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Is gluten free beer worth drinking?

Gluten free beer

As with all things gluten free, the taste and texture of variations of foods that typically include wheat can be disappointing. It turns out beer is no exception. Most beers are made with malt, which is made of barley, a grain that includes the gluten protein most known for its presence in wheat. As more and more people are seeking gluten free options, craft brewers have been experimenting with malt-free beer styles. While the quest is a noble one, not all the results have been palatable.

The trick is to find the best substitute for barley to make a tasty and effective malt. You want something that will mimic the action and taste of barley, but stand on its own, too. Some of the alternatives used include rice, millet and sorghum.

Rice is the undisputed most popular grain around the world. For craft brewers who turn their noses up at industrial beer companies, rice has long been thought of as a cheap and faulty alternative to the more expensive barley malt. As brewers look for gluten free ales, however, the opinion of rice as an ingredient in the beer world has changed.

The main downside of using rice in the place of barley malt is that it produces a particularly pale ale. For some, however, this is a preferred quality. Anyone looking for a robust or hearty drink will want to look for other gluten free beer alternatives. The benefits of rice beer, or brews made with a mixture of rice and other malt substitutes, include the crispness and fruity flavours that the ingredient lends.

Though rice beer is new to Australia, it has been produced previously in Japan as a good pairing at sushi restaurants. Likewise, though millet beer may sound unusual, it has long been popular throughout Africa, where it is sometimes called Bantu beer. Beers brewed with millet have a nuttier flavour than is expected from a traditional barley malt brew.

Pito beer is another gluten free beer commonly made on the African continent, and in West Africa in particular. It can be made from millet or sorghum, both grasses whose seeds are used throughout the world as a cereal grain. Sorghum beer is perhaps more common than other types of gluten free beer and several mainstream beer brands already offer sorghum brews.

When looking for a gluten free ale whose taste, smell and overall experience you enjoy, don’t be discouraged if the first few beer styles you try don’t hit the spot. As with any gluten free product, the goal is not to completely mimic the original recipe but to create a delicious alternative. This means the taste of a gluten free lager or pale ale won’t have the exact same flavour as the barley malt beers you are used to, but you will be able to find one that you enjoy just as much.

Have you tried a gluten free beer? What did you think? Let us know in the comments…

Sep 10, 2013 |

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