Rye not?

Experiencing ingredients for the first time is always the fun part of brewing. 

A beer with a new kind of hop, a yeast used in an unconventional way or a different kind of grain - I'll always take the time to hunt out something new.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about rye.

Usually found in bread, rye - like almost any other grain - is also used in brewing. While big in the United States and Germany, rye beers are not a big deal in New Zealand.

That is, until Boundary Road released its "Resident" series last year.

They invited Brian 'Spike' Buckowski - brewmaster at American craft brewer Terrapin Beer Company - out to make three beers, one of which was a rye IPA.

While rye - like any other grain - gives off sugar for the yeast to turn into alcohol and CO2, it also adds a spicy flavour to the beer and gives the finished product a red hue.

Spike's Red Rye IPA has all that in bucketloads, with a great hop finish. It's the only Boundary Road beer I've enjoyed enough to consider buying again, which is saying something.

But why buy it when you can brew it? So I picked myself up some rye and decided to make a rye IIPA - a boozier, hoppier, all-around bigger version. What could go wrong? 

Well, a lot really. Rye has a notorious reputation for clogging up your mash, making for an extremely long brew day. 

That's exactly what happened to me.

I've been known to pump out beers in under six hours - pretty good for an all-grain brewer like myself.

This beer took ten hours. That's the equivalent of 7.5 rugby games, or 6.66 football matches.

Someone could have jumped in the car and been 75 minutes from Cape Reinga by the time I was done.

There's nothing worse for a home brewer than to think you've done something wrong, so it's nice to know the professionals also have trouble.

The beer is nearly finished fermenting and is tasting pretty lovely. About 10 per cent, very bitter but with a spicy flavour you only get from rye.

Rye again? Not too soon, but it's certainly on the cards. Maybe I'll try out a new kind of hop next, just to save me some time.

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