Gluten Free Beer

When you have a gluten allergy, not being able to partake in festive treats like birthday cake is something you get used to. In fact the rule is better safe than sorry, and unless you know you can have it, don’t.  But with an abundance of gluten free alternatives showing up in stores over the past few years, it was only a matter of time before the beer industry was infiltrated as well.

Since beer is made from wheat, you can imagine wheat free (and therefore gluten free) beer doesn’t really taste that much like beer. My gluten tolerant coworkers that were nice enough to partake in this taste test certainly seemed to agree. It’s kind of like having a popcorn flavored jelly bean instead of popcorn.

tasting gluten free beer

Bard’s, Omission and Redbridge were the brands we tried. Omission, which is not recommended for people with Celiac disease because it is only “gluten removed” not, gluten free, was the favorite of my coworkers. I can only assume that is due to the remnants of gluten and consequently, most beer-like taste. Bard’s and Redbridge received a resounding “Eh, it’s okay.”

Never really having been a fan of beer anyway, cider has always been my go-to alternative.  It’s light, crisp, refreshing, and oh so delicious. And there is a plethora of brands and varieties.

Crispin is a very popular brand that can be found in most stores and bars and it comes in seven different varieties: Original, Light, Brut, Browns Lane, Honey Crisp, The Saint and Lansdowne. Original and Browns Lane are the most commonly found and not as sweet as other brands of cider.

Ace cider also comes in different varieties; Apple, Apple-Honey, Berry, Pumpkin and Joker, with Pear being my favorite.

If you are new to the gluten free lifestyle, I would suggest sticking with ciders until the taste of real beer is such a distant memory, that the faint beer essence of gluten free beer will be enjoyable. Since gluten free beer is still such a new addition on the market, perhaps with time, breweries will get the hang of it and the taste will improve. Until then, there are plenty of other options to help those of us that are gluten free feel included.

Craft Beer Club: Delirium Tremens

delirium tremens logoOne of my favorite beers is Delirium Tremens, a blonde Belgian style trippel, offered up by the Huyghe Brewery in Belgium. This beer first came into production in 1989 and has since won numerous accolades worldwide for its complex taste that has been proven to please the palates of many beer drinkers. Delirium Tremens is the brewery’s best known beer and one of four beers in the Delirium line up all branded with the signature pink elephant. A strong brew coming in at 8.5% ABV, this one is not for the faint of heart as one might tell from the tongue-in-cheek name referring to the shakes caused by alcohol withdrawal.beer bottle label - Delirium Tremens

Some may be intrigued by the unique label on the bottle illustrating colorful whimsical crocodiles and dragons attacked by a row of Hitchcock’s birds meant to symbolize a state of delirium; the masses agree that they love this beer. Though, it is hard to come to a consensus on what exactly makes up its taste profile. As you pour the beer into a glass you will notice the pale blonde coloring and dense white foam head that dissipates slowly. Upon tasting, I recognized coriander and orange that give it a light, fruity flavor profile. I also noticed the beer is very carbonated with a creamy complexity stemming from the multiple yeasts used in the brewing process. Just when you think you have the flavor figured out, the profile shifts into a dry, bitter, lingering finish.

This is a beer that really develops on the palate, from front to back, which makes it an ideal beer for laid back slow drinking. You definitely want to discover and enjoy each and every nuance and intricacy in Delirium Tremens. Save the chugging for the light macro brew  and enjoy Delirium Tremens at a leisurely pace with friends. Delirium Tremens is a great beer choice year round. The light, crisp, carbonated elements of the beer would make it a great choice for a summer evening on the patio. While the strong alcohol content and its yeasty, dry, bitter finish make it an ideal beer to serve up alongside a bowl of chili in the cold winter months. Let us know what you think of Delirium Tremens and cheers to good health!

Craft Beer Club: Jester King’s El Cedro Hoppy Cedar-Aged Ale

Jester King Brewery El CedroI am a big fan of a sister beer from Jester King, The Wytchmaker Farmhouse Rye India Pale Ale, and only happened to pick up a bottle of El Cedro after finding the Wytchmaker out of stock at my local grocery store. I was pleasantly surprised.

You can tell a lot of love was put into its making when you see its beautiful reddish hue as the beer settles in your glass. El Cedro is not your typical beer (no beer from Jester King is), and is successfully able to pull off providing the perfect balance of fruitiness with hoppiness. It is neither too fruity nor too hoppy for my taste.

I would recommend this beer for anyone looking to try something new and is looking to get away from traditional ales or IPA’s. It’s definitely not a light beer; however, it’s refreshingly smooth and it will make a great addition to my beer rotation as we head into the summer.

El Cedro is an 8.0% ABV farmhouse ale brewed by Jester King in the Texas Hill Country outside of Austin, Texas. Jester King describes it’s flavor by saying, “It combines tropical, fruity hop flavor and aroma with funky, barnyard yeast character and the unique flavor and aromatics of Spanish Cedar.”

On a scale of Piss Poor (1) to Perfection in a Glass (10), I give it an 8. How do you rate El Cedro Hoppy Cedar-Aged Ale?

Craft Beer Club: Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

I’ve always had respect for Lagunitas. Almost everything they brew is gold in my book. They’ve been at the forefront of the less conventional side of craft brewing, and their expertise truly shows through the beer they produce. They are your prototypical West Coast brewery – inducing flavorful and aromatic hops and blasts of wonderful complexities at any chance they get. However, unlike some other reputable West Coast names (Russian River, Ninkasi, 21st Amendment, Firestone Walker, etc.), they’ve managed to maneuver their way through endless amounts of state rules and regulations to establish impressive distribution lines, spreading the wealth across the far reaches of the U.S. And because of this, we are very happy to be able to get our hands on all the delicious beer they bring to the table. One of these treats that’s available year-round is an American pale wheat ale by the name of “A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.”

A Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale

We can say right off the bat, that this beer always looks delicious. It pours a substantial white head you’d find in a wheat ale and an orange-amberish color and level of clarity more typical of a pale ale. The initial look can leave you with a certain sense of slight confusion, and perhaps a little apprehension, only to be immediately swept away upon first sip. The taste is reminiscent of a delicious West Coast IPA, but with a seemingly fuller body and bready character. Give it a swirl and you’ll release an enormous amount of absolutely amazing aromas. The hops don’t lend much to the piney aspect but rather take you on a trip into a floral and fruit-filled place with an abundance of grapefruit and other various citrus. It’s certainly on the sweeter side, but the hop bitterness provides a balance akin to that of an Olympic gymnast. The mouthfeel is beyond great and the alcohol is there but it’s not boozy at all – definitely a great beer to session, that’ll get the job done any time of year.

The style of A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is obviously unique as it’s not too often that you come across a beer like this. It’s not a pale ale. Not a wheat ale. Nor is it an IPA. It’s just an awesome mixture of wheat and pale malts with loads of floral and fruity hop goodness. There isn’t a single thing about this beer that we would change. If your favorite pale ale and favorite wheat beer were to have a child – this would be it. We tip our hats to Tony Magee and all of Lagunitas Brewing Company for creating and maintaining their own path in the ever-growing jungle of craft brewing.

Craft Beer Club: Kona Koko Brown

This week we tried something from a brewery that we’d all like to visit – Kona Brewing Company in the far-off land of Hawaii. While they have many beers readily available for enjoyment, we decided to go with their Koko Brown – a nut brown ale with some island flair.

Kona Koko Brown

This is a nut brown ale unlike the rest of the pack. From what we’ve seen, craft brewers like to use nuts that are either readily available to them or don’t have to be shipped long distances even if they’re not within arm’s reach. Typically, in the contiguous U.S., we see flavors attributed to more widely-seen tree nuts like walnuts or pecans, but with this Hawaiian version, what other to use than the coconut? And that’s exactly what the crew at Kona did use.

The beer pours a brown that’s reminiscent of cola – not the deepest we’ve seen and it has a pretty thin and somewhat “soapy” head that dissipates fairly quickly. Right away, you can smell the coconut coming from the glass, however, the Victory and Chocolate malts, among others, bring that oh-so-wonderful caramel and chocolate presence to the palate. Start sipping and you’ll get the coconut, caramel and chocolate right off the bat. This beer is definitely on the sweeter side. It’s like a Mounds candy bar in a cup. The coconut is present from start to finish, but fades to a more roasted characteristic on the back-end. The mouth-feel is a little on the thin side but is completely sufficient.

Overall we like this one. It was definitely “a nut brown worth cracking”, and while it may not be an everyday drinker in our book, it’s definitely one worth revisiting. In fact, we envision it being even more enjoyable in the colder months. It is, after all, a winter seasonal. Good work, Kona.

Craft Beer Club: Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat

The days are only getting hotter here in central Texas – we’re almost at 100 degrees and it’s only May. We pretty much just accept the heat, as we don’t really have a choice. However, we do have choices when picking methods to ease the pain. One of our personal favorites is a nice cold beer. So, in honor of the season, this week we went with a style that’s just got that summery feel – Boulevard Brewing Company’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer.

Boulevard Wheat Beer

Touted as their “most popular offering, and the best-selling craft beer in the Midwest,” we were pretty excited to indulge. While some of us have had this tone before, there’s definitely nothing wrong with taking a stroll down memory lane.

If the color of this beer doesn’t shout “summer,” then I don’t know what does. It’s about as golden as the sun. No real orange or amber hues at all – yellow through and through with a cloudy appearance that you’d expect from an unfiltered wheat beer. Atop sits a nice clean white head that dissipates quickly. Give it a whiff and we’d swear we’re standing in the middle of a Midwest wheat field. America’s amber waves of grain were put to good use here as the aroma comes through with definite prominence. Give it another smell and we can also find some banana and an ever-so-slight breadiness that beg us to drink it.

No need to fight it, so on to the taste test! First impression – wow! This beer is really well-balanced. The wheat-heavy grain bill provides the perfect malt backbone while some of our favorite hops for the style (Simcoe & Summit) bring just a little bitterness to balance it all out. In our opinion, it’s carbonated to provide a refreshing mouthfeel that’ll keep you coming back. Luckily for us, at a relatively low ABV of 4.4%, this thing is dangerously drinkable. No surprise that it took a gold medal in the Session Beer Category at the 2008 Great American Beer Fest.

If you’re in search of the perfect summer quaff, put that iced tea down and pick up a 6-pack of this summertime treat. It’s available year-round, but there’s just something about the warm weather that accentuates this beer’s characteristics.

What do you think of Boulevard’s Unfiltered Wheat?

Craft Beer Club: Breckenridge Brewery Lucky U IPA

Our group of beer lovers is comprised of some members who are very fond of India Pale Ales. Since the Craft Beer Club’s inception, almost half of the beers we’ve tried have been of the IPA persuasion. As self-proclaimed hopheads, we decided to pick one up that we had yet to try. We chose Breckenridge Brewery’s Lucky U IPA due to the fact that we were familiar with the Breckenridge name, and have definitely enjoyed some of their offerings in the past.  Breckenridge Brewery produces their ales from Denver, in a state full of quality craft breweries – “A place where the beer flows like wine…” – Lloyd Christmas, Dumb & Dumber.

Breckenridge Brewery Lucky U IPA

We opened up these bottles to find a great color: golden orange with a decent white head that gave way to some decent lacing – looks the part, so we gave it a whirl. The nose was reminiscent of any signature IPA, but we didn’t have the easiest time pinpointing any distinct aroma characteristics. It was on the earthier side and had some very mild grapefruit notes. As for the taste… unfortunately, for us, the plethora of hops (Amarillo, Magnum, Perle, Cascade, Apollo, Fuggle, Goldings) just didn’t work out. Those are all great hop varieties, but the characteristics of each, in our opinion, just didn’t come together well. It may have been the quantities or usage, but we didn’t find any noteworthy or extremely delectable flavors or aromas within. As a potential consolation, with 68 IBUs, a nice bite would have been great, but to our disappointment, that wasn’t entirely there either.

Maybe we’re just not on the same wavelengths on this one? Maybe the pack went bad? Perhaps we’ll have to give it another go for the chance at redemption somewhere down the line. Either way, we mean absolutely no disrespect to Breckenridge as we’ve tried some of their other offerings in the past and enjoyed them. This one, however, just didn’t seem to hit the mark and didn’t really leave us feeling all that “lucky.”

Have you ever tried Lucky U? What did you think?

Craft Beer Club: Real Ale Devil’s Backbone

This week we decided to tap into our more deviant side with Devil’s Backbone, a Belgian-style Tripel from Real Ale Brewing Company located in Blanco, Texas (our neighbors!). This particular offering really lives up to its name (“named for a scenic ridge that runs between Blanco [TX] and Wimberley [TX]“) as it takes you on a wild ride to Flavortown.

Upon first look, we noticed that the labeling was different than previous batches:

Real Ale Devil's Backbone vs. Real Ale Devil's Backbone New Label

We’re actually big fans of the move as Austin artist Joey Marez does an amazing job at bringing the beer to life in visual form. We give it an “A” for packaging for sure.

Now let’s get to the beer…

This beer pours a richly-colored golden pale hue with a considerable white head and solid retention. There’s certainly some great lacing, and man, is this thing a treat to smell. The nose is full of clove and banana, but there’s a lot more going on as we caught citrus, apple, and even a slight breadiness. We were hoping the flavor would match the aroma, and it definitely did to a tee. All of the things we smelled were seamlessly transferred to our palates, adding subtle notes of spice and pepper. The body isn’t too thick or too thin, but JUST right – for the style and for general mouthfeel purposes. The full-flavored malty character combines with that signature Belgian yeast flavor to provide the perfect stage for the Czech Saaz hops to bring a nice amount of bite on the backend.  “Complex” might be a bit of an understatement for this beer, as it brings so much to the table and even presents noticeable changes from start to finish.

As a surprisingly smooth-drinking (for the ABV) “dynamic” beer, we don’t see ourselves getting tired of this one. We’ll definitely be back to support our fellow Texas Hill Country brethren in their brewing adventures.

Have you tried Devil’s Backbone? Let us know your thoughts on the beer in the comments!

Craft Beer Club: Rogue Mocha Porter

A small group of us here have recently decided to create a club of sorts that celebrates the glory of craft beer. We rounded up a 6-pack of members and came to the agreement that this should be a once-a-week deal, taking turns, with each person bringing something new and exciting when they’re up. We ultimately decided that we could truly reap something from our weekly beer journeys by sharing our experiences in the hopes of raising awareness of all kinds of handcrafted beers – some of which you may already know and perhaps some that you don’t.

This week’s offering comes from a Newport, Oregon-based brewery that’s been concocting delicious and unique ales since 1988:

Rogue Mocha Porter

rogue mocha porter

With a nice collection of awards, including the 2012 World Beer Award for “World’s Best Stout & Porter” and a 2010 Australian International Beer Award gold metal, expectations were pretty high. And we can definitely say that this one delivered.

It pours a nice dark brown color with a relatively thin head that sticks for a fairly short time. It smells of chocolate, coffee and caramel, three Cs that are expected for the style. With a body built from a generous malt bill, including Great Western 2-Row, various crystal, chocolate, black, Munich and Carastan malts, this beer isn’t too thin or too thick, however, the carbonation levels were pretty high and it seemed to have a certain bubbly essence to it.

The various malts and relatively mild Sterling and Perle hops work in harmony to create a well-balanced flavor that isn’t overly bitter or sweet. The chocolate is very apparent throughout, though changes from a more roasted and dark character up front to a slightly sweeter finish with the bitterness of the hops at the end. Amidst the hints of caramel lies a surprisingly dry backbone. While some of us don’t typically drink porters in the hotter months, this one is light enough to make it session-able and pleasing to the palate even when it’s nearly 100 degrees outside – like here in Austin.

Overall, this is a very drinkable porter that had the expected chocolate and coffee flavors with an unexpected and refreshing carbonation level. It all combined to make a brew that I’m sure we’ll enjoy again.