Tasting: September 29, 2012
Style: Gluten Free Beer (Vegetable)
Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats. I first heard celiac disease a few years ago when my wife pointed out that my eldest son displayed enough of the symptoms to warrant having him tested. He came back negative on two occasions.
More and more, I’m hearing of both kids and adults pursuing a gluten free diet. Some out of necessity for a gluten intolerance and some for the purported health benefits of eliminating gluten. From what I’ve read, it is said to improve cholesterol, digestive health and aids in boosting energy levels. Regardless of the reason, food manufacturers are always ready to pounce on an opportunity to market products to a growing consumer base. From the looks of things on supermarket shelves, finding gluten-free products isn’t as difficult a task as it was a couple of years ago.
But as mentioned, gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and maybe oats — all key ingredients in brewing beer. Gluten can be removed from these grains – but that probably increases the cost of the raw material to make beer – so brewers are using alternate ingredients. I picked up these two examples and figured I would see if they are an acceptable alternative.
The first gluten free beer is from one of my favorite new breweries, Epic Brewing of Utah. They use molasses and sweet potato to substitute for grains. The molasses provides the sugar, while the sweet potato provides well, I don’t know. I assume starch. Sweet potatoes are becoming a popular brewing ingredient, so I’m happy to give it a try. Pours a flat light orange color. Has some citric hop aroma. Very unique flavor — takes a few sips to get accustomed to it. Sweet potato is very present (reminds me of sweet potato pie). Molasses lends a burnt flavor and the hops finish crisply. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy this but if it was all I could drink, I guess I would…drink wine. 60 points.
Next up is St. Peter’s Sorgham. Sorghum is a breakfast grain that is naturally gluten-free and is a distant relative to wheat, rye, barley and oats. Again, pours very flat…very light in color. Has that skunky aroma (think Heineken). Actually, the combination of green glass and light are a bad combination. The light causes a reaction with the hops that produces the same chemical as found in skunk spray — albeit in a much smaller dose. If I didn’t tell you this was gluten free, you wouldn’t know it. It’s a lot like a Heineken in that it’s a flash of sweet, skunky hops and lingering bitterness. Probably much more hop bitterness than you’d expect. I could recommend this one to those that are looking for gluten free. Even though I’ll only give it 70 points — I get the purpose and this one fits the bill.