Super Rye Session IPA

I’m sure you’ve seen these before: Rye IPA. Rye IPA are distinctive for their red color, and what’s noted as a spicy character. I’ve tried a couple Red or Rye IPAs in my day, and haven’t really been impressed. I’ve never really noticed the distinctive “pepper” finish that beer geeks wax poetic about. (This includes a previous batch of rye session IPA homebrew.) So, enter my attempt to brew a Rye IPA so I can finally figure out what all this peppery finish stuff is all about. Why will my own particular homebrew version of a Rye IPA make the difference in me distinguishing all those features that a rye beer? I’m using 50% rye in my grain bill. (The last iteration was just 16% rye.)

50% Flaked Rye (on the bottom) and 50% barely

I’m making a session IPA for two reasons. Firstly, I like session beers. Because I’m a fat American, I like consuming a lot of stuff. A session beer means I can drink more of the beer before I drunk and/or fat(ter than I already am). Secondly, in addition to adding a peppery finish and red color to beer, rye also makes a beer thicker. So, since I’m using such a proportion of rye in the beer, I’m still using a lot of it. Therefore, I’m using less rye (though proportionally a lot) to keep the beer from getting too thick.

Other Crazy Ideas – Unconventional Hopping Schedules

If you know a little bit about beer, you know that hops are added to the beer at different times to achieve different results. If hops are added at the beginning of the boil, the result is bitterness – bitterness necessary to balance out the sweetness of the barley sugar. If hops are added at the end of the boil – or into the secondary fermenter (weeks after brew day), those hops impart floral notes (and not bitterness) to the beer. However, sometimes hops are added somewhere in between – not at the end of the boil and not in the beginning, but halfway in. This begs the question “why?”

Putting hops into a beer in the middle of the above process imparts little floral notes and only some bitter notes. So, what’s the point? Why not simply put in the hops where they are most efficient? Wells, that’s what I’m going to do for this batch of beer.

I’ll be adding bittering hops just at the beginning of the boil, and adding hops for aroma in the fermenter 10 days into fermentation. That’s it. No 15 minutes or 5 minutes hop additions. For first wort addition. Hopefully, I’ll create something drinkable.

Other Crazy Ideas – Brew to Drink Timetables

The traditional homebrew process goes follows a 2-2-2 schedule. Following brew day, the wort (pre-beer) sits in the primary fermenter for two weeks. The beer is then transferred to a secondary container where it sits for another two weeks. It is then bottled (four weeks after brew day). After two weeks of bottle conditioning (AKA beer sitting in the bottle), it is ready to drink. Or is it?

The 2-2-2 idea sure it convenient if you work weeks day – allowing you to do your brew stuff on the weekends. But, is it the best way to brew beer? To test this theory, I’ll be attempting an alternative schedule – one that will get me from brewing to bottling in just half the time.

Ten days after brew day, I’ll be dry hopping – adding additional hops to the brew. Five days after that, I’m bottling. This will give me 15 days to ferment – which should be sufficient. It will also give me five days to get the essence of the hop aroma out of the hops – but no longer than necessary. At day 15, I’ll be bottling. One week from then, I’ll try the first beer.

In the future, I can play around with this variables – but for now I’m interested in cutting the timeline to enjoying beer in half.

Brew Day

OG clocked in at roughly 1.030, almost on the nose with the predicted outcome. Insofar as what rye can lend to a brew, a striking red color was visibly absent from the wort. The same goes for any pepper flavor: absent. How the rye impacts the final fermented product should be telling.


The Results

Did I mention that the rye took up a ton of space in the fermenter? Check out the below. It’s full of stuff.


Two of three bottles sampled to date have been contaminated. What a waste – especially since I only got six bottles from this batch because of all the trub in there. So, that’s too bad. That’s the trouble with brewing such a light beer – any contamination shows up front and center. Perhaps next time I’ll add more hops to function both as a preservative and to mask and off-flavors.

And, I can’t say that I really noticed the rye flavors from the specialty malt. Ah well. Maybe next time I’ll make a 100% rye beer!

Lessons Learned

But, the good is the shorter timetable totally works. The beer definitely achieved carbonation just a few days in (in the bottle). So, there’s no reason to bottle condition for two weeks. For the rest of the experiment – such as dry hopping for just a few days instead of two weeks – that worked too (I think). I add the “I think” suffix because I don’t have a benchmark. That is, I didn’t create two identical batches – dry hopping one for two and the other for just a few days. What I can tell you is that the dry-hopping technique of just a few days totally worked. It’s not as if the beer was any less floral than other brews where dry hopping was done for a longer amount of time.

The Recipe

You can download the recipe here.