To follow my blog on how gluten-free beers are made, I enlisted some selfless volunteers to help me taste several examples to see how they compared to standard beers. One was a coeliac who for several years has had little beer, apart from the occasional gluten-free light lager.
We started with a trio of barley-based beers. The first two say they use low-gluten barley and a brewing process that further minimises gluten, while the latter doesn't say how it's de-glutenised, which means it's probably Brewer's Clarex.
Bellfield Bohemian Pilsner: A golden beer with a very slight head and light aromas of dry hay, biscuit, a little sweetcorn – making it pretty close to style. The body did seem to me to be a little thin for a Czech-style Pils, but beyond that it is malty and dry-sweet, with light dry bitterness. It's a nice example of a lager, and was well liked by our coeliac taster.
Bellfield Lawless Village IPA: It's orange-brown and toasty, with touches of Seville orange and caramel, a note of grapefruit pith and a hint of lemon on the finish. Don't expect American hops or bitterness – this is a nice classic British-style IPA that you wouldn't know was gluten-free – and indeed, why should you?
Glebe Farm Wellington Bomber: Described as a Porter, it seemed more in the Brown Ale vein to me. It has aromas of toast, cocoa and a little cola, then the body was a little watery, with roasted malt, palate-drying cocoa, and a sweet, burnt sugar note. We found it a bit confused and thin; however, I suspect our bottle – bought from a farm shop – had suffered a bit of oxidation in storage.
We followed with a trio of non-barley beers, brewed instead from malted rice and other grains, including millet and quinoa. All are from Autumn Ales, and like the Bellfield beers were kindly donated by the brewer.
Alt Brew No.01: Labelled as a Bavarian-style Pilsner, it's light-bodied – certainly a lot lighter than the average Eurolager, and maybe even a bit thin. I don't think it's bitter enough for Bavarian Pils, but it went down well with the other tasters, who agreed it made a nice summer drink.
Alt Brew No.02: A Golden Ale, it pours a bright amber-brown with a lasting head. The nose is hoppy-fresh with a hint of citrus. Then there's crisp bitterness and lightly sweet, with a toasted edge and a slight astringency. This a nice zesty beer, and was the only one liked by all our tasters.
Alt Brew No.03: Brewing a dark and roasty Stout without barley is a challenge, but Autumn has come pretty close with this dark brown brew. It's a little thin compared to many other Stouts, and was too 'burnt' for some of our tasters, but for dark beer fans there's a light milky sweetness in the midbody, plus notes of bitter chocolate before an ashy-burnt finish.
Overall, even though these are such different beer styles, I think some conclusions are fair. As a regular drinker of all sorts, my favourite was the excellent Lawless IPA, while the Pilsners seemed not quite authentic. However, the latter were popular with the tasters who hadn't drunk much ale in recent years, but who still appreciated something better than Eurolager.
The one we all agreed on liking was the Alt Brew No.02. Yes, it's that classic golden ale crossover beer – well put together, and appealing to ale and lager drinkers alike.
Ultimately though, the most amazing thing is that while Autumn Brewing and Bellfield Brewery are special, in that they brew only gluten-free beer and don't rely on Clarex, this was just a sample of what's available now in terms of gluten-free beer. So whether you're a super-sensitive coeliac or simply have an intuition you're gluten-intolerant, at least now you can enjoy a decent beer. Cheers to that!
Westerham Brewery have been claiming on their website, for some time now, that “Using a proprietary method we have been able to reduce the gluten content of many of our bottled beers to less than the WHO’s Codex Alimentarius determined level of 20ppm or less of gluten.”ReplyDelete
The claim extends to most of their bottled beers, and the “proprietary method “ they refer to, involves the use of a naturally occurring enzyme to break down the gluten chains. Presumably this is the “Brewers Clarex”, referred to in your previous post. Westerham also state that their “Gluten Free” beers are tested by an independent laboratory.
Thanks Paul, there are several breweries doing some g/f beers via Clarex. Nene Valley Brewery (https://nenevalleybrewery.com) is another one - they say "Almost all" their beers are g/f, although I don't see any testing data mentioned on their website.Delete
What I don't know is how far they get distributed - I can't remember when last I saw Westerham bottles or NVB cans on sale, for instance.
My hope is that the g/f-only breweries will find it easier to get onto the "free-from" shelves alongside the examples from companies with big distribution budgets such as Greene King.
The other thing is this question of whether Clarexed beer is good enough for the most sensitive. It might be FUD, it might be a real issue, it's hard to tell!
Hi Bryan, whilst I regularly see Westerham beers in my local Sainsbury and Waitrose outlets, I imagine they have limited distribution. This makes perfect sense, and I am all in favour of keeping things local.ReplyDelete
Westerham claim that they test every batch, and there is a link on their website where customers can input the lot number of their bottle, and obtain the results. I haven’t put this to the test, although I would do so if gluten intolerance was an issue for me.