Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gluten Free Beer comparison

One thing I missed after going gluten-free was the ability to have an occasional beer. I rarely drank beer, but found it enjoyable to have one after mowing the lawn on a hot day. My preferred beer of choice in the old days would be something like a Guinness Stout or a similarly full-flavored beer. I would opt for a lighter beer once in a while too - perhaps an Amstel Light or St. Pauli Girl. These were all pretty good options.

Now, since going gluten free, I have had a few teaspoons of conventional beer just because I missed it so much, and when I watch my wife have one I sometimes feel the weakness to sip it. But, along came some recent gluten free sorghum beers that I have tried over the past few months. I started with the first one I could get my hands on around here: Lakefront New Grist's Sorghum Beer. Quite honestly, I find it much better for using in my onion ring batter, pulled pork/chicken recipes, and some other things. It does not have much flavor, and what it does have is a bit harsh in my opinion. I came across some beer-rating sites on the web that gave it 8/100 (i.e., 8th percentile). That tells the story rather well.

My newest find is Bard's Tale Dragons Gold sorghum beer, which on the rate beer web site scored in the 17th percentile. I picked up a 6-pack at Wild Oats last week, and just now opened a nice chilled one. My initial impression: WOW! This is actually pretty decent tasting beer! That 17th percentile (compared to ALL beers), just does not tell the whole story about this Bard's gluten free sorghum beer. Bard's Tale beer is brewing this with a malted-sorghum (malted referring to the malting process; not the use of malted barley which of course would cause it to be non-GF). The results are spectacular - the beer has plenty of flavor and a decent aftertaste, done in a light American Lager style. I will not be using this for my baking; I will drink it.

The comparison to the New Grist is simple: Bard's Tale Beer Dragons Gold is so far above and beyond, easily the double that the percentile rankings of each beer would imply (8th percentile for New Grist, vs. 17th for Bard's Tale - a full double and then some).

The only down-side is PRICE -- yes, it is expensive. $11.00/6-pack at Wild Oats. Rough, but worth it if you really want a decent tasting beer. For me, it is a no-brainer keeping this on hand for times when I have a craving. I so rarely drink beer anyhow, it'll only cost me a couple bucks a month.

And, as a final teaser: I have talked to Bard's, and they are working on a followup beer or two that should a god send those of us who like a darker beer. To quote them: "Our company does have plans to come out with Stout or a Porter in the next 18 months."

Woohooo!! I am looking forward to that!

This is great news on all accounts: the more companies that raise the bar for a gluten free product (be it gluten-free beer or some other food product), the better for all with Celiac Disease. Competition yields better products! And, we benefit from this.

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Footnotes: Malting is a process applied to cereal grains, in which the grains are made to germinate and then are quickly dried before the plant develops

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Look for Redbridge from Anheuser-Busch. Just introduced and its great.

Mike Eberhart said...

I quickly checked into this. Yes, it appears Anheuser has filed to brew Redbridge as a Sorgum-based beer, containing no wheat. I found a preview of the label for the product, which indicates "wheat-free", though nothing about "gluten-free" yet. Hopefully that is cleared up soon after the beer's (apparent) inevitable release.

Thanks for the heads-up!

Anonymous said...

Rate beer is off their rocker giving New Grist an 8 percentile. Those beer geeks that live in their mothers' basements have faulty methodology for rating beer. New Grist just won the gold medal at the 2006 GABF in Denver for best experimental beer. "Nuff said.
Nice fake post from A/B and their shills. They've been claiming for years that their awful tasting rice beer is gluten-free and then to now come out with their ATTEMPT at a gluten-free beer? That is a company that does not have the g/f community's best interests in mind. Whatever. At least it brings attention to gluten-free lifestyle. They would like to destroy any category of beer production that they cannot own. They have the money to do it. It's a write-off for them. Tell the gluten-free community to continue to support their friends who are celiac and produce product for them: New Grist, Bard's, Dark Hills. As for Bard's- they claim to use malted sorghum. They may have at the beginning, but I've been told they're using sorghum syrup like everyone else. As for Ramapo- not even beer. Just a mead.

Kevin Seplowitz said...

Who ever claimed that Bard's Tale does not use malted grain is mistaken. We have been using malted sorghum since day one and will continue to use it, since it makes a better tasting product. In addtion, we are in the midst of opening our own malting facility in order to meet our specific needs. Kevin Seplowitz, President. Celiac. Bard's Tale Beer Company, LLC.

Anonymous said...

Needing to address anonymous above (Nov 8th posting).

I know for a fact that Bard's is using 100% malted sorghum made from the gluten free grain that they grow and control. I guess the easiest way to tell is to pick some up and drink it. That malt taste can't be faked. As for GABF 2006 it's about time GF Beer got some recognition, three cheers to Lake Front! I understand that Dark Hills and Bard’s did not participate, I wonder who would have won if they did?. Lastly, why the animosity toward AB? If they can make a decent GF beer that is truly GF and good, are not all of us enriched? More choice is a good thing.

Cheers

tonik said...

Although I'm free to drink any beer I want without any health risks, as a beer buyer I was thrilled to finally see some wheat and barley-free products come into our market this year. In Oregon, we have both the Bard's Tale Gold and now the A-B Redbridge Sorghum. You can trash-talk A-B all you want, but I give them huge praise for making something unique like Redbridge and for pricing it affordably. I tried it last night and thought it tasted pretty good. Light and crisp in style, with just a faint note of molasses and yeast. If you drank domestic lager before going gluten-free, you'll love this product. If you were more of a craft drinker, stick with the Bard's. More great products should be on the way. I Portland, Oregon, the Widmer Brothers make a great one, but don't have capacity to bottle it without contamination. There's another great one coming out of Eugene. He's looking for a contract brewer and it might make it to market late 2007.

Mike Eberhart said...

Tonik, thanks for that great feedback and information. Yes, this is definitely an exciting time with various (GF) beer options coming to market. It'll be really interesting if a few more of these specialty brewers can get the stuff bottled and out to the wider market.

DED said...

Mike, have you thought about trying to brew your own beer? I don't know what the availability of malted sorghum is though. Maybe realbeer.com will have that info.

Paul said...

I just discovered Bard's Tale in a high end grocer on New York's Upper East Side. As I have several food and chemical allergies that I am trying to figure out (corn, newsprint ink, and several preservatives are confirmed problems) and beer usually bothers me so I thoght I'd give it a try. So far so good! My head stayed clear after this, unlike most beers. No I'm just wondering whther it was the gluten-free or other things that go into beers (I hear because their are no ingrdients listed) such as corn or presevatives. Does anybody know what else is in the mainstream beers that might be bothering me besides gluten? I seem to have problems with even a lot of craft beers, too...

Anonymous said...

Thumbs up to Redbridge. I prefer microbrews and wouldn't touch an A-B product anyway; however, I am very satisfied with this product.

pumpkin said...

Redbridge is a great beer and the pricing is very reasonable. I live in PA and must go to a distributor and buy a case, but the word is spreading far and wide. I was recectly in FL and Redbridge was available in a 6 pack in Walmart as well as in several package stores. That is wonderful.

Anonymous said...

The basic ingredients of mainstream beer are water, malt, hops, and yeast

Mike Eberhart said...

anon,
yes, that is true - those are the main ingredients. And? :)

That whole "malt" thing refers to Barley Malt, which is the gluten-containing portion of the mix. And, then there are things like "Wheat Beers" and the like, which further add gluten to the mix.

Ah, how I long for a rich dark beer as I remember from years back... like a fresh drawn Guinness Stout!

Scott-TheBrewClub said...

I recently reviewed this product. I found the Redbridge Beer to be decent stuff - easily superior to the 'regular'!

I was curious as to what a Sorgum-based beer was like and I wouldn't mind trying other brands to compare.

Anonymous said...

My favorite gluten free beer is the Greens. http://www.glutenfreebeers.co.uk/
I tried the Bard's Tale tonight, which was actually good. I would still rank Greens above it.
I also tried the Redbridge. Thanks AB for trying, but it is awful. It takes like someone dumped a package of yeast in a glass of water...awful.

Anonymous said...

I have tried all of the beers you mentioned, plus about 5 more.
Green's pale ale, or dark amber ale, is so superioir that my beer drinking friends like it better than their gluten beers!!!
My son who is now 21, asked me of he could take a few back to college in his car.
The dark amber is so rich that I am almost full when I have it. I get it at Total Wine. They will order too.
The bottles are large, so unless you are a hearty drinker, get a air cork to save the rest. Expensive, but worth it!!
Signed-
Full from beer in FLA.