Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Screwy's Recipe 71 - Screwer In The Rye Lager

 For the past several weeks I had been thinking about brewing a Rye beer so I did quite a bit of research online reading everything I could find related to brewing beer using Rye malts. The styles of beer that I've been brewing lately have all tasted good and now that I successfully converted my extract recipes to all grain I was ready to brew something new. But before a I could create a new recipe I had to actually drink a Rye beer to get a sense of what a Rye beer tastes like. So one afternoon Mike brought over some Sierra Nevada 'Ruthless Rye' beers for us to try out and later that day a new beer recipe was born.

Chocolate, Crystal, Pale Malts And Flaked Rye Grains
We've been drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for quite a few years by now and they were one of my favorite beers so I was happy to learn they just released a new style called Ruthless Rye made with rye malt. To us the new beer had mostly the same SNPA taste and flavor except at the very end when you could clearly taste the clean spiciness of the rye. The spicy character of the rye malt became less and less noticeable with every new sip of beer and when we had to switch back to drinking their Pale Ale we immediately knew we were drinking a different beer.

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye In Glass While Racking My Clone

The color of my Screwer In The Rye matched perfectly with the color of the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye we'd been drinking while transferring the cooled wort to the fermentor. Brewing a new experimental beer was very exciting for me and I took extra steps to make sure it would come out tasting as close as possible to the beer I was cloning. I spent a few hours over the course of the next week calibrating my brewing thermometer, which I found after a year of use had drifted 3-4F. I used qBrew to create the ingredient list of grains and hops I would be using and then put together the rest of my brewing plan and entered them into the batch notes and saved them.

Washing The Rice Hulls Prior To Adding To Mash
I found from my research that flaked rye is an adjunct and it should be used in a recipe in a similar way as flaked oats or flaked wheat to avoid stuck sparges. I also read in several threads where some brewers rinse their rice hulls under running tap water before putting them in the mash tun, while other brewers claimed there was no need to and they just poured them right into the mash tun. I've used rice hulls many times before when brewing my wheat beers and never rinsed them but for my first attempt at brewing the perfect Rye beer I decided to rinse them thoroughly before mashing them. It was clear to see that the rinse water used to clean the rice hulls did contain a whole lot of rice related debris and it took about three good rinses before it started to look clearer.

After Recirculating The Wort Sample Was 1.074
At the start of the lauter I recirculated the wort for about 30 minutes to setup the grain bed and get the wort running clear before adding it to the boil pot. I used a 60 minute single step infusion mash at 154F to prepare the wort and a fly sparge at 168F for 45 minutes to fill the boil pot. I always take a hydrometer sample at the very start and very end of filling the boil pot with wort. The temperature corrected readings for this rye beer were 1.074 and 1.032 respectively, which confirmed the conversion rate was good and there was no chance of extracting tannins caused by running off too much wort.

60 Minute Boil With Hop Additions
I'm a firm believer in first wort hopping now because I find myself using this method of increasing hop utilization in all of my beers now. It's pretty easy to do and the way I decided on is to take the bittering addition, which in this case called for a 60 minute boil, and just put it in the boil pot and let the wort flow through the hops until the pot is full. Since brewing this way I have never noticed any astringency or vegetable matter off flavors in any of the styles I've brewed using FWH additions not even in the really hoppy IPA styles. I put all the pellet hops I use in hop sacks and then remove them all just prior to cooling the wort down adding boiling water to the wort as needed to keep the pot full.

1/2 Tablet Of WhirlFloc Keeps The Cold Break Out Of The Fermentor

By using hops sacks to remove the hops after the boil and the addition of some WhirlFloc 10-15 minutes before flameout helps a lot in keeping the cold break inside the boil pot and out of the fermentor when racking the wort. I've found that reducing chill haze and producing a clear, clean tasting beer requires care during the lauter when recirculating the wort as well as using a fining agent to help settle the trub and using an autosiphon when transferring to the primary fermentor and bottling bucket.

Pouring East Coast Yeast's ECY12 Into Aerated Wort
Of course using good fresh yeast that provides the right attenuation and flocculation characteristics for the style of beer you're brewing is important to produce a great tasting beer that's both clear and clean tasting. After a good long boil any oxygen that was in the wort has been depleted and it has to be put back into the wort in sufficient quantities so that the yeast can load up their food reserves and multiply, keeping the lag and growth phases as short as possible. Once all the oxygen in the wort is used up by the yeast a healthy fermentation will begin with a vengeance and soon after the yeast will drop out of suspension further clearing the beer. Cold crashing the fermentor for a day before transferring the beer to a bottling bucket will also make the beer clearer and cleaner as more yeast will drop out of suspension before going into your kegs or bottles.

East Coast Yeast ECY12 - Old Newark Beer™ Fermented At 59F
The fermentor spent the next 3 weeks inside my fermentation chamber with the temperature of the fermentor held between 57-59F, a few days before bottling I let the temperature rise to 62F for a couple of days before transferring to my bottling bucket. The last five days in the primary fermentor is when I added my finishing hops and let them soak in the beer for five days, this last hop addition really brought this beer to life because the samples I drank during bottling had all the up front aroma that was missing at the end of the boil.

The Rye's Final Gravity Finished At 1.014
My latest Rye beer recipe is now been in the bottles and keg naturally carbonating since last Saturday and it will be ready for sampling in about another week and a half. Based on my initial impression of this recipe I have very high expectations since the rye flavors were noticeable but not cloying and the mouthfeel seemed as if it would be spot on once the carbonation levels were reached and the beer chilled to serving temperature. All in all my latest creation left me with a good feeling of accomplishment considering all the things that went into brewing this nice new beer and what could have gone wrong as in any new recipe but didn't. Now it's just a waiting game waiting for the yeast to add that nice soft natural carbonation to what already tastes like a remarkable beer.

Screwer In The Rye!
Today I got to drink my very first Screwer In The Rye Lager! It's been naturally carbonating for eight days and I put a few bottles in the refrigerator around 6AM this morning. I'm so excited, it's my first attempt at brewing a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye and I can't wait to try it cold and carbonated.

Screwer In The Rye Lager
 This beer is nicely carbonated, somewhere between an ale and a wheat beer, loaded with spicy aromas and clean tasting, absolutely delicious. The first thing I noticed when lifting the glass to take a sip was the nice rye aroma that gives you a hint of what's in store, followed by the unmistakably complex hop presence. It has a rich dark color with good mouthfeel, long lasting head retention and the blend of rye, malt and hop flavors and aromas are not at all cloying in any way.

Great Mouthfeel, Head Retention And Lacing
 Somewhat darker in color than a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye this very tasty rye beer has already become one of my favorites. I imagine paring this beer with any type of barbequed meats, steaks, ribs, burgers or chicken and it will stand up to and enhance their flavors perfectly without over powering them. If you're tired of brewing the same old pale ales and are looking to try a rye beer style go for it you won't be disappointed.

After making a few very minor tweaks in the grain bill I was able to brew this beer with just about the right color I wanted, this tweak is really more about aesthetics than anything else. The other change in my process involved pitching a 2 liter starter of East Coast Yeast ECY-12 that I had washed and propagated from my brew's original fermentation.

Screwer In The Rye Lager II
 This is a great tasting beer with a nice spicy rye aroma combined with just the right balance of rye and hop flavor to give the beer a clean satisfying finish. It's a nice variation of an IPA although there really is nothing pale about it but it is very hop forward with just the right amount of spice. The addition of the Crystal malt lends just the slightest hint of caramel sweetness and adds enough body, lacing and head retention to last from first sip to last.

I brewed this recipe again in June 2012 about four months after posting this original story and made several adjustments to the recipe. I switched out Crystal 10L for the Crystal 20L in the first recipe to get the color a little lighter and after removing the rice hulls completely the sparge still didn't stick. The next time I brew this recipe I have a couple of new tricks to try to get the color just a shade or two lighter yet.

Screwy In The Rye Version III


  1. Screwy, Sounds like a very tasty beer. I first had a Ruthless Rye in January while
    enjoying the sun in Florida, what a treat!
    Do you plan on posting your recipe?

    The Brewing Chef

  2. I haven't gotten to taste this beer in it's finished state yet so I don't have any tasting notes but my recipes are being kept top secret these days. As every brewer knows half the fun of brewing a new beer recipe is doing the experimentation, waiting to see how the brew turns out and then tweaking it as needed.

  3. I'm thinking of doing this with a Belgian ale yeast!

  4. That should make an interesting beer, with quite a different character than my IPA like brew. I chose to use ECY-12 because of it's clean finish there's no esters to cloud up the malt and hop flavors and aromas.

  5. I can tell you this since using yeast nutrients, a two liter starter, pure oxygen for aeration and cold crashing the fermentor for 4 days prior to kegging not only this beer but all my beers went from tasting good to tasting great. Currently on my fourth generation of ECY-12 and the beers they ferment couldn't be any better.