Amber Rye Ale

I firmly believe that amber ales deserve more love than they get nowadays. A well crafted amber ale is one of my favorite beers, but ambers are often hard to find relative to their zenith around 20 years ago. I make them semi-regularly, but wanted to take things in a slightly different direction this time around. So…why not add some rye?

With this particular batch, I wanted a beer that had the caramel quality and dry hop character of my favorite ambers, while adding a bit of rye spice to help it stand out. The recipe was loosely based on one by Charlie Papazian, “Choco Red Rye Wedding Ale.” I got a bit of feedback via the AHA forum, which was helpful in further refining my plans. For something a little different, I used Lutra kveik — it is supposed to ferment fairly clean at lower temperatures, so I thought it would be an interesting experiment.

I served the beer at the Lake Arrowhead Brewfest this past weekend, and it was pretty well received. I maybe have a gallon left, and will be savoring that.

Amber Rye Ale

  • 8 lb. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 2 lb. rye malt (Weyermann)
  • 10 oz. crystal 60 (Great Western)
  • 8 oz. caramel/crystal malt 135/165L (Bairds)
  • 2 oz. chocolate wheat malt (Weyermann)
  • 6 oz. rice hulls
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Lutra kveik (Omega OYL-071) dry yeast
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 1.048 s.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.8% abv, 31 IBU, 17 SRM
  • Full-volume mash, no sparge, at 156°
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I heated the strike water to 162° (with Campden tablet), and mashed in to hit a mash temperature of 156. I added 5.6 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the pH.
  • After 60 minutes of mash with recirculation, I raised the temperature to 168° for a 10 minute mash out. Then, I pulled the grains. In total, I collected 5.9 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.045, for 67% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I chilled the wort to 85°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast. I let it ferment at ambient in the garage, which was around 66° for most of the time. Vigorous fermentation took off in under 12 hours.
  • I brewed this beer on 25 May 2022, and kegged it on 9 June 2022. I added the dry hops to the keg in a bag.
  • Starting gravity was 1.052. Final gravity was 1.017, for 4.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • This beer pours with a creamy, tall, and persistent ivory head. The beer itself is deep amber and brilliantly clear. It is beautiful in the glass!
  • Aroma
    • There is plenty of rye “zing.” I pick up a little dried stonefruit, and some fresh hay from the hops. The fermentation profile is surprisingly clean.
  • Flavor
    • Rye and rich malt, with a touch of dark caramel behind that. The bitterness is moderate and clean. Just like with the aroma, I don’t get anything really for yeast.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body, moderate carbonation. Smooth finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • YES! This is a fantastic and interesting beer from start to finish. The end product was exactly what I envisioned. Fermentation profile is wonderfully clean (or at least playing well with the malts and hops). I can’t think of anything to change.
  • Overall
    • 10/10

Summer RyePA

My latest session IPA was a bit of a kitchen sink beer, but also one where I wanted to create a slightly more “traditional” northwest IPA. That means citrus and pine for the hops, and no fear of the crystal malt. To ground my malt character, I used Vienna malt as the base, with a healthy dose of rye malt on top of that. I used about 7% crystal malt to add some body and depth. The overall results were pretty fantastic!

Summer RyePA

  • 8 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.5 lb. rye malt (Viking)
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 40 (Great Western)
  • 0.25 lb. crystal 60 (Great Western)
  • 2 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alph), 60 minute boil
  • 0.4 oz. Chinook hop pellets (13.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 3 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. American West Coast Ale yeast (BRY-97)
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (9.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 0.5 oz. Cryo-Cascade hop pellets (12.0% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 0.4 oz. Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) hop pellets (15.5% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 1.047 s.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.5% abv, 7 SRM, 46 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 156°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
  • Claremont water, with 3 g gypsum and 5 g epsom salts added to kettle during chilling, to hit approximate mixture of 51 ppm Ca, 32 ppm Mg, 71 ppm Na, 156 ppm SO4, 75 ppm Cl, ~100 ppm HCO3

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water, heated to 167°. Once it had cooled down to 163°, I added the grains, and hit a mash temperature of 153°. I added ~2 mL of 88% lactic acid to bring the mash pH down a touch.
  • Around 30 minutes in, I added 2 gallons of water at 175°, to raise the mash temperature to 157°.
  • After 60 minutes of mashing, I collected the first runnings. Then, I added 3 gallons of water with 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to neutralize carbonates. This should result in around ~100 ppm HCO3.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and such per the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I began the chilling process. At this point, I realized that I had forgotten to add the gypsum and epsom salts I had intended to add earlier, so boiled them in a cup of water and put this into the wort.
  • Once I had chilled a bit, I transferred to the fermenter and then chilled the rest of the way, down to 68°, in my fermentation chamber.
  • I brewed this beer on 8 August 2020, and fermented at 66°. Starting gravity was 1.048.
  • I brought the beer up to ambient garage temperature (78° to 80°) on 15 August 2020, to finish out fermentation.
  • I kegged the beer on 21 August 2020, adding 2.85 oz. of corn sugar for natural carbonation along with the dry hops in a bag. I let it sit at ambient for about a week, before chilling and finishing carbonation via forced CO2.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Deep gold in color, with an orange tinge, and only a slight haze. This beer dropped surprisingly clear after ~2 weeks in the keezer! A persistent off-white head holds modest lacing along the side of the glass.
  • Aroma
    • Hop forward, with citrus/orange at the front, and a bit of earthiness behind that. Yeast character is clean, and not much in the way of malt is noticeable.
  • Flavor
    • Bitterness level is moderately high, with an orange/citrusy character. It’s distinctly tilted towards the hops, with the malt in the background in terms of balance. Malt character is grainy with only a hint of caramel notes, and avoiding any perception of sweetness. I get a touch of rye spice as the beer warms up, but I’m surprised the rye doesn’t come through more prominently. That’s probably an okay thing, though, in that it doesn’t overwhelm the beer. As I finish more of the glass, the pine character of the hops starts to shine through.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light bodied, with an extended dry finish and a lingering bitterness. Moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is one of the better session IPAs I’ve done over the years. It’s got sufficient character to be interesting, and enough body to keep it from seeming thin. The citrus character is very nice, and I think the blend of hops is spot-on for this kind of beer. It’s squarely in the northwest IPA tradition, with plenty of citrus and not much of the tropical fruit character so common in IPAs nowadays. It’s interesting that the pine character manifests a bit late as I drink the beer, and same for the rye notes. That’s okay by me, though. I could certainly play with the hops more, but the grain bill is pretty close to perfect.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Aftershock Amber Ale

Craft beer is more common than ever, but it still seems like the style landscape has contracted. Hazy IPAs are everywhere, and of course you can get double IPAs and the barrel aged stouts. These are great from time to time, but every once in awhile I long for one of those “classic” styles that disappeared as breweries expanded their repertoire and chased the latest trends. I want a beer that tastes like it came from around 2002; something you might find at the local “microbrewery” alongside a plate of greasy boneless wings from the kitchen in back. What is more classic than an amber ale?

IMG_20190825_122630I love the American amber ale style. It can fit just about any time of year and any occasion, and the best ones bring a nice dose of maltiness and hoppiness into a cohesive package. I also like that they’ve been mostly immune from the double-triple-imperial crazes, and clock in between 4.5 and 5.7% (by the 2015 BJCP style guidelines). They’re fairly simple to brew, but also have a broad stylistic interpretation that rewards experimentation.

I put together a recipe that would have a nice dose of malt, drawing on Munich I (Weyermann) for nearly 50% of the grist, backed up by 2-row pale malt. To add a bit of zest, I put in a dose of rye malt, along with a generous helping of two kinds of crystal malt. The results came together in one of my favorite beers as of late!

I brewed this batch on 6 July 2019, just after two days of fairly large earthquakes in southern California. There was no choice for the name, then, other than “Aftershock Amber Ale.”

Aftershock Amber Ale

  • 5 lbs. Munich I (Weyermann)
  • 3 lbs. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
  • 1 lb. 1823 Heritage crystal malt (Bairds), 75°
  • 1 lb. rye malt (Viking)
  • 4 oz. 2-row crystal 60° malt (Great Western)
  • 3 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8%), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Cascade whole hops (~5.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Safale American ale yeast (US-05)
  • 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (9.2% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • 1.048 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 4.9% abv, 34 IBU, 13 SRM
  • Claremont tap water

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 162.5°, to hit a target mash temperature of 152°.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 1.3 gallons of water, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Next, I added 3.6 gallons of water at 185°, and did the same procedure before collecting the rest of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.6 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.042, for 73% efficiency.
  • I brought everything to a boil, adding hops and finings per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat, chilled the wort, transferred it, and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.048. I brewed this on 6 July 2019, and fermented it at 68°.
  • I kegged the beer on 17 July 2019. It had a final gravity of 1.011, for 4.9% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Beautiful, fairly clear, reddish amber hue to the beer, with an ivory-colored head that is fine and quite persistent.
  • Aroma
    • Mild rye aroma, with a bit of caramel behind that. Not much for hops.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately bitter and highly malty, with a pleasant rye flavor at the forefront. The malt and bitterness are nicely balanced against each other; it’s not too sweet, but just about right. The hop character comes across as somewhat piney and woody…there’s less citrus than I would expect, probably because of the malt overriding the hops.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderate body, moderate carbonation, with a slightly dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! I love the mouthfeel and flavor on this; it really is exactly what I hoped for. I think I would probably ditch the dry hops on this; they aren’t really perceptible and might even clash with the malts a bit. Plus, they don’t really seem necessary.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

OverDRyeV Ale

I’ve done very little brewing with rye; this is a fairly common ingredient in commercial (and home) brews, but I rarely use it in my own recipes. A search of my blog found only two instances, in fact (a pilsner and an oaked ale)! Why not explore the ingredient a bit, then?

The December 2017 issue of BYO magazine had a clone recipe for Shoreline Brewery’s Red Rye Ale that looked pretty tasty. I liked that it incorporated several varieties of rye malt, and I also liked that it wasn’t just another rye IPA (although that style also is in my future). I made some minor modifications for my on-hand hops, and also substituted in Weyermann CaraRye for non-Weyermann crystal rye, which I couldn’t find readily (it was supposed to be equal amounts of CaraRye and crystal rye).

In the past, I’ve noticed that my higher gravity mashes, as well as mashes with a percentage of flaked grains, tend to come in a bit lower on mash efficiency. So, I assumed 70% for efficiency (instead of my usual 75% or so), and managed to come pretty close.

My goal with this brew is to have a medium body, malty brew that will serve well during the winter months. The brew session was fairly uneventful, helped along by a generous portion of rice hulls to prevent a stuck sparge. My only minor disappointment was that I ended up a shade below my target gravity (1.068 vs. 1.072). Because I am hitting my preboil volumes and gravities fairly well, I think I just need to improve the vigor of my boil.

I also tested out my oxygen wand setup; I had a bit of a disappointment recently with a stuck fermentation on a high gravity brew, so wanted to avoid that in this batch, which was supposed to clock in slightly above 1.070 for starting gravity.

The name, if you couldn’t guess, is a pun on “overdrive”, so named because of the hefty dose of rye malts. The “V” at the end is because I used California Ale V yeast.

rye

OverDRyeV Ale

  • 7.5 lbs. 2-row California Select brewer’s malt (Great Western)
  • 4 lbs. Golden Promise malt (Simpsons)
  • 2 lbs. rye malt (Briess)
  • 1 lb. CaraRye malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lb. flaked rye (Briess)
  • 2 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 oz. chocolate rye malt (Weyermann)
  • 4 oz. rice hulls
  • 4 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1.25 oz. Perle hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Perle hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale V yeast (WLP051, White Labs), prepared in starter

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°. Batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water, with addition of 2 g CaCal and 10 mL phosphoric acid (75%) to strike water.
  • 1.072 s.g., 1.018 f.g., 78 IBU, 16 SRM, 7.1% abv

Procedure

  • The night before brewing, I made a 1.5L starter for the yeast.
  • I mashed in with 5.5 gallons of water at 164°, to hit a mash temperature of 153°. After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed, drained the mash tun and added 3.5 gallons of water at 185°. After resting for 10 minutes, I vorlaufed the drained the mash tun again.
  • In total, I collected 6.8 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.057, for 69% efficiency.
  • I brought the mixture to a boil, and boiled for 60 minutes while adding hops and other additions at the appropriate times.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled to 75° or so, transferred to the fermenter, and oxygenated for 1 minute.
  • I brewed this on 4 December 2017. The wort had a starting gravity of 1.066; this was a bit below my target, so I should probably boil a bit more vigorously on the next batch to drop gravity appropriately.
  • I started fermentation at 68°, and let it drop to ambient in the cooler (66°) after six days. Then, I raised the temperature to 70°, where it rested for a week before kegging.
  • I kegged the beer on 17 December 2017. It had a final gravity of 1.015. Thus, I have an estimated abv of 6.7%. The beer has a really nice and rich rye taste; it’s going to be an awesome winter beer once is carbonated and on tap!