Friday, June 28, 2013

Rethinking Gluten-Free Beer

I had just finished taking notes for my fifth gluten-free beer, ready to condemn most of them, when I had a epiphany of sorts.

I was going about my approach to these beer-like, alcoholic beverages the wrong way.

I'm a beer snob. I turn my nose up at far more beers than I embrace. I look at the major producers as corporations who have more passion for making money than making beer. I look at clear, pale-yellow beer with much disdain.

I love craft beer that has body, flavour, and character. And if your beer tastes anywhere near the mainstream piss that they try to sell you at Swiss Chalet or Denny's, I won't touch you with a 20-foot cattle prod.

But that's just me and my snobby opinion: life's too short to drink mediocre beer.

I realize that there are many people who like that generic-tasting style. Many more, though the number of craft-beer drinkers is growing (but is still a fraction of the population).

I think that the brewers of gluten-free beer are trying to appeal to that wider audience. And so, I am rethinking my comments on the Nickel Brook beer I tried earlier this week. I owe an apology to the brewers. It must be hard to create a beer without gluten, and then to target an audience that will appreciate it. I'm thinking that you went for the beer drinkers who are used to Labatt or Molson. And, I think, to that end, you succeeded. I'm sure that that audience will enjoy that beer and appreciate that you had their interests in mind.

To the Glutenberg folks, you also made a blonde ale that would appeal to a wide audience of mainstream beer drinkers, but you also made a couple of styles that would be targeted towards the craft-beer fans. And for that, I tip my hat.

Last night, I tried another beer that I also think targets the mainstream beer drinkers.
Bard's Gold (4.7% ABV)
Bard's Tale Beer Company
Utica, NY
Beer O'Clock rating: 1.5
Appearance: a clear, deep gold with a foamy, white head that dissipates immediately to a thin cap, and then to nothing.

Nose: soap and grass.

Palate: lemon and petrol, that fade to a watery finish.

Overall impression: the first taste wasn't bad for a mainstream beer. I felt that in successive sips, it fell short on flavour. I didn't get much off the nose or in the mouth, and what I got I didn't care for.

When I sipped at my first glass, I noticed that the bubbles fell off to a tiny, faint stream of pearls, and then stopped altogether. By the time I was halfway through my glass, my beverage was flat.

I thought this might have been a fault with the bottle, so I opened a second. Again, halfway into my glass, my drink was flat.

Granted, when I review a beer, I drink slowly. Often, as with this review, I write the post while I'm still drinking. As I write this paragraph, I'm about three ounces from the bottom of my glass and Bard's is flat, lifeless, and tasteless.

If you want to drink this beer, drink up. Don't write, don't download photos. Hell, don't talk. Just pour it back.

If you're a fan of the major breweries Bard's Gold may be okay for you, especially if you can't have wheat or other glutenous grains in your beer (this ale is made with sorghum).

On the other hand, if you're a craft-beer lover, this beer may disappoint: it lacks body and character.

This week, I tried five different gluten-free beers. My favourite? The APA from Glutenberg (Brasseurs Sans Gluten). It had the flavour that I look for in a beer. And while it wasn't outstanding as an APA, it was pretty good. It didn't taste like a generic beer and had character of its own.

There are still other gluten-free beers out there that I didn't try and won't try. You'll just have to experiment for yourself.

In Ontario, Nickel Brook and Bard's is available at the LCBO. The Glutenberg beers can be found in Québec, at Bières du Monde and Broue Ha Ha.


No comments:

Post a Comment