Rice Figures Prominently in Craft Beer

Three glasses of beer on a picnic table
Bottoms up
Apr 04, 2018
ARLINGTON, VA -- In late March, the Brewers Association released its 2018 Beer Style Guidelines, with rice specifically noted as a typical or recommended ingredient in seven styles:  American-style lager and light lager; American-style amber light lager; American-style pilsener; contemporary American-style pilsener; international-style pilsener; and Australasian, Latin American or tropical-style light lager.  Wild rice is also noted as a potential ingredient in the “specialty beer” category.
In the beer world, rice is considered an “adjunct,” or a non-malt source of fermentable sugar, and an effective ingredient to boost the alcohol in a beer while keeping it light on the palate.  Adjuncts can also be added for flavor and are any items incorporated beyond the core blend of malt, hops, water, and yeast.

“Rice has traditionally been a source of fermentable sugar.  In recent years, it’s been employed as part of a flavor focus,” said Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association craft beer program web manager and Style Guidelines committee member.  Sparhawk, a Certified Cicerone® (the industry designation for a beer sommelier), cites Michigan-based Kuhnhenn Brewing Company’s DRIPA (Double Rice India Pale Ale) made with U.S. long grain rice as a game changer for rice-flavored beers.

Sparhawk noted that rice has been listed as an ingredient since the Guidelines were created in 1979 to establish an archive for classical styles and identify evolving ones.  He added, “Just because rice isn’t mentioned, doesn’t mean it’s not included.”
The Brewers Association represents more than 4,000 small and independent U.S. brewers and supports the community of brewing enthusiasts.  The Beer Style Guidelines are developed by the Brewers Association with input from industry experts and beer analyses, and include details on color; clarity; perceived aroma, flavor, and bitterness; fermentation characteristics; and body.  They serve as a reference for brewers and beer competitions, including the preeminent World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival.

When it comes to using rice in beer production, however, there is definitely a “king of beers,” namely, Anheuser-Busch, the largest single buyer of rice in the United States.