Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA


Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA



"Two words.... 'Holy effing shiite'... (okay three words)... This is the new favorite of everything I've brewed so far... IPA fans absolutely love this beer... so much flavor... absolutely delicious. I've had the Ruthless Rye before but don't remember it being anywhere NEAR this good. This will be one of those that I try and keep on tap. Thanks for sharing the recipe!" - Jerz

"I love it. Has some spice to it (maybe from the rye and the Equinox I used?), a nice bitterness throughout but not overpowering to any extent, a nice finish and the grapefruit aroma from the dry hops. I've never had a Rye IPA before but I'll be making this again for sure!" - Topdollar



Some commercial brewers are what we'd call "homebrewer friendly" and love to provide information about their beers. Sierra Nevada is one such brewery that has provided recipes of some of their beers to homebrewers. We love them for this because up here in Canada none of their products are available for purchase locally so we have to make our own.

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye is an IPA brewed with rye (as the name would imply). So what's it taste like? To quote Sierra Nevada:

Rugged and resilient, rye has been a staple grain for ages and its spicy black pepper-like flavor has been prized by distillers and brewers for centuries. Rye thrives in the harshest conditions and comes to life in Ruthless, a rugged IPA with fruity, citrus and herbal hop notes countered by the dry spiciness of the rye. Holding a steadfast balance between contrasting malt and hop character, Ruthless is bold enough to inspire even the most brazen hop head to bear down and embrace the flavor.

This is a perfect spring IPA: Not overly heavy or bitter (55 IBU) and a reasonable alcohol level (6.6% ABV). With the rye making up only 13% of the grist, the peppery / spicy flavours are not what we would call over the top. It is subtle and balanced. If you'd prefer more of a rye punch, try swapping out some of the domestic 2-row for more rye up to 20-25%, keeping the other specialty malt percentages the same.

Rye malt (2.8-4.3L)Rye malt (2.8-4.3L)

Like wheat, rye is a huskless grain which can cause stuck sparges on some brewing setups if it is used in large quantities as the natural filter bed normally created by the husks is reduced. If stuck sparges are an issue on your setup consider adding rice hulls to the mash at a rate of 20:1 rye to rice hull ratio. If using our Electric Brewery setup, rice hulls are not required (more information).

This beer makes use of proprietary experimental hops at flame-out and dry hopping that are simply not available to homebrewers (yet!). They are said to be similar to a blend of Columbus and Amarillo so these have been used as substitutions. These work as they compliment the spiciness of the rye extremely well.

New to some brewers may be the concept of First Wort Hopping (FWH) mentioned in the recipe. This is a process where hops are added to the boil kettle as the wort is being sparged from the mash/lauter tun. Why is this done? To quote How to Brew:

As the boil tun fills with wort (which may take a half hour or longer), the hops steep in the hot wort and release their volatile oils and resins. The aromatic oils are normally insoluble and tend to evaporate to a large degree during the boil. By letting the hops steep in the wort prior to the boil, the oils have more time to oxidize to more soluble compounds and a greater percentage are retained during the boil.

A blind tasting among professional German brewers determined that the use of FWH resulted in a more refined hop aroma, a more uniform bitterness (i.e. no harsh tones), and a more harmonious beer overall compared to an identical beer produced without FWH.

Sierra Nevada's Bill Manley has been quoted as saying that this beer has more hop oils than any beer they have ever made except for their Hoptimum Imperial IPA. I imagine one of the reasons is the First Wort Hopping which allows more hop oils to stay behind.

If you have gotten into the practice of skimming off the thick foam ('foop') that forms as you heat to boiling, you'll have to skip doing this here otherwise you'll be pulling out some of the hops early.

Brew up a batch and let us know how you like it!


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Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Size: 12 US gallons (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 95%
Attenuation: 80.6%
Calories: 206 kcal per 12 fl oz
Original Gravity:
1.062 (style range: 1.056 - 1.075)
Final Gravity: 1.012 (style range: 1.010 - 1.018)
Colour: 12.3 SRM (style range: 6 - 15)
Alcohol: 6.6% ABV (style range: 5.5% - 7.5%)
Bitterness: 55 IBU (style range: 40 - 70)

17.7 lb Domestic 2-row malt (1.8-2L) (80.4%) 
2.9 lb Rye malt (2.8-4.3L) (13.2%)
1.3 lb Crystal malt (75-80L) (5.9%)
0.1 lb Chocolate malt (350-500L) (0.5%)

2.5 oz Bravo hops (14%) - added first wort*, boiled 60 min [54.6 IBU] 
1 Whirlfloc tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

2.5 oz Chinook hops (11.4%) - added immediately after boil
1.5 oz Amarillo hops (10.1%) - added immediately after boil
1.5 oz Columbus hops (12.3%) - added immediately after boil

Fermentis Safale US-05 dry yeast** (42g recommended or make an equivalent starter)

Dry hop: 
3 oz Citra hops (11.1%) - added to fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days
1 oz Columbus hops (12.3%) - added to fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days
2 oz Chinook hops (11.4%) - added to fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days
1 oz Amarillo hops (8.2%) - added to fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days

*First wort hops are added to the boil kettle at the start of sparging (before the wort is boiled). For IBU calculations, first wort hopping is said to be similar to a 20 minute addition.

**If you prefer to use liquid yeast, Wyeast 1056 American Ale or White Labs WLP001 California Ale are excellent choices as they are the same clean fermenting Chico strain as US-05. You'll need ~691 billion cells (6-7 fresh packs) or an equivalent starter.

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Notes / Process

  • Add 500mg potassium metabisulfite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required).
  • Water treated with brewing salts to our Hoppy flavour profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=275 (Basically Randy Mosher's ideal Pale Ale numbers with slightly less sulfate). For more information on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
  • 1.25 qt/lb mash thickness.
  • Single infusion mash at 152F for 90 mins.
  • Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
  • ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature).
  • Boil for 60 minutes, adding Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at flameout after post-boil hops are added, start chilling immediately.
  • Cool the wort quickly to 66F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
  • Oxygenate the chilled wort to a level of 14 ppm dissolved oxygen. For more information refer to our Aerating / Oxygenating Wort guide.
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 66-68F (wort temperature). We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges.
  • Add dry hops once fermentation is nearing completion (i.e. 5 points from final gravity) and raise the temperature to 70-72F. In our case we simply turn off the fermenting fridges and allow the beer to naturally rise to room temperature. Steep hops for 3-5 days while fermentation finishes. Assume fermentation is done if the gravity does not change over ~3 days.
  • Before packaging you may optionally rack to a brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup, add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days. Gelatin may "round off" some hop flavour / aroma so we tend to skip this step with hop forward beers like this. As well, the less you handle the beer through racking and potentially expose it to oxygen, the better.
  • Package as you would normally. We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2, and then carbonate on the low side (around 2 volumes of CO2) to minimize carbonic bite and let the hop and malt flavours shine through. We chill the kegs to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. Like all hop forward beers this IPA is best consumed fresh so feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. Some hop bits will have invariably made their way into the keg during transfer so we use a Hop Stopper Keg Edition filter to ensure that hops do not clog the dip tube and/or end up in the glass. Force carbonating at high pressure and using a Hop Stopper filter allows us to serve this beer 24 hours after kegging. There's no need to wait a few days for any hop bits that made their way into the keg to first settle out.

For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.


Questions? Visit our Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA forum thread


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Pictures / Videos / Competition Results

Interested in seeing what we're brewing right now? Follow us on Instagram for pictures and videos of our brewing activities as they happen.

We entered this Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA along with our Green Flash West Coast IPA at an American IPA brewing competition organized by our local homebrew club. Our Ruthless Rye came in third while the West Coast IPA won first place! Interesting to see since the beers were presented in the same flight which meant they were competing against each other.

The West Coast IPA was kegged exactly a month before the competition to give it time to carbonate and condition a bit (but not too much as hop forward beers are best consumed young). The Ruthless Rye IPA had been on tap approximately six months so we figured it would be interesting to enter it as well as it is completely different. The hoppiness had mellowed a bit but we were still enjoying it.

16 entries were judged. We did not use "official" Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) score sheets. This was simply a "best in show" type competition where 3 flights of 5 to 6 beers are presented and you're asked to rank them from best to worst. The only rule was that tasters be familiar with the BJCP guidelines for American IPA and that the beers be brewed (more or less) to those guidelines as well.

IPA samples were presented in small 6 oz plastic cupsSamples were presented in small 6 oz plastic cups

Colours varied greatly given that American IPAs can range from 6 to 15 SRMColours varied greatly given that American IPAs can range from 6 to 15 SRM

Brewers tasting samples of IPAsBrewers tasting samples

Samples of IPAs

We've done this sort of ranking a few times now and it's amazingly difficult to judge beers based on preference alone. We'd often find ourselves enjoying two completely different beers, but at the end of the day they need to be ranked. The organizer (who has gone through BJCP training) gave this comment as a hint: "Choose the beer that you'd want to have a second pint of - it's the beer you like the most (but may not really know why)". Unsalted crackers and water are handy tools for cleansing your pallet between samples.

Samples of IPAsVotes were cast and as luck would have it, our Green Flash West Coast IPA came in first! (Competition organizer on the left, us on the right)

Kids made their own IPA competition trophiesThe kids made their own trophies while we were at the competition (probably to make us feel better in case we didn't win)

Kids IPA competition trophies don't hold upUnfortunately their trophies of duct tape and cardboard aren't as resilient as the real thing 😉

It was an interesting event and lots of fun.

Even though it wasn't an 'official' BJCP competition we still learnt a lot and enjoyed tasting all of the samples.

If you ever get a chance to enter any competitions, go for it! (Especially unofficial ones as the informal nature can make them more fun). It's a real learning experience. To best to way to find these sorts of competitions is to join whatever local homebrew club exists in your area. There are clubs all over the world.