A few weeks ago, after discovering I have a wheat allergy, I proudly proclaimed I would continue sampling the finest brews available. Like my taste for Taco Bell, I explained there was no information that could dissuade me from enjoying this simple pleasure.
I would thus remain resilient—perhaps even in the face of better judgment. Well it turns out there is good news on both fronts. Taco Bell has responded to accusations that its taco filling is less than the required 40 percent meat (still don't understand how it's so low), with full-page ads in newspapers, commercials, Facebook groups, and most recently, an 88-cent deal for their game-changing Crunchwrap Supreme, claiming that their taco filling is in fact 88 percent meat. In terms of beer consumption, I've found there is quite a good range of selection for me to sample within the realm of gluten-free offerings, with different companies even specializing in various types of brews.
Thus, despite the world's best efforts to hold me back, I will continue to enjoy both products, perhaps even with peace of mind (as much peace of mind as you can have while eating a 500-plus calorie super-taco that costs less than a dollar).
Eventually I want to really delve into all the different types of gluten-free beers, but this week I was interested in what a wheat-alleric/gluten-allergic individual could find around town. Certainly a trip to Whole Foods could yield a pretty good variety, but I wanted to know if a more "mainstream" outlet would have any options. Enter Hannaford.
As I walked toward the beer fridges in the back of the store, I wondered if I expected too much. The amount of liquor contained in this rather unassuming supermarket had always surprised me, but who knew their beer would have such remarkable depth? This, after all, is a true-blood Maine establishment. Would Mainers even tolerate such a weakness as a wheat allergy? Perhaps they just threw their allergic young over the wall into Canada?
Despite my fears, I wasn't back there for more than 20 seconds before I found the sign I was looking for—"Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer"—on the label of a beer called Redbridge. I immediately recognized the name, and after inspecting the bottle was reminded that this was the gluten-free offering of the once-American beer superpower, Anheuser-Busch. Truly a beer for the everyman! Or at least the everyman with a wheat allergy.
So what can a gluten-free beer from can pick up at Hannaford offer you? The answer is not much. The packaging does its best to look quaint and authentic, but that screaming eagle on the front is a giveaway that you're in for some pretty mediocre beer. The pour started off promisingly with a nice amber color and thin, quickly-disappearing head (seems to be a pattern with sorghum beers), but it more or less went downhill from there. The initial taste was pretty unremarkable, with some sweet flavors and hoppy bitterness, and the carbonation at first fooled me into thinking I was drinking a regular beer, but this eventually gave way to a pretty offensive aftertaste.
Some of my co-tasters last week noted a slightly artificial, "plastic-like" taste toward the end of the Bard's, and this was unfortunately much more prominent in the Redbridge. After each sip I found myself dreading this inevitable finale, and like most bad tastes in alcohol, it only got worse over time.
Perhaps I could have forgiven even this problem (after all, we are talking about brewing with an entirely different ingredient), had Bard's not been so much better. The flavor and feel with Bard's was noticeably more bodied and complex, and this perhaps hid certain elements of sorghum that came through much stronger in this thin brew.
I look forward to seeing how other gluten substitutes fare in their beer-making abilities, and how different types of beers lend themselves to these brews.