Tag Archives: gluten free

Harpoon Brewery Part II

18 Dec

Sorry to leave our readers in suspense—it’s just when you have such an extra ordinary experience, it’s hard to put it all into words.

Most of you have probably visited a brewery before—you are taken on a tour, get samples in the tasting room, learned more about the brand and its history—you leave a little more informed and a little more drunk than when you came in.  Every brewery seems to have its own nuances.  Our visit to Harpoon was especially unique because Al Marzi, Chief of Brewing Operations and a guy who’s been with the company for 21 years (almost since its inception), was our own personal tour guide.

He started in the company lunchroom, a modest place with an admirable collection of random hot sauces (why do beer and hot sauce always seem to go together?).  From there he walked us through the “factory”–visiting a brewery always seems to be a Willy Wonka-type experience.  You see where they mill the grains, mash them, sparge and then add hops and other spices to the wort.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be entertained by the bottling line (always even more fascinating when you’ve already tasted a few brews)—this particular bottling line applies a label on both the front and back of the bottle—oooooooo.

Al also pointed out where they will soon be installing a canning line.  While they currently can their signature IPA, UFO, and their summer seasonal at upstate FX Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, NY, you can anticipate a bigger canned selection soon due to this new addition.

He also showed us where they’re working on experimental, 400-gallon batches.  Well, some of them work out and some don’t!  You’re next favorite beer may be brewing there now…

So now for the biggest news of all—Harpoon is opening a large beer garden-type hall where future tastings will take place and tours will take off.  You bet we’ll be there for the Grand Opening!

A few days before our visit, the Harpoon staff had a company holiday party where they celebrated the end of “Movember,” in the not-yet-opened beer hall, at their “Stache-bash” all while giving back to some local charities.  Moustaches for a great cause?  Yeah, we love that!  Al himself earned special recognition with his “checkerboard” beard, a signature pattern on all of Harpoon’s beers (it was unfortunately absent upon our visit—we bet Al couldn’t wait to get rid of it!).  For photo evidence, check out their Facebook page.    

The conclusion of our tour took us right back to that lunchroom—much more enlightened after our journey we inquired about the “staff taps”—there seemed to be a few unavailable-to-the-public beers there.  Al let us sample a sour—so delicious!  Although, it will probably never become a 100 Barrel Series beer due to the threat of infestation from Brettanomyces…what a shame!! (But understandable).  And not everybody enjoys the sour beers.  And as Al pointed out, they don’t exist to chase trends.  I’d add that Harpoon sets them!  Either way, it’s a great way to decide what’s coming up next for their 100 Barrel Series, having the staff sample and offer feedback from the lunchroom while even visitors to the brewery have the opportunity to try some rarities that may or may not make it into full production!  Just another great excuse (if you need one) to visit the brewery…   

Our visit to Harpoon was certainly a highlight on our trip to Boston.  But even if you can’t make it up to the brewery, you can still drink their beer locally.  If you visit Harpoon’s Web site, you can use their “Beer Finder” tool to seek out the beers near you—whether it be a case of their Wintry Mix, their Chocolate Stout on tap, or their latest 100 Barrel Series.  For more about their beers (and what we tried and thought), check out my last blog post.  We can’t wait to go back early next year and check out the new beer hall for ourselves…but until then, we’ll just have to drink a Winter Warmer…or two.           

 

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There’s no omitting taste with this gluten-free brew!

4 Nov

If my doctor told me I had to stop drinking beer due to a medical condition, I’d probably cry.  I would most likely throw a hissy-fit and it would definitely have an enormous impact on my lifestyle in addition to forcing me to adapt to an entirely new diet.  And that’s really no fun. 

Luckily, I do not have an allergy that would force me to stop drinking beer.  But millions of Americans do, and gluten-free diets are becoming more commonplace as celiac sufferers and those with a gluten-intolerance or sensitivity have to adapt to a whole new diet—one that omits any product that contains wheat, barely and rye.  For those with this restriction, that often means giving up some of their favorite foods—pasta, pizza, cupcakes…and of course, for many, beer. 

The selection of gluten-free beers on the market has grown immensely over the past few years and craft brewers across the country have been offering some gluten-free options, usually using sorghum, buckwheat, quinoa and even rice, as a substitute for malted barley or wheat.  The movement is so popular that even Anhueser-Busch InBev has a beer option for the celiac-sufferers—Redbridge.  There are also many more craft options out there created by microbreweries. 

But commercially, nobody has created a beer using the traditional four ingredients—malted barley, water, yeast and hops—that is, until Widmer Brothers Brewing based out of Portland, Ore., released their option earlier this year, a brand appropriately named “Omission.”

Sure, those avoiding gluten can always opt to drink hard cider—I know many of my regulars at the bar that live gluten-free often opt for this—but that doesn’t satiate the craving for a hoppy, delicious, well-crafted brew.    

Until now.  And for those who have tasted the gluten-free beers out there, whether out of curiosity or because of dietary restrictions know that there’s just something missing.  Most don’t really taste like beer.    

The people over at Widmer Bros have recognized this lack of a satisfying gluten-free beer and made it their mission (pun intended) to create a brew that tasted, well, like a “regular” beer.  And they even went out of their way to create two different but recognizable and satisfying styles—a sessionable, light blonde, almost German (Helles)-style lager and a hoppy, amber-colored American pale ale, an essential west-coast style, brewed with the distinctive aroma of Cascade and Citra hops.  We were lucky enough to taste both last week at Swine in the West VIllage, where representatives of the brewery were present. 

 Both options are highly approachable.  And just like choosing a candidate to vote for in this upcoming election, some of us prefer a light, easy drinking lager while some of us may prefer a more bold, classic-style pale ale—we live in America and we have the freedom to choose!  Even if we can’t have gluten!  Yeah!

And they’re both really good.  Coming from a person who is blessed to not have celiac or any sensitivity to gluten, both styles satisfied my need for a well-crafted, easy drinking beer.  If handed one blindly without the knowledge of its “secret,” I would still think, “Hey…yeah…this is a great beer.”

So how did Widmer Bros create a gluten-free beer using barley?  Isn’t barley the celiac’s enemy?  Well, that answer is purely scientific—they extracted the protein from their beer using a handy little enzyme called Brewer’s Clarex that breweries have been using for years in order to clarify their beer.  It seems that this handy enzyme also has the ability to extract that nasty gluten protein that celiacs and those with a sensitivity have come to loathe so much.  Both brews actually contain both Caramel and Pale malts—no gluten-free substitutes here.    

And to prove that it’s not a farce, Widmer Brothers tests every batch: Both at the brewery, with their own staff of scientists, and through the aid of an independent lab, using the R5 Competitive ELISA test.  This specific test insures that the detectable presence of gluten measures below the standard of 20 ppm (parts per million) or less so that it can be called “gluten-free.”  Still not convinced?  Every bottle of Omission beer contains a date on the label that when entered on Omissiontest.com reveals a photocopied result of the beer’s test with ELISA.  There’s your revelation, right there—this beer you’re drinking has an almost untraceable amount of gluten.

The best is the explanation for the creation of this beer–not just because of the basic lack of decent and drinkable gluten-free brews—that’s self-explanatory.  But for Widmer Brothers the reason was much more personal—Both the CEO of the Craft Brew Alliance, Terry Michaelson, and the wife of Widmer Bros’ brewmaster, Joe Casey, have been unable to drink beer for many years due to their own gluten-intolerance:  This made the quest to create a GF beer brewed with traditional ingredients even more of an important issue and a project that took years to perfect.      

And as more and more people are living gluten-free, the quest for a decent brew that meets their dietary restrictions will grow.  My regular at the bar who shuns beer festivals and jealously eyes beer-drinkers at the bar?  She can now drink this.  No longer restricted to ciders, now everyone (of age) can enjoy a decent brew thanks to Widmer Brothers.  Look for Omission at your favorite craft beer bar or store.  Mission complete.