In the year since I last wrote about the best gluten-free beers, I had high hopes that the expanding gluten-free beer industry would completely take off. Unfortunately in most cases, bartenders still tend to say things like “uh, we have Strongbow”— a cider. Seriously, let’s get one thing straight: cider is delicious and gluten-free, but it’s definitely not beer!
Let’s review the problem: gluten-free beers tend to be bland. Sure, if you follow the old Bud/Miller/Coors mantra, anything ice-cold is a party! But take that baby down a few degrees and the lack of quality ingredients starts to rear its head. That’s true for many of the more readily available options, like Redbridge, which isn’t great but won’t kill you. The year 2013 may not have yielded the endless offerings I had hoped for, but it definitely nailed the taste back into gluten-free beer. Bountifully bitter pale ales have evolved to where you’d barely notice the lack of grains, if at all.
Last time around, I highlighted Omission Beer’s Pale Ale, whose gluten is removed during brewing (contest it all you want, the stuff’s clean). There are several other good options like Two Brothers: Prairie Path, Estrella Damm Daura and Belgium’s Brunehaut, but if 100% certified gluten-free brews are what you’re after, drink these.
1. Harvester Brewing Company: IPA No. 1
This Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner rules! For all the hopheads out there, this is a true northwest IPA with tons of citrus and just a little pine bitterness. Wrap your minds around this: it’s made from chestnuts and oats. Though you won’t find IPA No. 1 outside the Northwest, you can order this treat from their website if your home state allows shipping.
2. Joseph James Brewing: Fox Tail
YES! Canned gluten-free beer that tastes great! This rice-based pale ale is sweet, with fruity cider notes, citrus from the hops and just a little bite. While it may not have the strong malt base that pale ale drinkers look for, it’s still very refreshing at 5%.
3. Brasseurs Sans Gluten: Glutenberg Belge de Saison
I declared in last week’s spotlight on Canadian beers that some of the best come from Quebec. Let’s add some gluten-free beers to that list. I really love the fact that Brasseurs Sans Gluten — “sans” means without in French — uses a variety of ingredients like honey, peppercorns and Meyer lemons to make this as close to a peppery, citrusy traditional saison as you can get. Look for sweet-tart Belgian yeast, spice from the peppercorns and plenty of floral hops. This is a really good take on a farmhouse ale.
4. Steadfast Beer Company: Golden Blonde Ale
A newcomer to the gluten-free beer game, Albany, New York’s Steadfast Beer Company recently released this excellent blonde ale, which is very refreshing, with bright notes of citrus. It’s a respectable 5.5% but drinks even lighter, and I’d have no problem having a few on a warm day.
5. New Planet Beer Company: Raspberry Ale
There’s a serious lack of gluten-free fruit beers. Thankfully, this one’s a worthy addition from this exclusively gluten-free Colorado brewery. Sorghum and roasty brown rice pump up the raspberries and orange peel, resulting in a brew that’s sweet, tart and refreshing at just 5% ABV.
More beers to drink on Food Republic: