I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love beer.
My wife, too, enjoys a high quality beer now and then. But her gluten intolerance made me feel…well, guilty if I was sitting across from her at the dinner table, sipping a cold, tasty bottle of beer while she downed another glass of ice water.
So when she discovered gluten-free beer, I was all for giving them a try. Continue reading
First, a little history about “Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales”. Not surprisingly, the company is owned by its founder, Nick Stafford. According to the company’s website, after being laid-off twice in only seven months (or “made redundant”, as the Brits like to say) in 1991, Mr. Stafford was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start his own brewery. Continue reading
In a free market, quality often improves when consumer choice increases, and this scenario is having a positive impact on the market for gluten-free beer.
Not surprisingly, the recent growth in available brands of gluten-free beer is attributed to the increasing recognition of general gluten sensitivity and serious autoimmune disorders like celiac disease. To satisfy the rising demand for beer among consumers who want to avoid ingesting gluten, some brewers are turning to wheat and barley alternatives like sorghum, a species of grass cultivated in warm climates worldwide and that is commonly used to produce sugary syrup known as “sorghum molasses.”
One of these brewers is Lakefront Brewery, Inc., from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lakefront started in 1987 after a sibling rivalry between two brothers (the owners) over who could make a better homebrew. This rivalry eventually developed into a full-fledged business. Lakefront is notable for brewing and selling “Organic ESB” which is the oldest government-certified organic beer still on the market. Organic ESB uses 100% organic malt AND hops.
Lakefront’s entry into the gluten-free beer market is known as “NEW GRIST Beer”, and the story of how it first arrived on the shelves is an interesting one. Prior to 2006, the federal government mandated that “beer” had to be made with no less than 25% malted barley. This meant that gluten-free, alcoholic beverages could not officially be classified as beer. Ignoring the old saying that you can’t fight city hall, the owners approached the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Tax and Trade bureau and successfully lobbied for a change in policy that enabled them to brew, market and sell NEW GRIST Beer. NEW GRIST now falls under the FDA’s jurisdiction, hence the need for nutrition information on the six-pack.
I’ve had several bottles of NEW GRIST, and I can honestly say: I like it.
One of the first things I noticed about NEW GRIST is that it tastes like beer. While that may seem like an obvious quality for a beer to have, if you’ve sampled other gluten-free beers you’ll understand why I think it’s important to mention. Gluten-free beers ARE different from standard beer, and that difference is most obviously demonstrated in the taste, which tends to be sweeter and slightly drier than standard beer due to the high sugar content of the sorghum. Most people, especially beer connoisseurs, will notice the difference between standard beer and gluten-free beer with the first sip.
NEW GRIST is definitely sweeter than standard beer, but it’s not as sweet as other gluten-free beers. It has a fuller body, and a stronger hoppy flavor than most gluten-free beers, too. The aftertaste is mild but consistent, with a good blend of carbonation and bitters. I heartily recommend NEW GRIST, especially to folks who want to avoid gluten but enjoy a tasty beer.
P.S. If you have tried NEW GRIST Gluten-Free Beer I’d love to hear your opinion.
So when my wife informed me that beer is not exactly “Paleo”, I was more than a little concerned. I can survive without the bread, the pasta and the cereal. I can do without doughnuts, cake, candy, ice cream, and even the soda I used to drink like it was water. Besides, I’ve lost almost twenty pounds in six months since I’ve been eating Paleo so I’m motivated to stick with it.
But…does that have to mean no more beer?
Well…no, not exactly. Thanks to gluten-free beer.
Yup. That’s right. Gluten-free beer — meaning no barley, and no wheat.
That’s because it’s made with sorghum, a genus of numerous species of grass that are often used as fodder plants to feed livestock. Certain species, known as “sweet sorghum”, have been cultivated in the southeastern U.S. since the mid-nineteenth century for use in sweeteners. In some parts of the US, sorghum syrup is even used on pancakes!
Admittedly, there is some controversy as to whether gluten-free beers made with sorghum can truly be considered “Paleo.” As a powerful sweetener, sorghum is obviously high in sugars and carbohydrates. And although beers brewed with sorghum are generally considered to be safe for people who are gluten-intolerant (like celiacs), any brewer who makes gluten-free beer is still required to test every batch and record gluten levels in “parts per million” just to be safe.
I don’t really have issues with gluten, but my wife does, and she claims that gluten-free beers don’t cause the symptoms of gluten-intolerance that she often gets from regular beers. As a man who has gained some wisdom with age, I’ll take her word for it!
REDBRIDGE is a readily available brand of gluten free beer that’s made with sorghum and sold by Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser. I’ve had quite a few bottles of REDBRIDGE, so I’m comfortable recommending it as an alternative to regular beer for those with gluten intolerance issues, or for folks who like beer but simply want to stay Paleo.
If you try a bottle of REDBRIDGE, you’ll notice right away that it does taste different from regular beer. It’s a lighter, smoother taste, slightly sweet, and without a strong, hoppy finish. It’s a refreshing taste, similar in some respects to a wheat beer. I like it, but I readily acknowledge that it’s not for everyone. If you prefer a more intense hoppy flavor to your beer, like with an I.P.A., then REDBRIDGE might not be for you. Otherwise, I recommend trying it, especially if you’re gluten-intolerant. Finally, like most beers (but not all), REDBRIDGE is best served cold.
I’ll do some mini-reviews on other gluten-free beers in future columns.