Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Gluten-intolerant? Brewers hear you
Celiac disease, the Mayo Clinic says, is "a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye.
"People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.
"Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) that occurs with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment."
The cause is not well understood, but is known to sometimes run in families, and there is, at present, no cure for it. Celiac disease, which also goes by the names celiac sprue, nontropical sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is basically an immune system reaction to gluten; it can be well-managed with diet changes, avoiding foods that contain gluten.
This brings me to the topic of today's column: Gluten-free beer. It's in the Oxford Companion to Beer, right between glucose (as a building block of starch) and glycogen (a carbohydrate). We are seeing a steadily increasing supply of gluten-free beers coming on the market in New Hampshire for those who would like a beer, but can't drink it the standard ones because of the presence of gluten, which occurs in the most common beer ingredients, barley and wheat, as well as some types of rye.
To make a gluten-free beer then, one has to go to plants that don't contain it, and these include so-called "grist materials" from malted sorghum, buckwheat and common millet.
These are all known, in beer lingo, as "adjuncts," that is, something used to replace some or all of the malt used in making a beer.
How are they? Let's take a look at a few I found at Bert's Better Beers in Hooksett:
Redbridge Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer, Anheuser-Busch, $1.75. The ingredients are water, fermented sorghum, sorghum, corn syrup, hops and yeast. No alcohol content listed on the bottle. Average size white head, frothy in character, diminishing, with low malt, medium hops and aromas of citrus, lemon, and general hoppy notes. Dry palate, medium to low bitterness, medium acidity, low carbonation, well-integrated alcohol, a little on the thin side for texture (think light beer), medium flavor intensity of hops and fruit.
Bard's Sorghum Malt Beer, "Gluten Free" $1.95. "Contains no wheat, barley or oats," the label says. Average size white head, gold beer, low malt nose, and low hops, citrus and herbal notes. Dry on the palate, medium bitterness, petillant carbonation, well-integrated components, medium texture, hops on the palate.
Daura Estrella "Gluten Free" Lager, Spain. $2.35. 5.4 % abv. Yellow beer, low malt, low hops, citrus mostly, skunky at first, but that clears quickly with a little air, citrus on the palate that's dry, low acidity, medium to low alcohol that's well-integrated, light body, hops and fruit on a medium length finish.
So, we are of on the gluten-free quest. We'll continue next week with a few more.
Off-dry on the palate, weighing in in Spätlese or Auslese range, with medium alcohol (10%), medium body, medium-plus flavor intensity and flavors of green apple that really comes through on the palate, lemon-citrus and some slight melon hints.
Fruit-forward, good concentration. Drink now. 85 points.
Jim Beauregard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.