Amazingly, I do get suggestions for this blog. For example, a family contingent has asked for cholesterol-friendly foods, including stuff for diabetic people. (It’s coming, so be patient.) Someone else, hopefully in jest, asked me if I would be grilling squirrel. (No.)
A friend asked me to review gluten-free beers. I am unfortunate enough to have sampled gluten-free beers… I find them to be repellent. No damn way I am spending cash to buy some niche product that would make my stomach curdle. So, instead of me choking down some pseudo-beer, this friend offered to gag down some gluten-free brews and write a post about his (presumably) horrible experience. Fine by me.
I have experience with two gluten-free beers: First, some lady at Schnuck’s was sampling Red Bridge a few years ago. I took a sip and then praised Jebus that I can drink real beer. Second, one of my friends from law school suffers from some malady that prevents him from drinking normal beer. He left 3 out of 6 gluten-free beers from a highly-reputable craft brewer in my house after a poker night. Again, they were awful.
This disdain in mind, I introduce you to Nick G., who has read and agreed to the Copyright Policy. I have made little to no edits to his post and he provided the photos, though I did write the title for him.
Gluten-Free Beers and Me: Coping with my Horrible Lot in Life, by Nick G.
What better place than a BBQ and beer blog for me to give some good options for those cutting gluten out of their diets or hosting gluten free guests. There are many misconceptions about gluten-free diets. For those unfamiliar with what gluten is, it’s the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten-sensitive individuals cannot digest gluten. If left undigested it acts a toxin, harming the intestines, cell membranes, and the function of the brain. This isn’t a medical blog so let’s get to the beer.
As many beer drinkers know, barley is essential to most brewing processes. However, brewers are learning how to use corn, sorghum, rice, and extracted barley malt to give us gluten-sensitive drinkers our beer back. Gone are the days of settling for Red Bridge or Bard’s Tale (which is better than Red Bridge if you are in a pinch). In a recent trip to Binny’s in Chicago, IL, I found some great gluten-free ales and lagers worth the inflated price. Please note: gluten free beers are going to taste different (EDITORS NOTE: he means “weird and unpalatable”), and those not required to follow gluten free diets may not be as impressed as someone like myself. Those strictly following a gluten free diet will appreciate the efforts of these brewers.
Most impressively, one Spanish brewer has perfected a process in which they extract malt from the barley plant without pulling a significant amount of gluten. The lager, Daura, from brewer Estrella Damm is widely consider the best gluten free beer in the world, winning awards several years in a row. Technically, Daura has gluten, but only 6 parts per milliliter, which is well under the 20 ppm required by most gluten-free authorities. Daura possesses the classic lager golden color and body you’d expect from your local micro or Euro brew. You’ll find a faint aroma of flowery hops and its taste approaches the spicy hopiness of a pilsner. As with most lagers, pair it just about anything off the grill: steaks, wings, burgers, ribs, chicken, pizza, or maybe even fajitas. Of course, you’ll have to use gluten free buns, pizza crust, corn tortillas, and un-breaded wings to hold true to a gluten free meal.
New Planet Brewery from Colorado has also done well producing some gluten free brews. Their Tread Lightly Ale and Off Grid Pale Ale are great for ale lovers. Tread Lightly is less bold than your average ale. It’s not quite bronze in color, lacks much of an aroma and the taste is light and citrusy. Any lighter and it might be confused as a pilsner. I’d pair it with lemon pepper chicken or fish or gluten-free pasta primavera.
Off Grid Pale Ale offers a more classic bronze color, classic ale taste, and smooth finish. The spicy hops and molasses dominate the taste and aroma, but there is a bit of citrus to be enjoyed. I typically enjoy pale ales for session drinking and rarely try to pair it with a meal, but if pressed I’d drink it with wild game type dishes such as boar, venison, pheasant and maybe even lamb (depending on how you prepare it).
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that ciders are naturally gluten free. When in doubt, get a cider (steer clear of Hornsby’s; they use traditional beer in the recipe). Magner’s, Strongbow, and Woodchuck are all reliable cider institutions. Fox Barrel and Crispin also have varieties most will enjoy. My favorite, though, is Magner’s Pear Cider. Serve in glass over ice and you’ll be impressed. Magner’s Pear isn’t as sweet as most apple-based ciders, is not as acidic, and has a true pear taste! Like pale ales, I find ciders are difficult to pair with a meal. I like them after dinner and with fruity desserts.
Choices are expanding everyday, but your best option is to go to large, corporate chain liquor stores (like Total Wine or Binny’s) to find a decent selection. If you fail to find a gluten-free beer option for your guests, remember that wine and distilled liquor are all gluten free regardless of the ingredients as gluten is broken down in the distilling process.