September 15, 2006
Another sign that the world is a beautiful place: People who are allergic to beer can drink beer again. A Milwaukee microbrewery, Lakefront Brewery, is marketing a gluten-free creation, New Grist Beer.
And as the United States’ first widely distributed gluten-free brew, it is making waves. Celiac disease, an allergy to the gluten found in wheat, barley, oats and corn, is becoming more widely diagnosed. Those who are gluten-intolerant come down with anemia, stomach cramps or diarrhea from ingesting breads, pastries or — gulp — beer. Until the dawn of New Grist, a celiac diagnosis was a sentence to a life without beer. But when the father of Lakefront’s brew master came down with the disease several years ago, he begged his son to make a beer he could drink. The result was a concoction in which malted barley is removed and replaced by sorghum and rice extract. Even the yeast is derived from molasses, as opposed to most brewing yeast, which is culled from wheat, oats or barley. New Grist, as you might expect, does not taste like your typical beer. Tinged with a sweet, sakelike aroma, it comes on with a sharp, borderline-sour taste that settles quickly and leaves the sip with a near-mead feel. To celiacs such as Jill Spear, though, the taste is like gold flowing across their palates. Spear, a local artist, had gone several years between her diagnosis and finding New Grist, and its arrival was like rain in a drought. “It’s really nice because socially if I go somewhere, I can bring it with me and have a beer,” Spear said. “If I could just find any kind of second gluten-free beer, I’d be thrilled.” Spear and others will have to wait for that, though Lakefront national accounts manager Orlando Segura said he hears Anheuser-Busch may be working on it. In the meantime, Lakefront is getting deluged from distributors with requests for the beer. The three local stores known to have it — the Powers, Springs and Colorado Liquor Outlets — say it sells out quickly. DRINKING TO NATURE: Phantom Canyon’s newest brew may not be gluten-free, but it is unusual in an even more natural way. Head brewer Michelle Lowney has created Kickin’ Burro Spruce Ale, a traditional but forgotten beer in which spruce tips are placed in the vat at the end of the boil. Rarely seen today, it was common in the 16th through 18th centuries when hops were unavailable or too expensive as the primary way to flavor a beer. The taste is reminiscent of an English bitter and the pine is subtle, holding a sweet and cooling feel that is felt mostly on the back of your tongue. Though not as shocking as the name makes it sound, its lingering but not overpowering bitterness makes it Phantom’s best new beer in a long time. Lowney estimates Kickin’ Burro should be available for a few more weeks. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0184 or firstname.lastname@example.org