For many of my friends who are gluten intolerant, one of the biggest losses was the enjoyment of a cold draft after a long hot summer day. There are very few gluten-free brews on the market and none of them are particularly amazing. I hear a lot of complaints about the quality of the “beers” with focus on the flavor or the mouth feel. “Why can’t they just make it taste better?” Well, there are some very simple reasons that Gluten-free brewing is difficult.
I have been home-brewing for 6 years and I have been racing my brain trying to find a good recipe for a gluten-free brew. The biggest problem is the mouth feel. Gluten-free brews can’t use any of the normal grains used in beer and it’s the protein in those grains, including gluten, which give the beer a good mouth feel. If those are not present then we get a beer that is thin and overly dry in an unpleasant way. This is why beers that use too many adjuncts, like rice, are so unpleasant on the tongue. This problem is the puzzle that we have yet to crack.
Next, is flavor. Sure, you can overload a gluten-free beer with hops to make a bitter hop bomb that will cover up the lack of a proper malt character, but the final brew will be unbalanced and most people are not going to like it. What about those of us who enjoy a malty brew? That’s almost impossible without malt. Some brewers have ventured away from the normal brewing supplies and have started malting their own grains that do not contain gluten. The most common is malted buckwheat, which is not available among other brewing supplies just yet.
Lastly, is contamination. Depending on the sensitivity of those drinking the final product, you may need to buy an entirely new set of brewing supplies. For some people, even the tiniest bit of gluten can cause quite a bit of distress and cleaning out the fermentation containers and siphons is not going to be thorough enough to ever truly make it gluten–free once you have used them to make a normal beer.
These are the three most difficult problems that gluten-free brewers are facing. Some of them have made amazing strides, but there is a still a long way to go. If you think about picking up home-brewing in an attempt to perfect a gluten-free brew, keep these difficulties in mind and research the solutions that many other home-brewers have come up with. They aren’t perfect, but these brewers are making some pretty decent brews that put the commercial versions to shame.
This guest article written by Robert L.