Style Profile: Rye Ale

Posted on March 30th, 2010

Rye Ale is an oft overlooked style of beer that combines the graininess of a porter, the smoothness of a cream ale and the spiciness of a pale ale in one delicious brew. While it still can be tough to find in some parts of the country, the style has been slowly gaining in popularity over the last few years. Its unique combination of flavors makes it a great beer to enjoy during the spring or any time of the year.

As the name suggests, the key ingredient in this style is rye grain. Used in place of barley, rye gives beer a tall head and a lovely taste. Although rye is best known as a type of bread, it has been used for many centuries as a basic ingredient in many different types of alcohol. First cultivated in Turkey, the plant is now primarily grown through much of Europe, but can also be found in Asia and North America. Because its flavors are so much stronger than barley, when overused rye can overpower a beer’s taste, but when brewed in conjunction with barley it gives beer a wonderfully bold taste.

It’s only in recent years that rye has seen a resurgence among craft brewers. There are now a number of wonderful beers out their in the classic rye ale style. If you are looking for a classic rye ale to introduce yourself to the style your best bet is Founders’ Red’s Rye Ale, which is perhaps the most popular rye ale in America. If you find it to your liking be sure to give Cane & Ebel from Two Brothers Brewing Co. a try or the Rye Pale Ale from Terrapin.

In addition to this many more brewers have been experimenting with the grain as a flavor enhancer in other styles. One example of this is Brooklyn Brewery’s Manhattan Project, which was brewed in collaboration with Esquire Magazine Drinks Editor David Wondrich as an attempt to replicate the taste of a Manhattan cocktail in beer form. While it’s hardly a Manhattan clone it is a deliciously unusual brew that showcases the tremendous versatility of rye and something everyone should try.

What do you think of rye ale? Next time you try one  let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the #mybeer hashtag