Gluten-Free Brewing; Also – A Contest for My Extremely Limited Readership


Tytron and I have been brewing our own delicious beer for the past several years, and I’ll tell you right now that my manfriend has a serious talent for creating amazing home brew from scratch.  I’m not just biased, either.  With very few exceptions (namely the Blowout Brew that scented our home with heinous gaseous emissions until I ordered an immediate halt to consumption) his recipes have resulted in delicious, well-balanced beers that rival any specialty, store-bought varieties I’ve tried.

The biggest challenge in brewing we’ve had so far has been in the gluten-free department.  To be frank, a girl can only drink so much wine and cider and hard liquor.  Sometimes, only an ice-cold, quality beer scratches that itch.

Commercial Brands & Experimenting with Standard Ingredients

My opinion on the GF beer selections you’ll find at your local liquor store are, across the board:  TERRIBLE.  Sorghum is relied upon heavily in GF brewing, and fermented sorghum has a sour, fruity taste that’s difficult to cover.  Tytron crafted a relatively good GF batch in Washington that we both thought was reminiscent of apricot.  The base was a black sorghum malt and included a couple grams of mugwort, which seemed to mellow out the sour a bit.  Other attempts we made using exclusively (and a mixture of) oats (AWFUL) and corn (HORRID) didn’t seem to work.  One particular cider recipe we made with champagne yeast, honey, and ginger was the full-on shiz, but I’m so bored with cider at this point I could just cry.  You know, if I was the type of person who’d cry over booze.  Which I clearly am.

The Latest Attempt

Fast forward to Austin, several weeks ago.  We tried a white sorghum malt with green tea and toasted rice. The toasted rice flavor is so strong in the tea that I can smell it across the room even when it’s cold.  I thought it would add an interesting dimension to the beer.

Success?  Not really.  This batch was even fruitier than the one we tried in Washington.  It tastes almost identical to pear cider, which inherently is not a bad thing, but it’s not the classic “beer” flavor I’m seeking.  So, back to the drawing board.  I’m thinking of trying unsweetened cocoa and/or coffee in the next batch, after I manage to choke my way through all 48 bottles of this carbonated fruit wine bullshit we’ve managed to concoct.

A Food Challenge in Which I Highly Recommend You Participate, For Purely Selfish Reasons

I’m looking for suggestions from people (who don’t have to have any previous knowledge of brewing) with the hope that you’ll be able to think outside the bucket.  Tell me what YOU would add, and we’ll try it out.  Spices are acceptable.  Fruit is acceptable, though the beer is already so fruity that I probably wouldn’t try it unless you made a good case to the contrary.  Gluten free grains (Anything other than rye, barley, spelt, or wheat), and other plant material (like tea) are fine suggestions.  We heard from several experienced brewers that molasses ferments into an awful rotgut that tastes of poorly made, young rum – so NOT that.

What else?

Tell me if you’ve ever had a foreign beer made with a grain such as amaranth or millet that you particularly enjoyed.  Think about all the food flavors you’ve had that taste of carmel, malt, roasting, etc. and give me some examples.  If your flavor suggestions work out, we’ll send you a sixer and name the recipe something incredibly clever including your name.  Go forth and find my secret ingredient, and you will know the glory of international stardom.  Or maybe just stardom in the very niche market of gluten-free beer consumers, but whatever.  A six-pack and my undying gratitude await you at the end of this noble quest.

So, uh….what are you still doing here?

**EDIT: January 26-2012**

Our experimentation with different additives ended with a fizzle.

The best we came up with using toasted buckwheat groats was to add unsweetened, powdered cocoa and an espresso reduction.  While that lent a nice after-taste to the beer, the underlying high acidity and sour/fruit flavor of the sorghum syrup still shone through quite brightly.  We’ll be making our own corn malt shortly to see if we can make a lighter brew that at least tastes of beer versus wine.  I’ll keep you guys updated.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Gluten-Free Brewing; Also – A Contest for My Extremely Limited Readership

  1. howzabout trying buckwheat groats? aka ‘kasha’ (without the varnishkas, i think is best).
    gluten-free? check.
    toast ‘em and get a righteous nutty wave of aromatic goodness? yupper.
    healthy and good for what ails ya? absotively.
    used in the soviet gulags as superfood for max extraction of labor at minimal cost? um, sadly, yes.
    hard to cook and easy to make mushy and lifeless and bland and think “wtf?”, but when properly cooked (hint: toast/pan-fry the suckers before adding water!) tastes fucking delicious in its own unique way? yes!
    I reckon there’s just GOTTA be a way to beer this up in style. good luck!

    • OK, Adam, you’re on. I’d thought of buckwheat groats a while back and was too lazy to find and actually try ‘em out. Your suggestion is duly noted for Batch 2. Contest entrant #1 has stepped up. Who’s next?

    • P.S. Do you think I’d get the same effect oven toasting versus pan toasting? We’d have to do a significant amount, so it would be easier to do it in the oven unless you think that particular flavor is requires pan toasting.

  2. Since I have no experience here whatsoever, please be kind if I am way off base…

    What about Cranberry, Coriander, and black tea (with whatever grains you want)

    • Ha! I’d be a real asshole if I asked for amateur input and then berated you for your ideas. But I will explain why I’m throwing out two and keeping one, just so you know.

      Cranberry is definitely out. The main problem with the GF base (see Paragraph 3, sentence 2) is that it’s way too sour and fruity. Cranberry would exacerbate the problem.

      Coriander, we’ve tried, and while it makes a nice flavor addition to appropriate beers, it’s not something you’d use to adjust the base flavor – make sense? Think in terms of if your Jennbalaya was off because you didn’t know to use tomato. You wouldn’t fix the flavor it by adding pepper. You have to get the base right before spicing it.

      Black tea is a good suggestion, and I’m willing to try it even though the green tea did nothing at all. But since black tea is fermented green tea, it might make enough of a difference to affect the flavor. Your suggestion is entered as black tea. :)

      I’ll keep you posted. Thank you for your ideas, they are appreciated!

  3. i love adam’s idea, just for the record, and especially as this is coming very soon after i made kasha (aka buckwheat groats) and bowties (like gramma always made) for a russian-jewish Them Apples dinner. like he says, i’d nix the bowties. yes, you can toast groats in the oven… or toaster oven. just stir them around pretty often.

    along the same lines, i just made a very dark russian rye/ pumpernickel bread and am thinking there might be something in there that you’d dig for this. here’s what i used: various flours including rye, shallots, fennel seeds, ground espresso beans, dark chocolate. it was really good, definitely dark flavors (and definitely full of wheat gluten) but this would make a kickass beer flavor. AND, i should add, have you explored the world of TEFF? i made teff biscuits recently and they were awesome…. just sayin. wish i’d written that recipe down….

  4. pooks momb

    i just think spinach would be nice. i know nothing about beer, ale or brewing anything but teas.. so, my vote is spinach

    or sardines.

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