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What's that peppery flavor?

I notice a distinct peppery flavor in Great Lakes Burning River pale ale. At first I thought it was due to the yeast strain they use but then I had one of their Oktoberfests yesterday and I tasted the same crisp peppery flavor. I assume they aren’t using the same yeasts for these two (ale vs. lager) so I was curious if anyone else experienced this flavor when drinking either of these beers and could pinpoint what ingredient/technique might be responsible for the flavor.

I can’t say I’ve experienced the same things with Great Lakes beers. I wonder if it is an individual perception thing. Perhaps what you are describing as peppery would be described by others as spicy or noble or something else. My guess is it might be a hop flavor. The only other thing I can think of is perhaps it is a prickly feel from high carbonation? Not sure.

It fades over the course of drinking the beer so it could just be an uncleansed pallete interacting with something in there. I’ve had at least 18 of their oktoberfests this year before noticing it. I just assumed it was there and I just missed it before.

Sorry to revive an old thread but I had an epiphany I wanted to share. Yesterday I had, for the first time, SN Ruthless Rye and it all clicked. That subtle peppery flavor in those GLBC beers was rye (or so I think). I’ve tasted it most in Oktoberfest, Burning River, and even subtly in Dortmunder Gold. Has anyone ever noticed a slight rye flavor to these beers or is it, as dmtaylo2 suggested, just a person perception thing?

I’m not sure that I’ve experienced that flavor in Great Lakes Brewery’s beers, but I’ve tasted it on occasion in other beers. I think it comes from hops. I’ve heard many beers described by beer critics as having a peppery hop character, but it’s rare that I actually taste it myself. I had a pint of Golden Promise Ale last week (from a Scottish brewery, I can’t remember which one off the top of my head), and it definitely had what I would describe as a hint of white pepper. I know it has to come from some varieties of hops, but I don’t really know which ones. It would be an easy topic to research.

Rye doesn’t taste like pepper to me. It’s not even spicy. Rye has a bready flavor that is distinctive from wheat or barley. The reason everyone seems to think that rye is spicy is because rye bread always has that damned caraway seed added. Bake yourself a rye bread without caraway sometime and notice the difference (I have done this). It is not spicy. Tastes like bread.

I am guessing what you are perceiving is hop character. I am pretty sure Burning River does not contain rye, and I am just about certain that GLBC’s okfest doesn’t contain rye. It could be that they use a hop somewhere in Burning River that is derivative of a German or noble hop, such as Sterling (Saaz) or Mt. Hood or Magnum (Hallertauer), the latter of which would likely be in the Okfest.

To me, rye does have an earthy character. I’m not sure where people get ‘spicy’ from, aside from maybe a correlation to rye bread/carraway.

This was my first beer that I’ve tried with any amount of rye. There is a very distinct peppery flavor to this beer. Maybe I just have some weird taste buds :slight_smile: But for arguments sake, this is exactly what Sierra Nevada prints on their bottles for this beer

“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 spicy and rugged IPA with fruity, citrus and herbal hop notes balanced with the dry spiciness of the rye, making the beer aggressive yet comforting to bolster against whatever the winter winds may bring.”

yeah, I know the marketing people (and some judges, drinkers, beernerds, brewers, etc.) describe it that way, but I’m with Dave. I just don’t get ‘spicy’ from rye beers, or rye whiskeys for that matter. Peppery, maybe. Woody, maybe. Earthy, definitely. Rich, definitely.

We are clearly talking semantics, but I just happen to think its a bad adjective for the flavor.

To me “spicy” really has two meanings. One being like a habanero pepper. But also spicy could mean having lots of spice-like characteristics. Maybe “spiceful” is a better word. Someone call Webster.

My wife took a sip of it and she said “I don’t taste a pepper flavor” so I’m clearly losing my mind :slight_smile:

It’s got to be the hops. I get a lot of spiciness from all the German hops. In fact, I find that I get more spice out of them from a 60-minute boil than from a late addition! If any German hops are used for bittering (probably including Magnum), then the beer will be kind of spicy, from the hops. You don’t get that quite so much from American hops.

Yes, I agree with Pietro. Rye is earthy. Definitely earthy. And bready. But not spicy or peppery. Perhaps crisp or dry or something like that. Or perhaps it is just my tastebuds that are not as good as yours, mattnaik!

I think the idea of rye being spicy might come from a subconscious association with the caraway seeds used in rye bread. In fact, outside of rye bread, it’s hard to find any kind of food or drink product that most Americans are familiar with that can really give an idea of exactly how rye tastes, and it almost always has caraway seeds in it, so the two flavors are automatically associated with each other, even though they’re two distinctly different things. Caraway seeds aren’t really what I’d call spicy, either, but it’s hard to find any other word that quite sums up how they taste. I don’t know…maybe I’m totally off-base on this one, but I can’t think of any other explanation for this phenomenon.

I think the pepper character comes from the hops. I love East Kent Goldings, and my stouts and porters often have this character in the aftertaste. I don’t notice it as much in my pale ale, but I usually bitter with Fuggles or Challenger and the hop flavor usually lingers in the aftertaste. I love that pepper character, but I doubt they use EKG in a lager.

The yeast can produce some spicy characters. Many Belgian ales are perceived as spicy. One unique strain, WL 515 Antwerp, often has a very slight cinnamon character in the nose.

I don’t perceive rye as spicy. I often make bread with at least 1/3 rye flour and it just tastes like good, whole wheat bread. I ate a lot of dark rye bread in Russia, and where I lived, they did not use caraway. I think that is a German thing. I do like caraway in rye bread, but I usually only add it if I am going to an Octoberfest party. Russia is a big country though so different regions have their own variations.

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