The beers that make the most use of rye, in this case, malted, are the roggenbiers of Bavaria. They are brewed in the image of a weizenbier, essentially an alternative to dunkelweizen. The brewers of roggenbier simply replace the measure of malted wheat with malted rye and use the house weizenbier yeast. The few breweries that make roggenbier use about 60 percent malted rye. The inherent spiciness is evident in the brew. Like a sahti, the extra protein content results in a glutinous, silkier palate.
The yeast presents a lineup of the usual suspects that are familiar to weizenbier lovers: banana, clove and vanilla. They are bottle conditioned, and if they were more common, they might be called hefe-roggen. They are wonderful beers; it would be nice to see more.
Modern Rye Beer
It is doubtful that rye will cement a prominent spot in the brewing world, but in North America, and even in England, rye is finding its way into the grist. Rye flakes are a readily available form of the grain that is easy to work with and can be added to a mash in small quantities to enhance the overall complexity of the beer. It is used much like oats. Malted rye is also used in these experimental-type beers, and any brew could conceivably benefit in some way from the addition of either form.
Pale ales, stouts, bocks and porters are no stranger to rye in commercial breweries and brewpubs. The 2002 champion pale ale at the Great American Beer Festival was a rye-enhanced brew from Terrapin Brewing Co. in Athens, GA. Perhaps it was the depth added by the rye that got the judges’ attention. English breweries are using more wheat in their recipes these days, so perhaps rye will one day make similar inroads. As envelope-pushing brewers are always looking for something different in the practice of their craft, don’t be surprised if rye takes on a larger role. Craft beer lovers will be the ultimate arbiters if the result is worthy.