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Monday, August 4, 2008

Redbridge gluten-free

I can't do details here, I'm reviewing Redbridge for pay elsewhere, but I just had to say something. Redbridge is an A-B beer made from sorghum, a gluten-free beer that is aimed at the newly emerging celiac market. I've noted elsewhere that gluten-free beer is a solid niche, but Redbridge is the first nationally-available product. It's a really interesting beer: berry, dried cherry, and a dry spiciness. Don't approach it thinking "Bud Sorghum," approach it thinking "Belgianesque," and I think you'll have a different opinion.

All I got to say...for free.


Anonymous said...

Is it 100 percent sorghum Lew? When it came out last year, the A-B pr people couldn't answer that. On the lable it says (or did say last December --sorghum is the "primary" ingredient."

Also, I think the sorghum beer made by Gordon Biersch here in San Jose, for Bards Tale, Lees Summit, MO. == Dragon's Gold is tastier. Well, it's a fuller taste, not so sweet.

Lew Bryson said...

Dunno, William: just went to the store and grabbed some bottles for the piece, and that was one. First gluten-free beer I've had -- no, the second, had one before that was just too bad to even think about; they've since gone under. That "primary ingredient" thing just screams "not the only ingredient," though, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I emailed A-B before about Redbridge (a. my girlfriend has Celiac, and b. I gave a talk on gluten-free brewing to my homebrew club) and here's the nitty gritty:

Redbridge is a rich, hearty, full-bodied lager with a well-balanced taste. We brew it using sorghum, water, yeast, a blend of imported and domestic hops, and corn. It’s made much like a traditional lager, but because most Celiac patients are sensitive to barley malt, we have replaced that ingredient with sorghum.

Sorghum is generally considered safe for Celiacs, but we still encourage our friends to check with their physicians first. One of the reasons that Celiac-safe beer was so hard to find for years is because sorghum ferments differently from grains used since the beginning of brewing. It literally took our brewmasters years to perfect the recipe and taste profile of the beer.

Redbridge contains 174 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.8% alcohol by volume per 12-ounce serving. Its color is approximately 11.0 SRM, and the IBU level is approximately 20.

I think Redbridge is a decent lager, not spectacular by any means but far from the worst I've had and superior to regular Budweiser IMO. And while you can certainly taste the sorghum (which adds a slightly tart twang) it's not obviously a non-barley beer.

I also really like New Grist, and all the Green's gluten-free beers from England.

Bard's Beer is sort of OK at best, and that stuff from Ramapo (Honey Passover beer or something like that) is simply dreadful.

I plan to try my hand at gluten-free brewing soon; all the major homebrew shops (online and storefront) carry sorghum extract now, there are gluten-free yeast strains readily available, and hops are already gluten-free. The challenge for me is that she prefers darker beers, so I'm going to be roasting some certified gluten-free buckwheat in an attempt to add some color.

(Important note: buckwheat and sorghum are naturally gluten-free, but are often processed in facilities that also process wheat and barley so cross-contamination becomes a big issue. And since such a minute amount of gluten will be problematic for someone with Celiac, you must be super-careful in sourcing your ingredients.)

Lew Bryson said...

Thanks for the details. And I found myself liking that 'tart twang.' Not something I'd reach for, maybe, but if it were that or Bud Light, no contest.

Bill said...

Let us know when the article/review comes out, and where. I'd love it if you'd go back to actively promoting your articles here. I mean, I understand that most aren't available online, but I'll spring for a magazine now and again.

I went to check out your "old" site the other day and stumbled across the 12 days of Christmas article you did a few years back, and was pleasantly reminded that i have you to thank for introducing me to Redbreast, Ardbeg, and Jim Beam Rye. One article, three purchases. The power of the press.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Lew, unlike you I've sampled almost every gluten-free beer out there that I can get my hands on. Half of that is because some of them have been honey-based and count as meads whether or not the makers wanted to admit it (*coughcoughRamapoValley*coughcough); and part of that has been having three booze-loving friends that turned out to be gluten-sensitive.

The ultimate issue in play for any of these beers remains: Are they attempting to make the best "beer" they can given the limitations imposed by a lack of gluten, or are they trying to produce a gluten-free beer as close to the North American Industrial Lager stereotype as they can? Sadly, in my opinion, what's out there trying to be a NAIL substitute--and I would lump Redbridge in this category--does far better a job than the beers that try to be a distinctive gluten-free beer (such as Hambleton's Toleration... [shudder].....).

You may also find that some archaic state laws regulate what otherwise could be gluten-free beers. Appalachian's brewers told me a couple years ago that they were forced to throw a handful of malt into their draft "mead", because if they didn't they would have fallen under wine-making regulations and taxations rather than beer-brewing......

Lew Bryson said...

Bill -- the piece is a set of tasting notes in an upcoming issue of Cheers; I did five or six other beers as well. Glad you liked that 12 Drinks piece; it was too good to let it slip away.

Sandy, good dope, but I'm going to have to disagree with you on Redbridge: there is just no way that fits in the NAIL category. Wrong color, wrong flavor, wrong aroma, as in too much of all three. If they wanted to replicate a light lager, they certainly could have at least changed the color.

veggiegator said...

Swiggin' on some Redbridge right now, actually... my brother sent me your blog link. I am a celiac and glad to find that Redbridge is available anywhere that you can buy a A-B product (hey, the truck delivers there anyway, you just have to ask the store to add Redbridge to thier deliveries). I can't seem to find any of the other gluten-free beers here in Florida, but I've had a few others courtesy of my brother who gets them in New Jersey.
Green's, from Belguim is great. I prefer the Tripple Blonde. Bard's Tale is ok... I guess it has a bit of an aftertaste as far as my tounge can tell. My favorite so far has actually been Ramapo Valley! It has a sweet finish and, well, go ahead and call me a girl who likes girly beers. I am. I also used to love Raspberry Wheat beers and Hefewiezens! Maybe someday they will make a Raspberry sorghum GF beer :)
Lew, where can I read this "Cheers" publication?

Lew Bryson said...

I'm not actually sure where you can read Cheers. It's a trade publication, a magazine for bar/restaurant owners and managers.

I haven't seen any Greens: I'd like to try it. I did get Ramapo Valley, and yow, that's sweet! Too sweet for me, but that's why they make more than vanilla.