Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Depressing Round-Up of Gluten-Free Beers

...to help you get ready for the weekend.

Green's endeavors to make a gluten-free dark beer. It's drinkable, but it's not beer. Without malt to mellow out the alcohol (7%), it tasted more like liqueur (maybe Kahlua?) than beer. Unlike most dark beer, the body was very thin. I probably would't buy Endeavor again, but I would try other beers in Green's gluten-free line.

Toleration, brewed by Hambleton Ales: an ironic name for an intolerable beer. When poured into the glass, large chunks of sediment resembling blood clots floated throughout the beer. 20% of the bottle was solids. Am I supposed to shake it before opening? The flavor was sickly sweet and metallic, with an unpleasant aftertaste of rubbing alcohol. The mouthfeel was thin and drizzly. This is the first and only beer I've ever poured down the drain. I would not drink this if someone paid me.

After the Toleration, St. Peter's Sorghum Beer was a relief. It looks, tastes, and feels like Bud Light. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be a point in its favor, but the fact that it's gluten-free and not disgusting goes a long way. The mouthfeel is thin, like a light beer, and the flavor is watery and floral with a respectable hoppy bitterness. If I really wanted beer for a football game, I would buy this, but it's nothing to jump up and down about.

My first sip of bright, fruity New Grist by Lakefront Brewery was encouraging. It had that rice aftertaste common to gluten-free imitations of real food, but it wasn't so bad. The beer had no head and little carbonation, with a medium body. There were hints of nutmeg. As the beer warmed, the flavor turned more toward sour apple, and it began to smell strongly of rice and (was I imagining things?) onions. Ice cold, this was the best gluten-free beer I've tried so far. Closer to room temperature, when its true colors came through, it was a struggle to swallow.

Finally, Red Bridge by Anheuser-Busch. This is probably the most widely-available gluten-free beer; it's the only one in the refrigerator at my grocery store. Red Bridge tastes an awful lot like Budweiser. This is not a good thing. It's coppery and thin with no aftertaste. It's just a background lager: it gives you calories and alcohol, but doesn't make a statement. This is no replacement for Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams Boston Lager, but while it is not good, it also is not gross, and that makes it the best of the gluten-free beers I tried. If you really, really want a beer for the tailgate party, Red Bridge is drinkable, but it's nothing to get excited about.

I don't like wine very much and I'm not going to switch to hard liquor, so until somebody comes out with a worthwhile gluten-free beer, I'll be drinking more tea in the evenings. Seriously, brewers, the field is wide open. There is no widely-available, enjoyable gluten-free beer, and there are a lot of Celiacs. The first brewery to corner the gluten-free market will make a boatload. Hell, I'm tempted to buy a bag of sorghum, head out to the garage, and give it a try myself.

Here I am, brewers, with beer money. Please, please make something worth buying.

13 comments:

  1. I didn't even know beer had gluten! But of course, now that I think about it. I am sorry you have such a hard time finding something that you like...yes, maybe you should start brewing your own. That is a great idea.

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  2. How about cider or mead. (Maybe I shoudl take that back, some of the worst hang overs I ever achieved were from drinking those).

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  3. You missed Bard's Beer. Only Bard's malts the sorghum in its recipe for traditional beer flavor and aroma. We have a great sorghum beer that is gluten-free. We have a beer locator on our beer site to help you find us near where you live / work.

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  4. Aw, that blows! I didn't even realize folks who can't have gluten would need to drink GF-free beer. I prefer red wine over beer anyway, but I do like a nice ice-cold brew now and again (or well, anytime that funds are low and I'm out with friends...beer is always the cheapest bet). I hope you find a good GF-free beer soon. A woman should not be without her beer.

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  5. I can't believe this!!! I'm so impressed that you seem to know so much about gluten-free beer. I'm not a big fan of beer but I'd love to share this post with my husband, friends and relatives who love beer!

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  6. Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t care for the beers. I usually drink New Grist or Redbridge, but maybe they taste better to me because I’ve always added a bit of salt to my beer.

    It’s possible that they might taste better to you after taking a beer break. If I had tasted New Grist within a few weeks of drinking my last Allagash White, I probably would have broken down into a weeping, inconsolable mess.

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  7. Well, I didn't even know there was such a thing as gluten-free beer! But considering how widespread knowledge about celiac's is becoming, I would imagine that the field should begin to grow sooner or later.

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  8. Great reviews! I actually saw the St. Peter's today and was intrigued by the bottle but read about the back and decided it wasn't for me and boy am I glad!

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  9. I've only tried the red bridge, but I agree it wasn't very tasty. Hard cider is my favorite anyway, now I just have a better excuse to spend the money on it.

    xo
    kittee

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  10. I'd second the Bard's recommendation, it's definitely worth a try. I was the St. Peter's the other day and was curious, it's a shame that something in such a great bottle could taste like bud light.

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  11. i agree that both redbridge and st. peter's are the best of the bunch. st. peter's is actually a bit better tasting than redbridge, but redbridge is much easier to find. they even offer redbridge at a surprising number of restaurants and sporting venues (at least in washington dc) in my pre gluten-free life i pretty much only drank coors light, so i am by no means a beer connoisseur... but redbridge and st. peter's have really grown on me. green's and new grist taste more like some kind of sweet wine to me than beer. another one that is tolerable, but not quite as good as redbridge or st. peter's is bard's tale.

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  12. I know this is about 2 years too late... but I have recently been trying some gluten-free beers myself after some concern about wheat / gluten and some minior but pesky health issues...

    Anyway, the closest I have found to real beer is definitely BARD's. It is really quite similar to something like a shipyard, but a little maltier, but not overly so. Well carbonated too. You can find it reliably at Bangor Wine & Cheese on Hammond St. next to Fiddlehead.

    There is also a red rice beer that I believe they carry (I actually had it at Fiddlehead but assume they have the same distributor). I forget the name but it was tasty, too, similar to a red ale maybe.

    I tried Redbridge for the first time this week. Ack, that stuff is kind of like watery beer-flavored syrup. Also, here's the ingredient list: Sorghum, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!, Hops, yeast. If I needed any other excuse to not drink it ever again, that's it.

    The price for Bards is about $2 per bottle, not cheap, but then again, the Redbridge was $1.55 a bottle. Not a big difference, but it adds up when you drink as much beer as I do!

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  13. If you ever have the chance to try Messagère from Canada, don't expect to find those strong canadian beers. It's like beer diluted with water for the white and the red and it's like water with drops of beer in it for the third one which is supposed to be something like a pilsner. Need to cook with beer? It can be used for that, but otherwise, stick to Bard's or New Grist. As for Green's, I'd say that once in a while because it's really expensive, I would consider it as really worth it!

    Oh! And by the way, this is a quick message to Brad: cider IS gluten free. The only thing is that when I want a glass of Cognac, I'm not looking for tequila. It's the same with beer and cider. Of course, it also gets you drunk if you have too much, but it's not beer!

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