Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sat Sep 05, 2015 12:25 pm

Hi All,

I'm just about at the bottom of my sack of maris otter, so I think it is time to transition to german lagers from english ales. I was thinking about starting out with an oktoberfest, and maybe putting some rye in there. My recipe thoughts were something like:

5lb pilsner
4lb munich 10
1lb rye malt
8oz caramunich

1oz Mt. Hood @ 60
0.5oz Mt. Hood @ 15

Then use wyeast 2308 Munich Lager since that is the lager yeast I have used the most and have some experience with how it behaves.

Thoughts, comments? More/less rye? More/less caraXXX (munich, vienna, pils etc)?

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Re: Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sat Sep 05, 2015 4:34 pm

I would keep the caramunich out, personally (replace with Munich). Otherwise, go for it. Nothing wrong with experimenting a little.
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Re: Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sat Sep 05, 2015 4:59 pm

Ok, that sounds good. What would you think about some maris otter in there, maybe subbing a pound of the pilsner out for that to add to the bread complexity of the malt profile? I think that was said on one of the old Jamil shows.
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Re: Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sun Sep 06, 2015 3:24 am

You can opt for Rye, but that will most definitively not feature in the grain bill of the Munich breweries.

The classic grain bill would consist of Vienna, Pilsener and Munich malt.

Pending on desired sweetness, Carapils, Carahell or Caramunich-I are quite often used.

The classic additions would be 2-3% of Caramalt at 20-25% EBC and optionally an additional 0.5 to 1.0% of Caramalt at 100 EBC.

This info is straight out of the textbook by Narziss and Beck - from the University in Weihenstephan (TU Munich). Unfortunately it was never translated into English, but I keep online notes about my studies via the blog.

For mashing the options are

  1. Hockhurz decoction mash (62/72/77)
  2. Endosperm mash (Spelzenmaischen)
  3. Einmaischverfahren (Single Decoction) (55/66/77)
  4. Spelt separation for decoction (Spelzentrennungsverfahren) for an even brighter (about 0.5 to 0.8 EBC) and softer, rounder tasting beer.
  5. Often the Spelzentrennungsverfahren is used in combination with an Einmaischverfahren where over 40% (pretty much all the solid matter) are pulled for the decoction (just let it settle after dough-in and scoop out the liquid top). The spelts are mashed in a seperate container at 60-62C and added to the main mash after the first decoction has been pulled or after if fails the iodine test


  • Decoction mashes will release tannins, so short boil times or Spelzentrennung are pretty much a must.
  • Unless you have a 'modern' setup (most likely not at home), then the water to grist ratio should be 1:4.
  • Typically an Oktoberfest is in the 7-12 EBC colour range (modern brews) with a OG of 13.2 - 13.5 Plato and an EVG of 82-83% (resulting in an beer in the 5.8 to 6.4% ABV range).
  • WLP 820 is a good yeast for this beer. It needs careful fermentation and correct cell count though. Ie 2 vials per 25l (about 5 gal) of wort and an aeration of about 14 ppm O2 (you need to inject it in order to get it that high).
  • Pitch at 9C then let the temperature rise 'naturally' to 12C and ferment until at 50% EVG. Then raise slightly to 14C for a few days, then carefully cool to 3C for secondary fermentation in lager tank (not more than 1C per hour to avoid yeast shock). You should have about 1.5-2% of unfermented extract left when you lager it.
  • Set the CO2 control valve to about 0.8 - 1.0 PSI then let the yeast work it's magic for about 4-6 weeks.
  • Once final fermentation is complete it is usually filtered at 0.5 micron (sterile).


It's a lot of work. From grain to wort this is pretty much a 12-14 hr round-trip. Nobody said it's easy but it can be done and will give you a great drink!

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Re: Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:55 am

Nice Job Bavarian. Thanks.
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Re: Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sun Sep 06, 2015 11:07 am

Have you brewed with rye before? It can leave a slightly "slick" mouthfeel in the finished product. If you are shooting for a drier oktoberfest then you may want to consider mashing a bit lower to achieve this. Even with a lower FG when using rye it still seems to impart a "fuller" body and mouthfeel to the beer.

For example, my lastest saison (currently on tap) has 1# or rye malt in it and finished at 1.006 FG. As the beer is dry, it comes across (to me) more like a 1.010 FG which I contribute to the rye added. Just a thought.
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Re: Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:13 pm

Thanks for the involved explanation of the oktoberfest brew bavarian. I was aware that rye was not a normal thing to put in it, but I like to play around and thought it might make for an intersting beer. Unfortunately, with 2 kids nipping at my heals I don't have the time to do 12hr brew days...some day though. For the moment, I think I am stuck at single infusion (though my setup could allow me to do RIMS for step mashing if I wanted to.)

I have brewed with rye several times and like the flavor. I used it to build body in some of my lower gravity beers (rye pale ales and such).

To the slickness, I think that is a result of the beta glucans that are in the rye, and if you can control how much of that effect you get with a beta glucan rest. I think the percentage is low enough in this that it wouldn't be detrimental, and I would probably mash it pretty low (148) to make sure that I get good fermentability.

Alternatively, I could drop the OG a bit by yanking out some of the base malts and let the body that the rye imparts kind of hold it up for a "session oktoberfest" (isn't oktoberfest sessionable by definition though...low alcohol is more accurate I suppose). I'm not sure, I think I want to experiment and see what I can get out of it.

Thanks all for the feedback!
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Re: Rye in Oktoberfest?

Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:46 pm

o_O many thanks!

One of the nice things as a homebrewer is that there are no restrictions as to the compositions of one's brews :)

Rye might be an interesting addition, but I wouldn't call it an Oktoberfest any more... Not that it won't be a tasty brew, it's just not the style any more.

Here is a great review of recent Oktoberfest brews. The site is in German but one can always run it through a translator...

Oktoberfest is a strong brew. Not really a session beer per-se. It's effectively the step between an Export and a Bock. I grew up with this stuff, so for me a session beer is between 5.0 and 5.6% ABV... guess it's a cultural thing... (or just alcoholism glorified).

If you insist on single step infusion then a longer boil time may be a good idea. Also, if you can convert it to a 2 step infustion mash, ie first thick at about 58C, then at 66C to the final 1:4 water to grist, you should get into a good ball park. I'd adjust the grain bill to be about 1.5-2 EBC darker than what is listed on the link above.

Decoction mashes will be at least 8% more efficient in extraction rates (ie your mash efficiency - not brewhouse efficiency). And since Spelzentrennung is not an option either, the adjustment in final colour should get you in a good enough approximation.

The most important factor is the fermentation schedule though. I always had good results with WLP820 at correct pitch and fermentation temperatures (pitch at 9 Celsius, let rise to 12, then increase to 14 once at 50% attenuation, then hold for a day or two, then slowly down to 3C to rack into lager vessels). If precise oxygenation is not an option, then a starter on a stir plate for an hour or so (until the yeast goes very active), with the original wort from the batch may help things too (your mileage may vary).

Hope this helps.


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