –  Tweedbank (Scottish Borders), Scotland

There is something strangely straightforward and satisfying when a brewer proclaims in simple terms the vision for the beer that they have brewed, and then delivers on that promise with the flavour in the beer.  Tempest’s Marmalade on Rye is a beer that literally ‘does exactly what it says on the tin (or bottle!)’

Marmalade on Rye is a Rye IPA brewed with a few additional ingredients – some ginger and a significant amount of orange zest.  Rye provides a complex flavour that integrates a distinctly wholesome grain flavour (thing Ryevita) and a characteristic spiciness.  American IPA’s can deliver distinctly citrusy flavours – given the use of the appropriate hops – and this can come through as distinctly orange character.  Marmalade – particularly thick cut marmalade – usually include orange rind, the skin of the orange that can be a combination of zesty citric acidity and slightly bitter fruit flavour.

By calling this beer ‘Marmalade on Rye’, Tempest has set expectations in clear and simple terms.  The presentation of the beer is the distinctly reddish colour that one associates with many rye beers.  Spice, rye and citrus aromas come through on the aroma.  By using ginger as an ingredient in the beer, this spice is further supplemented, and the initial flavours of the beer combine malt, rye, spice and warmth (from the 9% alcohol) in a luscious and soft base foundation of beer) with a lively spicy ginger and chilli pepper that adds to the warmth and lifts the mouthfeel and texture of the beer.  Fruit flavours develop as the complexity of the beer reveals itself.  At cooler temperatures, the beer comes through with the distinct flavour of orange that one might associate with thick-cut marmalade.  At warmer temperatures, this fruit flavour combines with the honey sweetness of the malt character in the beer, and the fruit flavours develop into stone fruit – a distinctly luscious and velvety peach flavour inevidence contrasting with the heat and liveliness of the spice.

Marmalade on Rye is a distinctly complex beer.  Each mouthful reveals a further dimension of flavour, but all of this is based around the simple idea of Marmalade on Rye.  ‘Liquid rye bread with marmalade on it’ is something that might be slightly discordant in our brains – the brittle, crispy texture of rye bread is a key characteristic of its flavour, and this might not fit with the idea of a beer in our minds.  However, the softness of juicy marmalade is very much fitting with the full body and luscious character of this beer, and the spice of rye bread is very much in evidence in this beer.

12 Acres Rye IPA –

Beer Style                         –  Rye IPA

Alcohol by Volume         –  5.5% a.b.v.

Brewed by                        –  12 Acres Brewing Company

Brewed in                         –  Killeshin, County Laois, Ireland

12 Acres Brewing Company are distinctive (and, I believe in Ireland, unique) in their approach to brewing.  ‘From our ground to your glass’ is the tagline that they use, and while this might sound like a marketing slogan, it sums up in simple terms their approach to brewing.  Based on a farm in Killeshin, County Laois, the team behind 12 Acres grow their own barley, and then have this barley malted as a separate traceable batch for themselves – following on by using this malted barley in their beer.  They have had great success with their Pale Ale, and have recently added to their range with a single malt lager and this Rye IPA.

At 5.5%, this Rye IPA is just at the ‘entry point’ for classic or Speciality IPA’s.  Typically Speciality IPA’s are in the range 5.0% to 7.5% – with Rye IPA’s, style guidelines stretch this to 5.5% to 8.0% based on what is more normal with beers out there.  At this alcohol level, 12 Acres Rye IPA is incredibly sessionable, but it in no way compromises on flavour.

Presenting with a burnished gold / red-gold colour, the aromas on 12 Acres Rye IPA showcase classic North American hop flavour – grapefruit and citrusy fruit flavour with a touch of pine.  Distinct spicy rye character is evident in the first sip, and this combines with the hop fruit flavour in the beer.  The mouthfeel gives a medium body lusciousness to it, which supports the spice of the malted rye in teh beer.  Very well balanced, spice, malt sweetness, fruit and body all integrate superbly well and deliver all of the complexity that one would hope for from a Rye IPA with the drinkability of a beer at 5.5%.

Incredibly satisfying to see an Irish craft brewery taking on two challenges – the challenge of ensuring that their own Irish ingredients are used in their own beer, and brewing of a distinctive speciality beer style – and showing that it can be done as well as any brewery in the world.  Bravo!!