The second beer we brewed was the Juniper Rye Ale from Austin Homebrew Supply. Rye is a grain that I really love in both beer and whiskey. There seems to be a number of domestic breweries debuting really great Rye ales these days, often as an extension of their IPA. I think one of the best examples of its use is by the folks at the Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, GA, whose Rye Pale Ale and Rye Squared are/were beautiful. Though we can’t get them all the way out here in Texas, I make sure to pick up a few sixers of their brews whenever I am in the Southeast.
This beer, however, is more closely aligned with the German and Finnish styles of Rye ales and was a lot of fun to brew, introducing us to a number of malts: Crystal 40L, Rye (obviously), 2-Row, Chocolate, and Black Patent. The recipe also calls for Munich LME, Chinook and Fuggle hops, and crushed Juniper berries. For the yeast, we chose White Labs’ German Ale/Kolsch (WLP029) — a tip of the hat to the Roggenbier style — for about 10 days each in primary and secondary. We fermented at room temperature (68-70F), which is hotter than this yeast demands; but with no temperature control at the time, it was the best we were able to do. AHS recommends that this beer age at least 3 weeks in the bottle, which was the age of the beer we tasted.
Appearance: This beer has a beautiful dark color, which when held in light belies a chestnut hue with a subtle red tinge; Pours with about one finger of head; Great lacing on the glass as you drink.
Smell: Minimal hop aroma; There is a bit of Sulfur, which I believe is the result of fermenting too high (WLP029 is known for its stinky fermentation, especially during high krausen, and I definitely found this to be the case).
Taste: Wow! A big ball of malty sweetness; Lots of roasty chocolate and toffee; The juniper is minimal, even hard to find, until right at the finish; The rye is very present, but not overpowering; the hops definitely take a backseat, serving mostly to balance out the malt bill; The yeast gives this ale a great, clean finish.
Notes: I am very pleased with how this beer turned out: A refreshing dark ale with a lot going on. With so many strong flavors in play, I was a little afraid that the palate would be “busy”, but the recipe does a great job of keeping them in balance. I would love to set aside a few bombers to see how this beer ages and mellows out, but at the rate it is running out I might be better off just brewing another batch. Next time I will increase the juniper addition 2x and do a better job of keeping the fermentation temperature within the acceptable range. It says a lot about the quality of this yeast strain that I was well outside the recommended temperature and the beer still turned out this well. I would definitely consider using WLP029 for other beers in the future.