The verdict on gluten-free beer

02:58, Jan 23 2013

When I was a kid, I had never even heard of coeliac disease. But these days it seems to be everywhere. Cafes have gluten-free items, you can get gluten-free bread from your bakery and there are even gluten-free sections in supermarkets.

Through the lottery of genetics, I have managed to avoid coeliac disease. Being a beer nerd, I'm especially thankful; one of beer's main ingredients is barley, which is full of gluten proteins. Rye, wheat and various other malts fall into the same boat. 

There's been a bit of research to see if gluten proteins get destroyed in the brewing process. Unfortunately for you gluten-free people, a big fat ''no'' seems to be the answer.

So what is there for those who discover - presumably after reaching the legal liquor purchase age - they have coeliac disease? You can either give up beer for good or find gluten-free beer. 

Yes, beer is also available in gluten free form. While Kereru Brewing in Upper Hutt is on the gluten-free boat, arguably the most popular range - if you can call two beers a range - in New Zealand is from Scotts Brewing near the Waitakere Ranges.

Phil Scott's tumble into brewing reads like the gluten-free version of mine. After he found a taste for good beer, he was diagnosed with coeliac disease. Finding there were no gluten-free beers brewed in New Zealand, he went about building a 600-litre brewery - more than 10 times the size of mine - and making his own.

Instead of wheat, rye or barley he uses coeliac-friendly sorghum, buckwheat and corn. There are gluten-free brewing kits you can buy, but I'm not keen to hack my way through 20-odd litres of beer just for the sake of science. So I gave Scott's brews a go instead.

Both the pale and amber ales weigh in at 4.5 per cent, and pour with huge bubbles and a white head that does not hang around for long. The amber has a very sweet aroma with a metallic hint. It has a honey-like sweetness before a smooth spicy-ish finish. However, it has no real body and is very fizzy.

The pale ale is as clear as a Euro-lager and is also very carbonated. That slightly metallic aroma rears its head, but also some citrus notes. The beer starts sweet before and oily, slightly hoppy finish. But once again, there is no body.

All in all, it's not bad beer. However, it's not overly awesome either. While better than something like overly sweet cider, I'll be sticking to my gluten-laden brews for now.

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Manawatu Standard