The piece you’re about to read isn’t intended to be insensitive. I’m not a mean-spirited kind of guy, at least not on purpose. However, in regards to the fairly-recent gluten-free diet fad, I quote from Tommy in the movie “Snatch” when he says, “Pardon my cynicism…”
In deference to those truly affected by Celiac Disease, I acknowledge that this is a serious autoimmune disorder. Go ahead, look up the facts. An astonishingly long list of potential effects to one’s health includes Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia, infertility, epilepsy and intestinal cancer. So much for starting today’s column on a happy note.
No, initially I questioned those who hop aboard every single trend like hippies following The Grateful Dead; blind devotion to a cause without even wondering if this is good or not. To an omnivore like me, the gluten-free diet looked as superfluous as toe socks, man buns (the hairdo) and blogging.
There is a wide variety of gluten-free items that try to come close to grain-based foodstuffs, but they usually have the charm, flavor and texture of eating an old kitchen sponge left to dry out under the sink. Sidebar: why do vegans have vegetable-based food that mimics meat-based edibles? Isn’t that destroying the purpose of being vegan?
The same has applied to gluten-free beer, obviously. Without wheat or barley, what does a brewer use to lay the foundation of the beer? Quinoa, sorghum and rice are all gluten-free but the flavor and body aren’t there in the finished product. Up to now, every gluten-free beer I’ve tried has, well, sucked. Badly. The trick is to use traditional ingredients and find a way to eliminate the gluten after brewing.
In an effort to provide a beer for those suffering Celiac Disease, some of the country’s top brewers have been innovating methods of removing up to 99.99% – if not more – of the gluten molecules from the liquid. Now, they can’t guarantee that in some step along the way a little gluten stayed behind, so they’re going with the lawyer-friendly moniker “gluten-reduced.”
So who has a gluten-reduced beer that doesn’t suck? There are a couple of breweries, but I’m leaning towards Glütiny Pale Ale from New Belgium. A special enzyme was added to the beer that breaks down the gluten into almost nothing. And where most American pale ale is more floral with muted citrus notes, Glütiny showcases a big, dynamic flavor profile.
Polished brass with a good head of foam, the scents come out with mango, grapefruit, honey and pineapple. More about hop flavor than bitterness, Glütiny showcases melon, green tea, citrus peel and grass with the sweet malt base one expects from a barley-based beer. The protein removal does thin the body out just a tad, but the flavor and drinkability more than make up for it.
Resign yourself no more, gluten intolerant folks, to wine and potato vodka. Thanks to New Belgium you can have your beer and drink it, too.