Several members of our staff, as well as myself, are legitimate Dead Heads. The first album we listened to on our first ever batch was Europe ’72. Our bar manager has the Steal Your Face logo tattoed on his leg. So when the Grateful Dead announced they were going to perform some reunion shows, we knew we had to make a beer to commemorate the occasion. Dogfish Head had already brewed a beer with granola and American hops named “American Beauty” so we had to think of something different. One of our regulars, Dr. Tom, suggested the name “I Know you Rye-Der” and it stuck. Thus is the genesis of this beer.
According to Wikipedia, this traditional song can be traced back to 1934 in the book American Ballads and Folk Songs. Although several artists have covered it, it’s the Dead that most people associate the song with. It was played live by the band 552 times, the 7th most played song in their history. It was almost always played after “China Cat Sunflower” with a segue inbetween. I was in a few bands in college (Road Closed, The Locust Point Boys and The Heel Toe Express were some of our names), and we would cover both “China Cat” as well as “Rider”, and of course we would segue them together out of respect for one of our favorite bands.
Admittedly, I am not the biggest of rye beer fans. I’m not sure why, I like rye bread, I drink rye whiskey in my Old Fashioneds, but for some reason rye beer and I just never clicked. So I wanted to make a rye beer that I would enjoy drinking. Overall, rye is only about 15% of the malt bill, half of it malted and the other half flaked. The rest of it is American 2 row, German Munich and Crystal malts. I felt 15% rye was a good starting point where it would be noticeable but not overwhelming. For hopping, I thought Willamette would be a very nice compliment to the spicy notes from the rye and Cascade and provide a pleasant contrast with it’s citrus and pine character. Combined, the hops interact with the malt beautifully and combine herbal, spicy, citrus and pine in an excellent array of flavor. Finally, we fermented with our house ale strain before dry hopping with a blend of more Willamette and Cascade.
Overall, I say this beer is a success! As a non-rye beer fan, I have already had several pints since we released it a few days ago. At the same time, the rye beer fans in my circle have really enjoyed the depth of flavor found in it. It is extremely easy to drink while having a more luscious and full mouthfeel due to the flaked rye. At 5.5% ABV, it’s still sessionable enough that you could drink a few of these while watching a concert and still be in control, which was also one of my intentions.
So cheers to the Grateful Dead, to Deadheads everywhere, to Dr. Tom for recommending the name and especially to you for taking the time to read this. Hurry up and have some of this beer, because, to change the lyrics of the song a bit, “you’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.”