Make Your Best Rye IPA

This rye riff on the classic American IPA is plenty hop-forward but with a more substantial grist than most. Rye’s an excellent ingredient that pairs beautifully with bright, clean hop flavors.

Josh Weikert Mar 3, 2024 - 4 min read

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Photo: Matt Graves/

Sometimes it seems like every beer in the world is an IPA. It isn’t true—even if IPA may be over-represented on tap lists and overused as a marketing term. Don’t let the ubiquity of IPA stop you from brewing a great one for yourself—especially if it’s a unique and interesting interpretation. For me, that’s the appeal of rye IPA. It’s hop-forward but with a more substantial grist than other American IPAs. Rye is an excellent ingredient (for more on why I love it, see Let’s Demystify Rye), and it pairs nicely with bright, clean hop flavors.

Style: Guidelines are just that—guidelines. And when it comes to rye IPA, I have a bone to pick: Many guidelines seem to de-emphasize the rye character. That never made sense to me, especially because the commercial examples are almost all patently “rye-ish.” So, I argue for going heavier on the rye character. Other than that, the parameters jibe with classic American IPA: modestly strong (5.5 to about 8 percent ABV), pale to amber in color (many of the best are straight-up red), and firmly bitter with assertive hop aroma and flavor.

Ingredients: Process always matters, but this beer is made in the recipe. At times I’ve tried to simplify it by cutting out some ingredients—a good practice, in my experience—but with this beer, when I do, it always gets worse. There are three major portions of our malt base: pilsner and rye in equal portions, then almost as much Vienna. Why Vienna? Because we want people who drink this beer to think it tastes like rye. Over the years I’ve noticed that people associate Vienna’s flavor with a mild spice character, which they then attribute (often incorrectly) to rye. So, why not turn into the skid and use it to augment the rye malt? Next, we’re going to keep it a bit old school with some lighter layers of crystal (45°L and 90°L) and Victory. Those will add complexity and complement the relatively classic hopping.

For the hops—and this may be counterintuitive for an IPA—don’t go overboard. You don’t need to blend in a bunch of newfangled varieties that probably won’t mesh with that grist. After some Magnum for bittering, we go with citrus-forward Amarillo late in the boil—along with Northern Brewer for some classic woodsy notes—then more Amarillo in the whirlpool and dry hop.

Finally, any clean ale yeast will do, and for me that means a Wyeast 1007 German Ale pitch. Skip the ester-forward English ale yeasts—they just don’t seem to work with the spicy-malt and citrus-hop balance we’ve worked to build here.

Process: Mash on the longer side—and maybe a little cooler than usual—to encourage a more fermentable wort. Rye gets gummy, so you might also consider adding some rice hulls to aid the lauter. Aside from that, this is a pretty simple beer to make. I ferment at the usual temperatures for my yeast, then I dry hop when the primary fermentation is almost complete, giving it another four or five days to finish out. Then crash, rack, and package. I like this beer with plenty of carbonation—about 2.5 volumes of CO2.

With all the types of IPA out there, you don’t see many ryes anymore. Instead of chasing the latest trend, you can double back on this rustic version—I think you’ll be glad you did.