Style: Marzen with Rye
Grain: Rye, Vienna, Munich, Caramunich
Fermented with Cologne yeast
Tasting notes: dark toasted rye bread with hints of caramel and an earthy spiciness
Pair with: BTYF Pretzel, Pork BBQ Nachos, Whole Hog Burger
Although I've visited Germany a few times, I've never been to Oktoberfest. A loud hall full of drunk tourists squeezed shoulder to shoulder, front to back, just doesn't appeal to me. I'm no germophobe, but even pre-COVID, that seems like a pandemic waiting to happen. I prefer the beer gardens and cozy stone taverns Germany has to offer instead. They can get rowdy as well, but it's much more of an authentic and intimate experience. And you can still get liters of delicious beer at those places!
Although speaking of authenticity is a little misplaced here as I've brewed something German brewers would consider sehr verboten - I've taken a traditional Märzen lager and loaded it full of rye. Reinheitsgebot be dammed! I feel like the maltiness of Märzens can quickly overtake any semblance of balance and not lend itself towards drinking liters at a time. Rye adds an earthy spiciness to help cut through all that caramel malt sweetness, while providing additional complexity.
Rye is actually one of my more favorite malts to brew with. Most brewers will tell you to use no more than 10-20% rye in a beer. It's one of those written rules those of us with common sense follow. Well, I use 25% here. Why? Because I can. Brewing dogma be dammed! Also, I believe if you're going to call something a Rye Beer, it better have a lot of rye in it. The only thing crazier than adding this much rye would be to fill a rye whiskey barrel or two with this beer to get even more rye flavor! Oh wait...
We're big fans of Mississippi River Distilling Company and all the delicious spirits they make. They're just a few miles up the road from us and I feel share our goals of quality, authenticity, and sourcing locally when possible. We stocked our bar with their spirits from the day we opened for that reason. So when one of the other founders asked me if I wanted some of their barrels to start a barrel program, I jumped on it.
Those first barrels were a mix of bourbon and rye. Since I had a rye Oktoberfest sitting in the fermenter, it was an easy choice on what to add first. A rye beer aged in a rye whiskey barrel really amps up the flavors of rye and fermentation. You can really pick out that earthy rye spice. And each barrel is different! I get a huge punch of apple butter in one and a much stronger oak and spice in the other. I love the variability and complexity. It really is melding two different products and practices into one.
You'll notice that I didn't mention what went into the bourbon barrels. More to come on that...