Red Rye Lager

Moving through the winter months, and moving through my practice in the world of lagers, I’m feeling like something a bit different. I’ve got a good, clean German pils conditioning, so yet another pale lager would be somewhat boring. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t that far away, so an Irish-inspired beer seemed intriguing. I like Irish red ales, but rarely brew them. And then I thought…what about a red lager? Let’s take an Irish red ale recipe, and lagerize it!

Thus, my Red Rye Lager was born. I started with the Better Red Than Dead recipe from AHA, and worked a bit of magic on it. Instead of Maris Otter, I subbed in pilsner malt. To add a little more character, I dropped in a pound of rye malt. Thanks to a suggestion on the AHA forum, I used Carafa III instead of roasted barley for color adjustment. The hops got switched over to lager-appropriate hops, too. Finally, I wanted a yeast that would be clean but flavorful–and a California Common yeast seemed perfect.


This was a fun recipe to work out…I feel like it’s something a bit different and creative. It doesn’t really conform to any particular BJCP style, which is also a plus in my book! The style guidelines are handy, but I find sometimes discourage me from thinking outside the box. I’m not brewing this for competition, so the sky is the limit!

Red Rye Lager

  • 5 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
  • 1.5 lbs. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann Malting)
  • 3 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann Malting)
  • 1 lb. rye malt (Briess Malting)
  • 0.5 lb. CaraRed malt (Weyermann Malting)
  • 2 oz. Carafa III malt (Weyermann Malting)
  • 0.5 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 45 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (4.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. San Francisco Lager Yeast (White Labs, WLP810), prepared in 1.75L starter

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minutes, batch sparge
  • 1.053 o.g., 1.016 f.g., 4.8% abv, 26 IBU, 14 SRM
  • Water adjusted to hit target of 52 Ca, 10 Mg, 11 Na, 43 SO4, 53 Cl, 109 HCO3, RA 46 ppm.


  • I prepared a 1.75L starter for the yeast, 24 hours in advance. Within 12 hours, it had a visible fermentation.
  • I mashed in with 4.5 gallons of RO water, with 2 g Epsom salt and 3 g CaCl added, in addition to 3 mL of 75% phosphoric acid. The strike water was around 165°, to hit a mash temperature of 154°. It was down to 149.5° after 60 minutes. At this point, I vorlaufed, drained the mash tun, and added 4.5 gallons of tap water at 180°.
  • After waiting another 10 minutes, I vorlaufed and drained the mash tun again.
  • In total, I collected 7.3 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.047, for 81% efficiency. Wow! I wonder if it was because I had a slightly thinner mash than normal?
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and other ingredients per the schedule. After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the flame and chilled down to 70°.
  • I transferred the wort to the primary fermenter, and then hit it with 2 minutes of pure oxygen. I pitched the yeast, and sealed it all up. I will be fermenting at 60°.
  • The beer was brewed on 22 December 2017. Starting gravity was 1.053, exactly on target. I ended up with just over 6 gallons in the fermenter.
  • I cold-crashed the beer on 1 February 2018, and kegged it on 2 February 2018. Final gravity was 1.013, for 5.3% abv.

Tasting Notes

  • Aroma
    • A nice crisp spicy aroma, with a gentle malt aroma behind that. Really nice.
  • Appearance
    • A beautifully clear reddish amber color, with an ivory head that starts as thick, tall foam before settling down to a persistant blanket across the top of the beer. Really nice!
  • Flavor
    • The rye spice note is at the back of this beer; it’s not overwhelming, but definitely detectable, which is awesome. The malt backbone is very present, with that nice toasty note that you get from Munich. The bitterness is firm but gentle, standing up perfectly to the malt.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium bodied, moderately high carbonation. The finish is somewhat dry, but not overwhelmingly so.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a wonderful beer! All of the flavors blend perfectly, to make a tasty and very unique beer. This isn’t the sort of thing that I would enter into a competition, because it’s just too off-beat for any category. Not quite amber lager, not quite steam beer.
  • Overall
    • 10/10

1 thought on “Red Rye Lager

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