What is Roggenbier?
Roggenbier, a lesser known beer style that has a long German history and has inspired the craft brewing industry we know today. Learn about Roggenbier’s brewing techniques, history, taste, and more!
By Emma Zhao on Aug. 24, 2022
Roggenbier, also known as rye beer, is a beer style that originates in Bavaria. It’s made with large portions of rye malt, and the same type of yeast as a German Hefeweizen. During the medieval times, rye was an incredibly popular ingredient used to brew beers. However, after the 1500s, rye was ultimately phased out of beer brewing, where modern brewing techniques like barley and wheats took over the industry.
While roggenbier is to some degree, a relic of the past, it plays a significant role in introducing craft beer types that we know today.
Roggenbier is a type of rye lager that is high in malt with light to medium hops. Typical roggenbier are made with 30 per cent rye malt, but the numbers are often higher, and can reach up to 60 per cent. The yeast used is similar to that of Hefeweizen, and its malt brewing style is similar to beers like kvass.
This beer is a variation of the Weizen beers, but instead of using wheats or barley, it uses rye. While roggenbier is, in all technical aspects, a simple beer, the heavy use of rye malt ensures that the taste is strong and spicy.
When rye is added to the brew, it will absorb much more water and other additives than any other brewing ingredient, which make roggenbier a much more viscous beer in comparison to its counterparts. This means that roggenbier is definitely not a light-bodied beer, as it ranges from a medium to full body.
The Weizen yeast, much like its role in Hefeweizen, is used to provide a clove and banana flavor note in the beer. The hop levels are quite low, and are only used to introduce a crisp feel to the beer.
Other Types or Variations of Roggenbier
Due to its age and its simple beginnings, roggenbier has inspired multiple derivative beer styles. In fact, after it lost its popularity in the 1500s, it quite literally disappeared for 500 years after. In its wake, different kinds of European beers were created, and were defined by a lack of rye malt use.
Dunkelweizen is a mix between the separate German beers: dunkel and hefeweizen. It’s famous for its dark, malty flavor, along with banana and clove notes
Sahti is a Finnish ale that uses primarily barley and rye to create its malt. Juniper twigs are used to filter the mash to create hops, making it a unique beer resembling Roggenbier.
Weizenbocks are a type of German wheat beer brewed with Weizen yeast, much like Roggenbier. In fact, it falls into the same category as Roggenbiers, because of its emphasis on malt and use of Weizen yeaast.
Is Roggenbier an ale or a lager?
Roggenbier can be an ale or a lager. Traditionally, roggenbiers were fermented at low temperatures, making it a lager, but because this kind of beer is mostly a reference to rye beers, it can be an ale as well. In fact, many temporary roggenbiers produced in America sometimes resembles India pale ales (IPAs).
Essential Style Information of Roggenbier
Origin & History of Roggenbier
Roggenbier originated in medieval Bavaria, which is now considered the southern portion of Germany. Up until the 1500s, it was a common practice to brew beer using grains that were most easily grown in the area. Rye was incredibly popular during the Middle Ages, meaning that most of the beers brewed then relied on rye.
At the time, rye bread was also in heavy demand. After a series of bad harvests in 1516, William IV, the Duke of Bavaria, enacted a law called the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Purity Laws, which prevented brewers from using rye in their beers. This was to ensure that rye was solely used to produce affordable bread.
The law lasted for some four centuries, during which rye beer had virtually fallen out of production, which makes Roggenbier’s history uniquely dynamic. In 1987, the European Court intervened, allowing for a reintroduction into rye beers. While Roggenbier isn’t as popular as it once was, the craft beer industry has started to experiment with rye now.
Roggenbier can be typically takes on a coppery color, and can range from light to dark tones. It’s cloudy and hazy.
Roggenbier ABV (Alcohol Content)
4.5% – 6%
10 – 20 IBU
Aroma, Flavor, Palate & Mouthfeel
Roggenbier is a rather grainy beer, with stronger notes of rye. The taste typically starts out with lots of malt, which makes way for the weizen aspect of the beer. You’ll taste notes resembling banana and cloves. Sometimes, roggenbier can have a bit of a caramel flavor note, and it can also have spicy, floral, or earthy hops flavors.
How to serve a Roggenbier
It’s recommended that you serve Roggenbier at 48-54 F, or 9-12 C. It can be served in an American or Nonic pint glass. You can learn more about beer glassware here.
Learn more about other popular beer styles:
Amber, Red or Dark Ale
Amber, Red or Dark Lager
Belgian IPA or White India Pale Ale
Black or Cascadian Dark Ale
Blonde & Golden Ales
Dortmunder or Export Lager
Double or Imperial IPA
English Brown Ale
Euro Dark Lager
Fruit or Vegetable Beer
Golden or Pale Lager
Gruit or Spiced Beers
India Pale Ale (IPA)
NEIPA – New England Style IPA
Saison or Farmhouse Ale
Sour Beer or Wild Ales
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