One of my best friends was recently diagnosed with a gluten allergy, which has been kind of a drag for her – this is, after all, a girl who loves bread so much that she works for the French government. Nonetheless, this is as good a time as ever to be allergic to gluten, with many people choosing to go gluten-free even if they do not have to and more and more products coming available. After a recent, fairly successful evening of experiments in non-grain-based distilled spirits, she and I decided to make another appointment to try out gluten-free beers.
I knew ChurchKey would be a good place to start. As with alcohol-free beers, they have a few gluten-free options and, while they may not all stand up to some of the beer geek delights on the rest of the menu, Beer Director Greg Engert is not going to sell anything really awful just to fit a certain category. In addition to some ciders, there are five bottles of GF beers on the list. We decided to start with two of the most widely-available brands, Bard’s and Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist – beers my friend would have a good chance of being able to find with some regularity.
Between the two, everybody in our group clearly preferred the New Grist, a sorghum and rice based beer with a bright, apple quality. It was tart and light and tasted less like it was trying to simulate a mainstream macro and more like it was just trying to be its own sessionable thing. By comparison, the Bard’s was rather duller in flavor and not very impressive. Also available at ChurchKey were the Spanish Estrella Damm and two pricey Belgian bottles we decided to revisit on some future occasion. (Note to others who are GF: ChurchKey can also make most of their flatbreads on a chickpea crust, should you want a snack to go with that beer.)