Once viewed as evil, associated with Big Yellow Beer, craft brewers are now singing, “rice, rice, baby.” Rice’s delicate flavor has recently captured the attention of the next generation of experimental craft brewers lending subtle tropical notes and a bright finish to their lagers, as well as ales. It also lightens the body and cuts some of the malty-ness in a lager. Today, Peaks and Pints highlights the neo-rice brewers in a to-go flight of beers brewed with rice — a flight we’re calling Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Rice On The Fly. Pro tip: our Tournament of Beer: Northwest Lagers has many rice lagers battling on the court.
Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Rice On The Fly
4% ABV, 18 IBU
In August 2016, Mike Runion and Travis Guterson open their 80,000-square-foot new 7 Seas brewery and taproom in a downtown Tacoma building where Heidelberg Brewery previously bottled and shipped its beer. In February 2022, the duo relaunched the Heidelberg brand canning their version premium lager similar and canning it like the original Heidelberg brewery — although not tin cans like the original brewery in 1936, three years after tin cans were invented. Brewed with mostly malted barley, with some rice and corn, and Old-World hops, Heidelberg Premium Lager is crisp, clean, and quaffable.
Chris Baum, John Cope, Chad Roberts, David Paulson, and Karl Vanevenhoven opened Varietal Beer Co. in April 2018 in the Port of Sunnyside between Yakima and the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington. The ownership all had a variety of dreams and life goals, but their Venn diagram centered on owning a brewery in the Yakima Valley. They knew they couldn’t launch with their dream wild ales, so they added a variety of other beer styles to get rolling. The IPAs and lagers stuck, including their General Public Lager, a light and refreshing rice lager with very mild malt flavor and crisp, clean finish.
5% ABV, 15 IBU
The rice lagers produced by Kirin, Sapporo and Asahi are extremely popular throughout Japan, and at sushi restaurants here in the US. Because rice lacks certain enzymes that traditional beer grains like barley have, most rice lagers contain a certain amount of barley as well, but it’s the rice that define this style’s flavor and alcohol, which pFriem Family Brewers digs. The Hood River brewery’s Japanese Lager is brewed with rice in the Japanese tradition. It hits the nose with aromas of Shiso plum, fresh bread, ands, plus sparkling notes of fresh green tea and wildflowers.
This award-winning Old Schoolhouse Brewery Unfiltered West Coast IPA is brewed with 2-row, Pilsner malt, Spelt malt, rice hulls, C15, rolled oats, and flaked wheat then hopped with Mosaic, Simcoe, and Ekuanot for low grain and citrus hops on the nose. On the tongue, expect a smooth mouthfeel and flavors of pineapple and citrus with a semi-dry finish.
Counterbalance Ricenoceros Dru Hopped Rice Lager
This lager was conceived and brewed by Pink Boots Society member and Counterbalance Brewing brewer Katherine, with assistance from Linnea, Gem, and Alex. It’s brewed with barley malt and flaked rice to create a light drinkable beer and then hopped with the special Pink Boots Blend of hops. A final dry-hop addition highlights the citrus, berry, and tropical fruit flavors of the blend. A portion of proceeds will go to the Pink Boots Society, whose mission is to assist, inspire, and encourage women in the fermented/alcoholic beverage profession through education.