The other day there was a one-day sale on beer (and cider) at the Whole Foods in Santa Cruz. Twenty percent off the whole selection. Naturally, I stocked up on Sam Smith’s organic cider, Bard’s gluten-free beer, Estrella Damm Daura and a few other ciders. I’ve been feeling a little moment of joy every time I open the fridge and see all those GF beers there. That never happens! It got me thinking about the various gluten-free beers I’ve tried and which ones I like the best. Let’s take a look at the rundown.
1. The best gluten-free beer I’ve had, by far, is Estrella Damm Daura. I suppose this is probably not that surprising as this Spanish import is also the only GF beer I’ve heard of that’s actually made with barley malt. I’m not sure how they do it, but somehow they take the glutens out before bottling it. I can only guess that it’s some sort of brewing chicanery or just plain magic. Whatever the cause, it’s paying off, big time. Even BK, beer connoisseur that he is, thinks this stuff is pretty good. It’s typically about $8-10 for a four-pack, which isn’t that atrocious. It isn’t always the easiest to find though. So far, I’ve found it at a few Whole Foods stores, including the one in Evanston, Ill. and the one here in Santa Cruz, and they serve it at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba in Chicago. It’s a lager and it’s gotten pretty good reviews on Beer Advocate.
4. Bard’s Tale and 5. Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist - There’s a tie between these two. They are two of the first gluten-free beers I ever had and surprisingly, still some of my favorites. The folks at Beer Advocate weren’t much of a fan of the New Grist, or the Bard’s, but you know what they say about opinions.
6. Gluten-free Goldilocks at Hamburger Mary’s - I really wish there was still an HM’s near my place, or that they bottled this stuff and sold, because it’s really good…looks like they switch it up with another GF brew, Sleeping Beauty.
7. Green’s - I want to like these a little more than I do, but it’s probably for the best because they are on the expensive side. Still, I’m always happy to see them on a menu. But really, $6 and up for a bottle retail seems to translate to at least 10 or 11 dollars at a bar and that’s just too much for me. Give me some wine instead.
8. Redbridge — Bk thinks it tastes like blood and I guess I can see that. This isn’t exactly my favorite thing to drink but it was first introduced to the market, I was thrilled. It represented the fact that the big brewers were recognizing that there’s money to be had in GF and that’s great for me. It’s nice to have an opportunity to pick up a GF beer in the regular ol’ grocery store sometimes and this stuff does nicely for times when I want to have a “beer,” like Superbowl parties and stuff like that. Also, I prefer it to most Woodchuck ciders.
9. St. Peter’s Sorghum Ale - At first I thought I liked this one, but now I’ve not so sure. I drank it in Europe because I found it at a store in Italy but I wouldn’t seek it out. It’s a little too sweet for my tastes.
And speaking of sweet… at the very bottom, there’s
10. Toleration Ale — I don’t think I would drink this again unless you paid me. And even then, I might have to really consider how much you’d be willing to go. This English beer is brewed without any type of grain, using just sugars, and it’s frankly quite foul. I don’t even want to waste any more words on it. Avoid. Seems like most of the folks on Beer Advocate will concur.
Honorable mention: Ramapo Valley’s Passover honey beer This was the first gluten-free beer I ever found – or tried. It was horrendously sweet but I appreciated the sentiment. I have no idea if this beer is even still produced. I haven’t seen it in years.