Written by Tom Becham for PGA
Please be aware that my upcoming reviews of gluten-free beers are at the request of a friend. Since that request, I have also discovered more people than I knew of also wanted such reviews.
After my most recent experience with the gluten-free NGB Lager from Minhas Craft Brewing, I never thought I’d be writing a decent review of a GF beer. Certainly never imagined I would write a review of two of them from the same brewer, and find positive things to say about them both.
First, let me say that my experience with NGB Lager was instructive. It taught me that gluten-free beers tend to have a certain flavor profile, as they lack the familiar beery flavors that barley give us.
As well, it would seem that sorghum produces tastes that are sour almost to the point of being astringent. However, skillful use of rice, millet and/or buckwheat can moderate the odd sorghum flavor palette. Clearly, a reviewer should suspend his normal expectations of beer when reviewing gluten-free brews.
It seems that Green’s Brewery, the maker of these two beers, is a subsidiary of Belgian brewer De Proef. De Proef has an excellent reputation amongst beer geeks, and produces a number of unusual brews, many of them either experimental, or of very obscure styles. So, I had hope for the Green’s beers.
It seems that hope was not misplaced.
The first Green’s beer tried was their Quest Tripel Blonde Ale. It has the strength one would expect of a Tripel, at 8.5% ABV. It also pours a nice golden yellow, with a light fizzy head.
To be honest, it looks more like a white wine than a beer. The wine analogy holds-up in its aromatic and taste manifestations, as well. The aroma of this beer is like nothing so much as a dry, unoaked chardonnay. Overwhelming grape scent, with very slight undertones of light grain. The grapiness is complex, and has many different levels, as a good Tripel should.
On the palate, Quest is even more complex. The astringency of the sorghum is nicely controlled and moderated by rice, millet and buckwheat (not much of the latter one, I believe), which turns the sourness into a white wine-like flavor, which starts extremely dry, then fades into some sweetness, with again more faint graininess at the end. The finish is chardonnay.
Purists would likely hate this beer. As compared to a barley malt variety, it is indeed, lacking. On its own merits, and if you are gluten-intolerant, this could be a godsend to you. At least it has some nice flavors.
Discovery Amber Ale is even more interesting. It is by far more beer-like in its characteristics.
On pouring, Discovery, like its other GF cousin, displays a fizzy, thin head, of about one finger. It is indeed amber in color, with a rich, red-brown hue.
The aroma has some of the slight sour/wine characteristics that Quest has, but with a richer, roasty quality overriding them. NOW we’re in beer territory!
Discovery’s flavors are the first I’ve had in a gluten-free beer that are recognizably “beer-y”, though in an obscure and rather unique way.
It starts with a dry, mild roastiness, with a bit of sweet “malty” flavor, melding with a little bit of red wine acidity. A light hop bitterness dominates the back of the palate, and the finish is slightly sour, and with the metallic/iron flavor of a Suffolk Old Ale dominating the finish.
In fact, apart from the slight wine-like features in the aroma and palate, Discovery could easily be mistaken for a Suffolk Old Ale. (Google it; I’m reviewing gluten-free beers right now, not an obscure English style, of which I’ve only seen two examples.)
Discovery, it seems to me, would not satisfy the gluten-free beer drinker who is not already well-seasoned in beer tasting, due to its complexity and dense flavors. Likewise, it doesn’t match the actual beer style closely enough to impress the beer geek who is comparing it to barley brews.
Still, I would recommend any Green’s beer to my gluten-intolerant friends as very good efforts. In fact, I look forward to trying Green’s Endeavour Dubbel style ale in the near future.
Tom Becham lives in Oxnard, CA. He’s been writing for PGA for many years now. We really should pay him but we’re poor here at PGA.Poor, poor, poor. just a great writer and contributor to PGA. He loves good beer, and has a great palate. Notice how much we’re sucking up to him? Maybe he should pay US?