Gluten-free beer is easily found throughout local vendors here in Westman. (CODY LOBREAU / FOR THE SUN)
If you read last week’s edition of First Draught, you would have read my review of Half Pints’ Saison de la Ceinture Fléchée, but if you were to try to find that at the local MLCC, you would have gone empty handed.
The beer was taken off the shelf by Half Pints Brewing as the product didn’t meet Half Pints’ quality standards — although myself and Grant Hamilton were quite impressed with the beer, aside from it being a bit foamy. A bit of foaminess is nothing — I’ve had beers gush up like a geyser at uncorking (looking at you Unibroue). I don’t believe this should have been a reason for Half Pints to take the product off the shelf as Belgian-style beers have been known to be foamy and over-carbonated, thank yeast for that!
I’m not too happy about it, but if you want to try a beer similar to the Ceinture Fléchée then there’s Chambly, Quebec’s own Unibroue, that has a Saison-style ale at the 10th and Victoria Liquormart called Blonde de Chambly for $5.70 per 750 mL corked bottle. I apologize if you were unable to pick up the beer.
I’ve had a few friends in the past few years diagnosed with celiac disease who were beer drinkers. Once they were diagnosed with the disease, they had to absolutely cut down on all the gluten they consumed. This meant no more wheat-based bread, cookies, pasta, cakes, gravy, dressing and beer.
Myself, as an obese guy in his twenties — I’ve had the need to cut out gluten in my diet for the last year or so because I consume too much gluten products for my own good. For those who are looking for something different, beers that contain (almost) no gluten at all, I’ve compiled this list of gluten-free beers that you can find here in Westman!
Nickel Brook Gluten Free
This is Canada’s most popular gluten free, so of course I had to show it off. To me, Nickel brook is actually a pretty darned good brewery in the gluten side — their Head Stock India Pale Ale is one of the tastiest IPAs to come out of Ontario at the moment. Sure they can make good IPAs, can they make a good gluten free beer?
Nickel Brook pours a clear golden ale, reminiscent of your standard Canadian lager, but with one thing missing, close to no carbonation. I see a bubble or two pop up to the surface once in a few seconds, but not streams of bubbles like a true lager would.
For aroma, it’s quite a strong and bitter aroma thanks to the amount of hops used in this beer. It’s a floral and aromatic scent of fresh cut alfalfa, a bit of a pepper spice and a scent of oats. Nickel Brook has a taste of Rice Krispies, a bitterness of the alfalfa-like hops, a sample of pear juice and that’s really it.
Nickel Brook’s Gluten Free beer is better than a lot of gluten-based beers available from the big guys, but the bitterness from the hops might scare off a few people. I was surprised how much of an alfalfa scent there would be with the hops in here.
Nickel Brook Gluten Free is available at liquor marts in Brandon, Neepawa and Russell for $3.87 for a 473 mL can. It has 5.8 per cent ABV, which is higher than most gluten-free beers. 3.5 out of 5 pints.
Bard’s Original Sorghum Malt Beer
Bard’s comes from Minneapolis. This one has been at various liquor marts for a while now, I’ve had it before but I don’t remember what it even tasted like.. so it’s now time to remind myself.
Bard’s pours a clear golden honey in appearance, minimal amount of carbonation, a bit of light bubbling at the very top, but other than that — it looks like it’s pretty flat. For the aroma, I notice scents of black liquorice, hints of caramel and a light cereal bite to it. The aroma is significantly stronger than the bite as this beer doesn’t have much of a flavour. I notice a bit of a light sweet maltiness of breakfast cereal and light caramel sweetness.
There’s not much in this beer: no presence of hops at all, making this taste like a breakfast cereal in a bottle, and not in a good way. It’s not like a bottle of Lucky Charms at all! Bard’s is available for $2.96 per 355 mL bottle at nearly every Liquormart in Western Manitoba. 4.7 per cent ABV. 2 out of 5 pints.
New Grist Pilsner Style Alcoholic Beverage
I’ve had New Grist a few years ago and honestly — I didn’t like it. I thought it tasted like lemon flavoured water with some alcoholic notes in there.. somewhere. But hey! I’m always up to re-trying a beer because my beer tastes change over times.
As I pour this, this is the most carbonated of the bunch (so far). A bit fizzy, leaves a bit of a sprinkling of foam at the very top of the beer, very clear pale golden straw — very watered down looking. For the aroma, it reminds me of wet newspaper, a bit of a pilsner malt and lemon. For flavour, this one has certainly improved since the last time as it does have notes that remind me of a standard North American Pilsner, a bit of a sweetness that’s reminiscent to the malted prairie grains we see in North American Pilsners, some notes of rice, and a hint of pear juice.
The hops give it a bit of a bitterness, but only at the end when it leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste. It has improved since the last time I tried this two to three years ago, but it still has a long way to go. New Grist is available for $3.24 per 355 mL bottle at nearly every liquor mart in western Manitoba. 5.3 per cent ABV. 2.5 out of 5 pints.
Mongozo Premium Pilsner
Last but not least for this weekend of gluten-free beer. Mongozo Premium Pilsener from Belgium is one of the new ones at the liquor mart. Mongozo is dubbed a European-style pilsener that uses fair-trade and organic ingredients.
One thing that’s interesting about Mongozo is that it contains traces of barley malts, but the gluten content is less than 10 parts per million. Mongozo pours a golden honey, similar to the standard European and Canadian lagers/pilsners you see here. This is the most beer-like product I’ve seen so far, appearance wise. For aroma, it even smells like an European pilsner, it has that typical skunkiness that you see from beers like Heineken, Stella and Beck’s. I dislike the typical "skunky" aroma in many European beers so that ruins it a bit for me. There’s a bit of a lemon zest in the aroma as well, but I can’t get over the skunkiness.
For the flavour, this is by far, the most beer-like gluten free beer I’ve had out of the bunch. This is a light European pilsener-style beer that has notes of toasted rice, light citrus zest, various grains and even a bit of a hint of barley for good measure. Oh, and it also has that "skunkiness" that I’m not liking.
Mongozo costs $2.99 per 330 mL bottle and is available at Liquormarts in Minnedosa, Russell and all Brandon locations. 5 per cent ABV. 2.5 out of 5 pints.
Out of all the gluten free beers I’ve tried this week, I personally enjoyed Nickel Brook’s the most, as it’s liberal in hops, to mask the taste of sorghum and rice. The most beer-like beer of the group has to be Mongozo from Belgium, but since it uses barley, it does have minimal traces of barley. It’s all up to you what you think is the best gluten-free beer in town!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 29, 2014