Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Search for GF Beer Continues

After such a disappointing foray into gluten-free beer, I was ready to give up on this style of alcoholic beverage. I was about to tell my friends and acquaintances, who were looking to get gluten out of their bevvies, to drink wine.

Wine is great: it comes in different styles, such as sparkling, fortified, or dessert. It uses different varieties of grapes, each with a unique flavour. It is made world-wide, and the terroir comes through in the end product.

And wine is gluten-free. Always has been, always will be.

But what kind of beer reviewer would I be if I gave up after only one can of gluten-free brew? (Note to Stacey, who called me an "expert." That was very kind of you, but I'm not a beer expert. I'm just a guy who has tried a shit-load of beer, who likes to share his experiences on this blog. But thank you.)

The other night, as I sat on my front steps, anticipating rain as thunder storms passed overhead, I tried three more gluten-free offerings from a brewery that was recommended to me a while back. I have purchased these beers on two occasions for folks who must avoid gluten, based on that recommendation, without trying the beer for myself.

Let's look at them now.

Glutenberg Blonde Ale (4.5% ABV)
Brasseurs Sans Gluten
Montréal, QC
Beer O'Clock rating: 2

Appearance: pale straw with a creamy, white head that retained a thin cap.

Nose: slightly malty, with grass, a light, honey melon, and a faint hint of ginger ale.

Palate: sour ginger and creamed corn. The ginger lingers at  the back of the throat in the finish.

Overall impression: not bad. Again, I'm reminded of a light, generic ale: not a lot of character, not much flavour. However, on a hot summer's day, it would quench your thirst, but it had me craving more flavour, more body.

Add a lime to it, however, and you're good to go. You might have a gluten-free version of Corona.

The second gluten-free ale piqued my interest as I poured it.

Glutenberg American Pale Ale (5.5% ABV)
Beer O'Clock rating: 3

Appearance: copper, with light-brown highlights, and an off-white, foamy head that dissipates to a full lace.

Nose: dark honey or light toffee.

Palate: burnt toffee and butter, sour hops, and a lingering herbal finish that tasted more and more like oregano as I drank it. The alcohol also coats the tongue in the finish.

Overall impression: of the gluten-free beers that I've tried so far, this was the best. It tasted the closest to conventional beer. This APA is made with quinoa, which would make my wife happy (she likes to feed it to me all the time), and displays the most body of the GF beer I've had.

The third choice was also promising.

Glutenberg Belgian Double (6.5% ABV)
Beer O'Clock rating: 3

Appearance: copper-red with a light beige head that dissipates to a thin lace.

Nose: cherry, backed by a chemical and candied aroma.

Palate: sharp apple and tart cherry that comes to a clean finish and lingering alcohol.

Overall impression: this Belgian-styled ale was by far the most flavourful of the bunch. There was quite a bit of body to this beer: had I not known that this was a gluten-free beer, I would not have guessed it.

But as I drank more (I didn't pour any of these beers down the drain), the strong fruitiness started to remind me of wine that came from a bottle that had been opened for a couple of days. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it wasn't what I would expect from a beer.

But maybe that could be a good thing. If my gluten-avoiding friends don't want to stick to wine, would like to try a beer-like alcoholic beverage, this is somewhere in between.

On Friday, I'll review one final gluten-free beer and will give my overall impression.


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