How To Brew Roggenbier

by Steve Thanos Updated on August 21, 2021 Historical Beer Brewing Recipes

Roggenbier at one point in time was an extremely popular beer amongst homebrewers. Prior to it being added to the 2004 Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines, it appeared most often in the Speciality Beer category.

Currently, Roggenbier is nestled safely in the Historical Beer category of the latest BJCP style guidelines

Rye, the central ingredient in a Roggenbier, has a long history. It started in Batvaria before the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law of 1516). In this law, it stated that all malted grains other than barley would be outlawed. This saved wheat and rye for bread baking. 

Famed beer writer, Michael Jackson, credits Schierlinger’s Roggenbier as a classic example of the style. After brewing a hefeweizen, Schierlinger wanted to have a dark beer on tap as well.

Instead of following the purity law, Schierlinger decided to use “dark grain” as Gordon Strong points out in his article in Brew Your Own magazine. 

One would naturally ask, how did Schierlinger get away with using rye malt in a beer. This was in large part due to the European Union ruling the purity law was “anti-competitive and relaxed the rules for some imports.

Later this became known as the Provisional Beer Law in 1993.  

Style Profile for Roggenbier

Appearance

Roggenbier has a light coppery-orange to very dark reddish or copper brown color. It contains a large creamy off-white to tan head. It is quite dense and persistent. Beer is cloudy and hazy in appearance. 

Aroma

The aroma is moderate spicy in aroma with a light to moderate yeast aromatics. Light spicy, floral, or herbal hop aroma is acceptable. 

Flavor

Grainy with a moderate-low to moderately-strong earthy spicy rye flavor. Medium to medium-low bitterness allows an initial malt sweetness. Sometimes the sweetness can come from the caramel.

Low to moderate weizen yeast character (banana and clove). Medium dry, grainy finish, Low to moderate spicy, herbal, or floral hop flavor. Hop flavor can persist in the aftertaste. 

Mouthfeel

Medium to medium full body. High carbonation, low to moderate creaminess. 

Tips for Brewing your own Roggenbier

Grain

The grist for this style consists of 50% or greater of malted rye. The remainder of the grist can be pale malt, Munich malt, wheat malt, crystal malt, and/or a small amount of debittered dark malt for color adjustments.

Since there is so much Rye malt, don’t forget the rice hulls. A one pound bag should be plenty for a five-gallon batch. 

Hops

Saazer-type of hops for bitterness. Light hand of Saazer-type of hops for flavor and aroma as well. 

Hops should be spicy with a touch of herbal, earthy flavor. Styrian Goldings is a good choice. 

Yeast

The yeast should be a Weizen variety. The Weizen yeast provides the distinctive banana esters and the clove phenols that you are looking for with this style.

White Labs Hefeweizen yeast WLP300, Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager is also a choice

Roggenbier By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 14 – 19 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.046 – 1.056 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.014 FG
  • IBU Range: 10 – 20
  • ABV Range: 4.5 – 6.0% 

Martin Keen’s Roggenbier Recipe

Grain

  • 50%              6lbs                  Rye Malt
  • 21%              2lb 8oz             Munich Malt
  • 21%              2lb 8oz             Pilsner Malt
  •   4%              8oz                  Caramel 120
  •   4%              8oz                  Caramunich III

Hops

  • .5 oz         Styrian Goldings  – Boil – 60 min
  • .5 oz         Styrian Goldings  – Boil – 15 min

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   Bavarian Wheat  Wyeast #3638

Transcript: In German, Roggen means rye. So Roggenbier is beer made from rye, let’s brew one!

Hey, how’s it going I’m Martin Keen taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. Roggenbier is the beer of the day.

And 50% of what’s in here is rye malt. First time I’ve ever used rye in that sort of percentage. Let’s get it in.

I’m going to be mashing today at 152 Fahrenheit. That is 67 Celsius. Now, rye is a naked grain, which means it doesn’t have a husk. And because of that, I have brought along some rice hulls. These are going to provide the husks that the rye don’t provide, just to make sure that we get a good transfer of water through this brew in a bag system.

Let’s add those in. Couple of handfuls is probably sufficient because there are no husks. The rye really does soak up the water in here. And I don’t want this to become this sort of gelatin gooey mess. Just for the sake of efficiency it’s important that the water is able to circulate properly.

Okay. That looks pretty good. So, okay. Talk a little bit about the ingredients? Okay. Now a Roggenbier is similar in style to a Dunkel and accept instead of using wheat malt, it uses rye malt.

In terms of original gravity, we’re looking at around 1.053. So about a 5.3% beer. Nice middle of the road ABV.

As I mentioned, obviously, rye malt is the order of the day here. And that makes up 50% of my grist. In addition to that, I’m adding 21%, each of German Pilsner malt, and also Munich malt. Now we’re going to want some toasty kind of malts in here as well for the style. So I am adding in at 4%, each caramel 120 and Caramunich III.

Now a few weeks ago, I brewed a pre-prohibition lager using this new three port lid from Spike. And I was able to ferment this under pressure using a spunding valve.

And I was even able to cold crash this without exposing anything to oxygen here. I just shut down the spending valve. That way I could ensure that there’ll be no suck back. And then I drop the temperature.

So I have a beer that’s brewed in a completely oxygen free environment right now, but I want to add a fining agent. I’d like to add some gelatin, but I don’t really want to expose the beer to oxygen. So I’m going to try something to put the gelatin in the keg in a way that will not expose the keg to any unnecessary oxygen either.

So what I’ve done is I’ve taken a sanitized and fully purged keg with CO2. And then I use my usual closed transfer system under pressure to move the beer out of the spike flex plus fermentor and into my keg. Again, we have not exposed anything to oxygen.

Then it’s time to add the gelatin. For that, I followed my usual procedure, which is to take one quarter cup of water, combine that with half a teaspoon of gelatin and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds to get to around 160 Fahrenheit.

That’s what I have here. And I want to add it into my keg. Now I could just open up the top lid of my keg here and pour it in. But then I’m exposing a lot of air into the keg, which is kind of a shame. So I’m going to try doing it through the PRV valve, the pressure relief valve here and injecting it.

I looked around to find a syringe in the brewery and I had this little guy here, uh, that’s not really going to get the job done. Then, uh, in the kitchen I found this thing, which I think is used for like basting turkeys or something. I don’t know. Um, but I’m going to sanitize this thing first.

Now this syringe comes with this scary looking needle thing. I’m going to screw that in. Then I’m going to put the gelatin in here. Now I’m going to create some positive pressure in the keg. So I’m going to set this to just one or two PSI of pressure using my CO2 here.

So now I’m going to unscrew this PRV. It’s still a little bit of positive pressure in here. Put this in, inject, close this back up.

So not entirely oxygen free, but fact that this keg was under more pressure than the outside air means that the pressure inside would have been trying to escape a little bit, which should reduce the amount of oxygen getting in. Just to be sure, I’m going to bump up the gas just a little bit and just flush out the top layer.

I think I’m done. I don’t really have any way to know how much oxygen got in, but I’m pretty sure it was a lot less than if I opened the top of this keg here. Or if I would open the port on the top of my spike flex plus.

That was, that was heavy. This is really gummed up. So when I pulled the grain basket out here, it’s still full of the wort. So it was super heavy, much more heavy than usual. And, uh, yeah, that wastes a ton. It’s taking a long time to drain through the mash bed. The rice hulls didn’t really help there a lot. Okay.

So in terms of hops for this beer, well, everything is in this single bag of hops here. This is Styrian Golding’s can perform double duty. I’m going to use it as my bittering hop. Half of this bag will go in at 60 minutes. I will then be using the other half with a 15 minutes to go, just to add a little bit of a flavor and aroma to this.

And this is still draining away. So one of this finally gets done, we’ll get boiling. And, uh, add this in.

I’ve ended up with a bit higher original gravity than I’d intended and a bit less wort than I was expecting. I use beer Smith to figure out my water volume. And apparently it wasn’t quite accurate. Ended up sucking up a lot more liquid than I allowed for, which means I’ve got slightly less in here than I’d planned.

Anyway.

The yeast for this beer, I’m using wyeast, 3638. This is a Bavarian Wheat. Yes, that’s right. Wheat. Even though there is no wheat in this beer, but it is pretty suitable for this style of beer. I’m going to ferment at 70 Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius. All right. Just going to seal this all up, brew days done.

Righty-o, let’s try this rye beer there. Yes. So yeah, just like, let’s just start with the appearance. Cause your appearance is quite striking, yeah um, cloudy, cloudy. Yeah. But color-wise, it has like a coppery orange or a coppery brown, you know, like a burnt copper look to it. Uh, quite carbonated. See all the bubbles up there.

Ooh, that smells quite a bit like a hefeweizen to me, it does, it smells kind of sweet, like, uh, maybe like, well, low notes of like banana. Yeah.

Faintly banana. That’s what I’m getting to. So it sure doesn’t look like a hefeweizen, but it certainly smells like one. Yeah. It definitely smells like one. It’s sort of tastes like, uh, a German wheat beer too, but with a little bit more dark malts to it. I think.

Now what I wondered is is, you know, this is a, a rye beer, so there’s the chance this is going to sort of be quite bready. Uh, maybe a little spicy, maybe a bit, a little bit like pumpernickel bread or something like that.

Or rye bread? Oh yeah. But I don’t know. I’m not really getting that. I’m not. And just before the video, I said that I was a bit nervous cause I’m not a fan of rye bread. So I was like, oh, I’m going to hate this. But spice-wise like, I taste like a very subtle like cloves. Have you had cloves before? Yeah. Um, which sometimes can be spicy, but it’s not like it’s just like a little tingle.

Yeah, it is. So considering the amount of rye here I was expecting, or it’s going to be, you know, spicy rye. Um, and it’s not like that at all. So the banana and clove esters that is, I think coming from, uh, the hefeweizen yeast, um, and it’s just sort of on a bit of a darker sweeter body really.

Okay. Well thank you for trying this one, Lauren uh, next week, uh, with collaborating with another YouTube brewing channel, I will say no more than that, but look out for a special episode next week until then. Cheers!

Steve Thanos: Former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.