Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Behind the Beers: GF Apple Ale

Anybody with a gluten-intolerance or gluten-sensitivity doesn’t need me to explain that “GF” stands for “Gluten-free.”  With all the foods in the grocery store that claim gluten-free, you know there is a large market for such a product.  The Yak & Yeti isn’t using this as ploy to make more money and capitalize on this growing market segment, but really as a service to our gluten-intolerant friends and customers.   So the origins came about when I asked our chef which of our foods on the menu were gluten-free and his response was, “nearly everything.”  Looking into it farther, I suppose our menu is about 85% free of gluten products and you can order just about any menu item made specially gluten-free, with the exception of the naan bread. (sorry!) 

I reflected on our beer offerings and noticed that juxtaposed with the 85% gluten-free menu, we had 100% GLUTEN-filled beers.  That doesn’t jive.   I also began to hear request from patrons for GF beer and when I had nothing to offer them they instead drank water, soda, wine or hard liquor (basically EVERYTHING else in my bar except our beers).   We are brewpub and I always want to deliver a large selection of beers and beer styles to our patrons, so I knew it was the right thing to do to develop a gluten-free beer offering for at least one tap handle. (Our house-made Honey Ginger Soda, isn’t a beer, but is also GF).

Confession: I don’t like gluten-free beer.  Well, I didn’t when others made them trying to emulate a barley-based beer.  (Have you ever had a commercial GF IPA?  yuck!)  I don’t care for soy milk or rice milk either, I like the real thing.   But I can drink Vanilla flavored milk substitutes. Why?  Probably because I’m not comparing it to milk, but more like an ice cream milk shake!  So IMHO the best way to make a GF beer that taste good is to not make it taste like beer, but something else to get your mind off of it.  Which gets us talking about hard cider.

I’ve made a lot of hard cider as a homebrewer; my wife loves it.  When I had a 4-tap kegerator in my previous home, she insisted that I keep one tap handle dedicated to hard cider.  Although homebrewers embrace making meads and ciders, the government has defined these two beverages to be WINE!  So commercially if I am to make cider, I have to get a wine making license, not even sure if that is possible for a brewpub, but it sounds like too much red tape for me.  

So, I decided to make an ale using Sorghum (see photo) as the primary grain, which is known to be gluten-free. Combined with apple cider and hops (one hop pellet in our case), and made with beer yeast, it can’t be disputed that this is truly an ale (or beer).  As a result, this beer tastes awfully like a hard cider. Crisp, tart, refreshing and most of the sorghum flavor, which is ill-favored by most, is covered up by the flavor of the apples!  Some don’t like ciders and dismiss it entirely, but having poured this beer at festivals and over the bar, I am surprised to see both men and women like this beer equally & enthusiastically.  Sure, we still occasionally get the stubborn men with large egos that say, “I don’t drink fruity beers, I only drink IPA’s.”  I usually refrain from telling them that the IPA’s are know for having grapefruit, orange and other strong citrus flavors. ;)

This beer may have been our 2nd best seller during the hot summer months.  I suspect this is because it is our most refreshing beer and at only 4.7-4.9% alcohol, it can be consumed more sessionably.  Do to our beer-loving, but gluten-intolerant friends, we keep this beer on year-round.  If you haven’t had a pint for awhile, check it out and maybe you’ll appreciate the beer a little more knowing what’s Behind the Beer.


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