Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Batch 012: Alterna Gluten Free Brown

This week I am taking a step away from the grain, away from all grain actually.  I am brewing up a gluten free beer for a friend of a friend.   I was asked if it was possible to do and I took it as a challenge to not only do it, but make a great tasting beer in the process.  I spent a good portion of the working life in kitchens and dealing with gluten allergies is becoming more and more common.  It is tough to be sure that you are actually getting gluten free food and drinks and taking a chance on whether or not it is can be risky.  I did a fair amount of research before even looking at recipes for other gluten free beers.  I learned a lot just reading up on how to do and I am sure I will learn more as this brew ferments.

The recipe:  Well this was an interesting one.  Luckily Briess makes a sorghum extract that is used for brewing gluten free beers.  I grabbed myself a can of that and started searching for what else would go in.  Through reading online I found a fair amount of posts describing how to caramelize everything from quinoa to millet to add color and a bit of flavor.  I knew a pale beer would be hard to do without it tasting like it was gluten free.  I wanted to make a gluten free beer that tasted like beer, not sorghum.  Looking through my cabinets I found the molasses I had used from St. Nick's Nog and noticed the gluten free tag on the label.  That's when I decided I would go for a brown/porter depending on the color I got out of it.  Honey is also gluten free and a tasty ingredient so 12 oz were put in.  Near the end of the boil I am adding 3oz of maltodextrin to increase the mouthfeel and thicken it up a little bit.  I looked up maltodextrin about 4 times to make absolutely sure it was gluten free and it turns out that it is so processed that it can come from wheat or barley but by the time that it makes it to the finished product it is gluten free. (reference: http://www.glutenfreeliving.com/ingredient.php#maltodextrin )  I took a similar approach to the hoping as I did with the Brew Year Brown.  I put a small charge of Centennial in just for bittering and finished off the Willamette I had for flavor.

The process: This is where things got a little interesting.  I applied a few past lessons from my burnt mead and threw the honey and molasses in the bottom of my pot with a splash of water and turned up the heat.  I cooked the honey and molasses together for about 45 minutes caramelizing the honey and molasses to give me more flavor and residual sweetness.

After it had cooked down I added back 8qts of water and started my boil.  I added 1.5 pounds of sorghum extract at the beginning of my boil and away I went.  I decided to make a larger batch (1.5ish gallons) so that I could send more than just a few bottles out and still keep a couple for myself.
 Everything went really well and I put the wort in a new bucket to ferment with Fermentis S-04 English yeast.  Here is the other interesting thing about gluten free ingredients.  Dry yeasts are gluten free, White Labs vials are just over the limit, but if pitching into 5 gallons of wort will dilute down to acceptable levels(if you are willing to chance that depending on the severity of the allergy), but Wyeast is not gluten free.  The liquid used to store the yeast and propagate it is a standard starter wort and thus, not gluten free.  I went with the safest option and have no problems using dry yeast.

Sidework: While brewing I also racked my American Wheat Tattoo'd Graffiti to secondary and added the first dry hop of Citra and Amarillo.  It smelled amazing and is only getting better with the hops added. I will add more next week and bottle the week after that.

This brew was important to me and I am a little upset that I kept pushing it back.  People can't control the cards they are dealt in life and I really respect the people that take it in stride and do the best that they can with what they have.  Something such as being celiac or gluten free doesn't mean you have to hide in a clean room and shut your life down.  If you want something you just have to take the extra step to find a way to make that happen.  By brewing this I hope that I can give people a nice craft beer that someone that is gluten free can enjoy, but also that someone who isn't gluten free would like to.  Below is a list of the ingredients that went in to this along with suppliers so if there is any question to whether or not something is gluten free you can know before getting sick.


Recipe: http://www.brewtoad.com/recipes/alterna

Briess White Sorghum Syrup 45HM Link
Brer Rabbit Full Flavor Molasses Link
Great Value Clover Honey Link
LD Carlson Maltodextrin Picture (see above link about being gluten free)
Fermentis S-04 Brewing Yeast Link
Hop Union Hops (Centennial and Willamette)

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