How To Brew Rye IPA

by Steve Thanos | Updated: March 11, 2021

Rye IPAs are another IPA sub-style that was included with Specialty IPAs. The BJCP guidelines in 2015 outlines the overall impressions of the style thusly:

“A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American and New World hop varieties and rye malt.

The balance is hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dry finish, and clean, supporting malt.”

More Than Just For Whiskey

Commonly used in whiskey making, Rye is a vastly overlooked malt that contributes what some speculate to be a spicy flavor.

However, the spice that some perceive to be there might actually be what we associate with caraway seed, especially when we are enjoying rye bread with caraway seed. The perceived taste of rye malt is also earthiness.

No matter if  the perception of rye is either spicy or earth, rye malt adds depth of flavor like not many malts can. Rye malt is a staple to people in Central and Northern Europe. One of the reasons is rye malt is able to grow well in cold climates that exist in those sections of Europe. 

Showcasing Rye Malt

Although rye malt can act well as a supporting malt in a beer recipe, it can take on the lead role as well with styles such as Finnish Sahti and Bavarian Roggenbier.  The one troublesome attribute about rye malt is the lack of a hull around the grain itself.

The added trouble of a high beta-glucan and protein content makes for slow runoffs and a possibility of a  stuck sparge. Using rice hulls with your grain bill will always give that added insurance 

Style Profile for Rye IPA

Appearance

Rye IPA will range from a medium gold to light amber with reddish hues. Clarity should be clear, unless the beer is dry hopped, then haze will appear.

Head color is white to off-white and should be medium in size with good retention. 

Aroma

The aroma of a Rye IPA will be a clean, low to moderately low malt character. There should be some background notes of pepper/spicy and/or earthy rye character present. Strong hop aroma featuring American or New World hop varieties. 

Flavor

Malt flavor can range from low to medium-low and should be relatively clean with light malty/grainy character and even some light notes of toast and caramel.

The light spice/earthy character should be noticeable. Hop bitterness can range from moderately high to very high. Hop flavors would consist of berry, pine, spicy, floral, citrus, stone, tropical fruit and melon. Finish of the beer should be fairly dry. 

Mouthfeel

Smooth texture with medium to moderately light to medium body. Carbonation can range from medium to moderately high. Very light and smooth alcohol warming is acceptable. Hop astringency should not be harsh. 

Food Pairing

A good Rye IPA can pair well with French onion soup, tomato soup, or pasta salad. Spicy foods such as Indian, Asian, or Mexican can all pair nicely.

The old reliable dishes such as Rueben sandwich, pizza, grilled steak, spicy sausage, chile rellenos, smoked salmon, tacos, jerk chicken, and curry dishes are all great choices to pair. 

Cheese such as blue, smoked gouda, sharp aged cheddar, Rye IPA. Desserts that consist of spice cakes, citrus tart, or spiced rice pudding all pair nicely here too. 

Tips for Brewing your own Rye IPA

Grain

Domestic 2-Row, Pilsner malt, Vienna malt can all individually be the base malts for Rye IPAs. A half pound each of Crystal 40 and 80 will give off that toast flavor.

A quarter pound of victory will give some complexity. 20% of the grist should be rye malt. Rice hulls should be added just to be safe. 

Hops

American hops really should be showcased in this beer. A traditional bittering charge at 60 minutes is a nice place to start with your hop schedule.

Something like Chinook or Simcoe will give the beer a nice bitterness. After bittering hops, the sky’s the limit with how much or little hops you want to add.

Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo is always a good way to start when thinking about the hop schedule. If adding rye to the grain bill, Mosaic makes for a decent choice. 

Hopping with New World hops like Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin or any of your favorite hops from New Zealand or Australia will work here too. Dry hopping is very common with the style and encouraged to extract more hop aroma and flavor in your beer. 

Yeast

A clean fermenting American yeast is encouraged for American IPAs. Wyeast American Ale 1056 or White Labs California Ale WLP001 are two popular strains.

Imperial Yeast also offers A15 Independence, A07 Flagship, and A18 Joystick. Safale US-05 is also the dry yeast strain to be considered.

Rye IPA the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 6 – 14 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.056 – 1.075 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014 FG
  • IBU Range: 50 – 75
  • ABV Range: 5.5 – 8.0%

Martin Keen’s Rye IPA Recipe

Grain

  • 74 %            9 lbs 8oz      2 – Row   
  •   8 %            1 lbs             Flaked Rye
  •   8 %            1 lb               Rye Malt
  •   4 %            10 oz            Caramel 60
  •   4 %             8 oz             Carafoam
  •   2%              4 oz             Victory

Hops

  • 1.00 oz         Mosaic – Boil – 60 min
  • 1.00 oz         Simcoe – Boil – 15 min
  • 1.00 oz         Mosaic – Boil – 5 min
  • 1.00 oz         Simcoe – Boil – Dry Hop
  • 1.00 oz         Mosaic – Boil – Dry Hop

Yeast

1.0 pkg   California Ale White Labs WLP001

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: Today, I’m brewing an Indian pale ale with spicy and peppery notes. It’s a rye IPA. We’re also going to take a look at recipe design and how I come up with my recipes. And speaking of which, todays recipe has a little bit more research behind it than usual. Let’s get to it.

Hello. My name is Martin Keen, and I am taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And I’m currently in category 21B, which is IPA’s. And today I’m bringing up a rye IPA.

Now I’ve used some Rye malts before in some of my recipes, but I’ve never gone so far as brewing anything that would be considered a Rye beer.

So when I was putting together this rye IPA recipe, I was looking for a bit of help. And Matthew from Mean brews has certainly delivered the goods, but more on that in a moment that’s first of all, let’s get the brewing started.

I’m going to mash today at 153 Fahrenheit. That’s 67 Celsius, about 60 minutes as usual.

For my water chemistry, I have already added some gypsum, calcium chloride and Epsom salt. I’m going for a sulfite to chloride ratio of 3-1. So I’m brewing a 2.5 gallon batch. And then here is one gram of Epsom salt, one gram of calcium chloride, two and a half grams of gypsum.

As we are re-circulating the wort, let’s talk a little bit about recipe design.

Most of the beers on this channel are my own personal recipes, and that does beg the question, how am I coming up with these things? And it’s really quite simple. I’m basically doing some research about the style in general, and then picking ingredients that fit that style that are ingredients that I thought I know that I like in a particular beer style, or maybe they’re ones that I haven’t really tried in that beer style before.

And I’m kind of curious as to how they’ll work out. So here’s the general process I go through when I’m building a beer recipe. And I think now is a good reminder that most of my recipes are on Atlantic supply.com. You can buy these things as kits, in all grain or extract versions.

So let’s talk about the research aspect of this first. How do I figure out what a style, uh, you know, really consists of what I should be shooting for?

Well, my first option is to check out the 2015 BJCP guidelines. These are the guidelines that I’m following through for my 99 beers. And they describe a series of things about how the beer tastes, its mouthfeel, aroma, appearance and so forth.

So this is really the starting point, but there are a number of websites I quite like as well. kegerator.com is fantastic. They have each one of the BJCP styles on here with description, normally a history, um, and some information about how to brew it as well. And often some advice on the ingredients that you should add.

Another resource that I love is craft beer and brewing magazine. Josh Weikert has a description of every one of the styles that I’m brewing as well. He sometimes goes a little bit beyond the sort of the basics of the style and we’ll add some different ingredients that maybe aren’t traditional. So it’s kind of interesting to get his take. And I always read up on one of his articles to see what he’s doing.

And of course, looking at other people’s home brew recipes are a great place to start as well. I particularly like the American home brewers association of which I’m a member. They have a ton of good recipes. These are typically all award winning beers. So it’s really interesting to click on one of these and then see what it was that they used in their beers as well.

Then when I’ve done that research, I will start to think about what I want to add into my beer and to actually build the recipe well, that’s where I use beersmith.

So here is my beer smith, a recipe for rye IPA. And in here you can see the water salts that I’m adding in, the malt bill, the hops. And it will also show me down here in the style guide comparison, how I’m doing compared to the style itself.

But when it came to this specific beer, I had a little bit more help as well. Courtesy of mean brews.

And what Matthew is doing here is looking at award-winning beers to see what sort of characteristics and ingredients that they had, and then to draw some comparisons between them to show things like the evolution over time of how a style has changed. And also to try to get a consensus on what these award-winning beers have in common.

And we can see things like the malt bill, including the amount of crystal malts and the type of crystal malts used. Matthew also illustrates how trends change over time and how more flaked rye is being added to rye IPA’s over time.

Now I would highly recommend you check out Matthew’s channel and particular his rye IPA video, but what this all boils down to is kind of a recommended recipe based upon the averages that all of these award-winning recipes have made from. So we can really understand if we want to get something that is going to be similar to the best of the beer style, what we should do.

And this recipe is exactly the recipe that I’m replicating today. So let’s go talk about it.

So this beer is going to have an original gravity of about 10 66. So around a 6 or 7% ABV beer. Now the main base malt in this beer is two row pale malt at 73%. So unlike say a wheat beer where maybe half of the grist is actually wheat malt, a rye beer is still mainly barley.

Now in terms of rye, what we’re going to add is 8% of rye malt, and 8% of flaked rye. And then for the toasty, malts going to be adding in 5% of caramel 60, 4% of Carafoam, and 2% of victory malt.

This beer is going to have an IBU around 64-65. That seemed to be about the average for these award-winning beers. Uh, in terms of bittering hops, there wasn’t really a consensus, just something with fairly high alpha acids. I am going to follow the mean brew recommendation and I’m going to use mosaic. This will go in at the start of the boil to give the majority of my IBUs.

Then with 15 minutes to go, that is when I’m going to add Simco, then yeah, that’s going in 15 minutes from the end of boil. And then five minutes from the end of boil, the last kettle hop that I’m going to add is a bit more mosaic.

Now every one of the rye IPA’s that mean brews looked at included a dry hop addition, and I’ll be doing that as well. Specifically, I’m going to be adding in mosaic and Citra. And because I’m using an SS brewtech brew bucket, there’s the potential that when I add dry hops into my beer, that could end up clogging up the system.

So to alleviate that issue, I am using a hop sleeve and simply a case of sanitizing this, putting my hops in here, and then I’m going to drop this into the fermented just before fermentation is complete. That way, any oxygen that I may have introduced by opening up my bucket should be consumed by the yeast and minimize the impact.

So yeah, hop sleeve is really the way to go if you are adding dry hops into a fermentor that has the potential to clogs.

Getting to ferment this beer at 63 Fahrenheit or 17 Celsius. And then once fermentation really starts to warm up a bit and get going, I’ll raise it all the way up to 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius.

Now the consensus on yeast was the Chico strain. I’m using the white labs. First of that. So that’s California Ale yeast, WLP001. Um, my wort is not quite at 63 degrees yet. My ground water was a little bit too warm for that.

So as usual, I’m going to pop this into my chest freezer and I’m going to keep an eye on the fermentation, not just for the temperature, but also of course, because I do need to add that dry hop addition in, and when I’m just a few points from my expected final gravity, that’s when I’m going to open this up and put my dry hops in.

Ever had a rye IPA before? I don’t think I have, I’ve had a rye whiskey. Wasn’t the biggest fan. Um, I’m curious what this is gonna taste like. Well, I think already just on looks alone, this looks fantastic. It does look pretty nice. It’s, uh, quite bubbly and it has a really pretty like golden hue to it. Yeah. Gold, golden body and then a beautiful white head on the top. Yeah. It looks like a beautiful on a drink. Yes.

Now for aroma, smells quite inviting, doesn’t it? Yeah. It smells kind of fruity. Yeah. Very, very hoppy. Yep. Yep. Very much. But the fruity hops coming through on this one, not what I would imagine with like I assume a rye beer, so I don’t know. Curious, what do you imagine a rye bear? Not smelling very nice.

Okay. Well it looks good. It smells good. It tastes like, well, I’m getting a lot of those fruity hops in the taste too fruity. Very hoppy. Very good. Yeah.

So the rye might add just, um, just a touch of spiciness or something like that to the beer. And I think if it’s there, it’s not overpowering. I, I have to say I have had a bunch of rye beers and I’m not the biggest fan of rye beers. I dont even like rye bread. So, um, I think, uh, some sort of subtle rye to this is probably quite makes it quite enjoyable. I like really enjoy this. It’s such a good rye-PA.

A RyePA? Right. So Right, right, right. PA kinda corny. Is it corny? Is that corn in here? There’s no corn in my rye PA thank you very much. Absolutely not. Whatever.

Thank you again to mean brews for this fantastic recipe. We both love it. And we are continuing on for just a little bit longer in the category of IPA next week. All right. Cheers.

I am the 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.