Friday 17 February 2012

Live Free or Rye Hard

As those of you who follow the blog know, Earl and I have been working on a Rye IPA as part of the Garrison Brewing ultimate brew-off. We called it 'Rye Hard,' in honour of the awesome, but often ridiculous, Bruce Willis action franchise. This past week we finally got to taste our work, and I'm sad to say that there were no exclamations of 'yippie ki-yay!' after the first sampling. We also realized that we had run out of time, and wouldn't have been able to scale up and complete a batch for the competition deadline anyway. On the upside, the veil of secrecy can be lifted, and we can talk about what worked and what didn't.

Turns out most of what we did didn't work. We had tried two different batches, both using the same malt and hop profile, with a secret ingredient added to one. We used approximately 18% rye in the grain bill, which gave the body some weight and added a spiciness neither of us really cared for. Any benefit derived from the complex hop addition schedule we followed (6 additions over the span of a 60 minute boil) seemed to be lost in the pervasive malty-spiciness.

The secret ingredient was inspired by a former hobby of mine, baking bread. One of the staple ingredients of rye bread is caraway seed, and as the flavours go well together, it seemed like a good idea to try it out in the beer. The batch that contained the caraway definitely turned out better (clearer, smoother flavour & toned down body), but didn't taste like caraway in the slightest. I still think that caraway would definitely work in a Rye IPA, and am very curious to see if anyone else included it.

Well, at least something we bottled finally turned out to be carbonated!

The one thing that did work out actually worked a little too well. Going with the theme of things that work for rye bread, we used honey as a primer for bottle carbonation. Turns out we used too much, which lead to some crazy head and a cloying sweetness. Again, I think the idea was good, but we stumbled a bit on the implementation.

While we aimed for 'take out a helicopter with a car' awesome, we ended up with 'seeing a helicopter while driving in a car' mediocrity. Regardless, we learned a lot and are definitely looking forward to trying the brew-off winning beer.


  1. I'm pretty sure I've seen other Rye beer recipes that included caraway, so that sounds like a reasonable decision that you made. And 18% rye for the grist sounds reasonable as well.

    What was your hop schedule like?

    1. I figured we couldn't have been the first to come up with the caraway idea. Now I'd like to try a rye IPA with some in it!

      For each one gallon batch we did a 60 minute boil with the following hop schedule:
      60 mins - 1/2 oz Northern Brewer
      45 mins - 1/2 oz Northern Brewer
      30 mins - 1/8 oz Willamette
      15 mins - 1/8 oz Willamette
      5 mins - 1/8 oz Willamette
      0 mins - 1/8 oz Willamette

      It was super annoying.

  2. Yeah, not sure how much the 45 and 30 minute additions would have really added, but it's always fun to try new things. While DFH 60 and 90 minute IPAs obviously have success, I wonder how much the constant hop additions really add to the whole experience.

  3. My first thought when you mentioned secret ingredient was caraway - a natural with rye.