Beer of the Week: Rip Current Rail Grab German Rye

Like many a craft beer fan, when I learned that the 2011 National Homebrewers Conference champion (winning this award earns one bragging rights as the best homebrewer in the country) Paul Sangster and fellow standout homebrewer Guy Shobe were teaming up to go pro, I got excited and, despite my best efforts, couldn’t help but have high expectations. And like many beer fans, I beat a trail straight to their Rip Current Brewing Company (1325 Grand Avenue, #100, San Marcos) as soon as it opened to taste their early offerings.

So far, they’ve not only lived up to my early expectations, but have gotten a bit better with each batch they brew. My early favorites include a nutty brown ale and several India pale ales, including Lupulin Lust, one of Sangster’s most famous homebrews produced on a professional level. But the most surprising beer I’ve encountered at the Rip Current tasting room is a roggenbier called Rail Grab German Rye. What’s a roggenbier, you ask? Don’t feel bad. It’s a pretty much extinct German beer style that Sangster spent years searching out, but only found once while turning over rocks looking specifically for it in Berlin.

Roggenbiers are crafted in the manner of traditional hefeweizens, with rye utilized in place of wheat. Sangster suspects the style came into being because rye malt was more cost-effective than wheat in certain parts of Germany. The resulting beer includes the bready, spicy notes brought on by rye malt in a sessionable and refreshing package. Rip Current’s Rail Grab is 5.4% ABV and, though the rye in Sangster and Shobe’s recipe accounts for just 40 percent of the overall malt bill, it brings on nice pumpernickel character and a spiciness that matches up with yeast-borne clove esters to make for a profile akin to nutmeg-, and allspice-fortified holiday ales.

I take my hat off to Sangster and Shobe, not only for resurrecting a style that’s largely unknown, low alcohol, and not exactly in keeping with San Diegans’ typical penchant for light, hoppy, brawny beers; but for brewing up a full-sized batch of this rarity. That takes courage and faith in one’s brewing chops, and I’m happy to report that their confidence is well founded. The beer tastes delicious and offers a richer yet plenty refreshing summer drinking option. Go outside the ordinary and give it a taste.

Your next best opportunity to do so will come on June 7 and 8 when Sangster and Shobe hold their official grand opening party, which falls, not coincidentally, during Rip Current Awareness Week in the US. For $25, attendees at any of the celebration's three sessions, will get five samples of beers of their choosing in the stylish new limited edition glass pictured above. Tickets will be available soon on Brown Paper Tickets. Hey, it beats the cost of a trip to Berlin!

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