Gluten-Free Brewday: Celiac Brew

One of my friends in Seoul, Chris, is gluten intolerant, so he’s been unable to taste any of my brews to date. (He has had some mead, and I hope he will be able to partake of my apple cider when it has aged nicely, but not beer.) When his sister came to Korea to visit, we figured it’d be a good time to ask her to bring along some gluten-free brewing stuff.

I’m quite intimidated by the prospect of brewing a GF ale: after all, it’s the first time for me, and while I’ve done extract brews before, this is unlike anything I’ve done. Anyway, his sister brought over a tin of sorghum extract and some hops and (I think) yeast.

When I asked Chris what he wanted, he said he liked the Belgian ales he’d bought in the US — Green’s, I believe, was the name of the company — but I was a little worried about what I’d heard regarding sorghum ales: namely, a  metallic aftertaste. Still, sorghum was the ingredient most available at the time when his sister brought us some extract, so sorghum ended up being about 30% of the fermentables in the beer we made today. (Which, incidentally, was a 2.5 gallon batch; we have about the same amount of sorghum left over for a second batch, which may be hoppier, or may end up in a more Belgian Pale Ale style.)

This is also the first batch I’m going to completely bottle condition in a good long while. I think we’ll want to get some labels printed up, so that Chris will know which ales are which.

For me, this is an experiment, but it’s an experiment I want to nail on the first go. So it’s involved a lot of research, and a lot of thinking. Normally, one is able to try a smaller batch and see what works and doesn’t work; but with a single container of extract, I’m not feeling quite so free to experiment.

Nonetheless, we forged ahead and with our mutual friend and crit-group member Nick assisting, we brewed up 2.5 gallons of wort (mostly) from extract for a gluten-free Belgian Dubbel.

I have pictures, but I’m too tired to post them now; I’ll update with more. The recipe, however, is here. You may notice that there’s a little more molasses sugar than I’d wanted – -22% has me a little nervous — but I’m hoping the melanoidins formed during the long (3-hour) boil, and complexities of the molasses sugar, end up covering somewhat for the cideriness that the sugar might contribute, as well as the commonly-reported metallic aftertaste from the sorghum. We’ll just have to see. I pitched some Fermentis T-58 yeast, the most Belgian of the dry yeasts, and I’m hoping it does the trick.

Incidentally, I’ve never used flaked rice before, but it was one source of fermentables for this brew. The stuff is insanely sticky and gooey, and I was happy we had put it into a grain bag before soaking it.

More pics soon…

UPDATE (19 Nov. 2011): Damn, I need to find those pics and upload them. Anyway, fermentation finished out after I let the beer free rise in temperature. Last night, I moved it to the brew fridge to crash cool it. It’s much less brown than it originally looked, and will probably end up more like a dark amber or light brown than the deep brown that I expect in my dubbels, but that’s what happens when you don’t have all the ingredients you need. To be honest, I don’t think even 20% of the fermentables being blackstrap molasses could have gotten the color I wanted.

If I end up brewing a third GF beer, I’ll explore that, but for the moment, we have a second batch scheduled for “sometime soon” and that one, I think, will be a Belgian Pale. Very pale, to be sure, but Belgian Pale all the same.

UPDATE (6 Dec. 2011): We bottled this beer as a group the other day. Sanko, our South African critique group member and therefore guy with the most experience with sorghum in our group, said the beer smelled like sorghum, and I have to say the flavor was less than exciting to me. It was a bit earthy, though, and I think the right hops could complement that… or overpower it. I think, though, we need to find some rice syrup to use for the next batch.

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