Brewsday: Lakefront Brewery New Grist Gluten-Free
As Tina mentioned yesterday, I’ve been doing a lot of smashing things with sledgehammers, cutting them with reciprocating saws, and dragging them out of the earth with the raw unbridled strength of my pure rage. In the course of demolition, we’ve discovered that our backyard deck is not unlike the classic city of Troy — every time we peel away a layer of filth, refuse and rotten wood, we’re certain that we’ve found the original; and every time, just three swings of the shovel later, we discover another set moldering two-by-fours, rotted and reviled relics of a bygone era.
Just yesterday afternoon, a good friend of mine was studiously prying hunks of poorly-poured concrete out of the earth, before eagerly starting to dig into his set of supports.
“Huh,” he said. “I think I hit something.”
I popped my head around to see what he might have found. “It looks big,” I offered helpfully. He looked at me with a flat expression, so I added, “I bet it’s heavy.”
Without a word, he started his attempt to pry the stone out of the ground, only to find it was actually more concrete… that sank four feet into the ground, shattered into three pieces, each of which represented about forty pounds. So, while on one side of our deck there was so little work done on the supports that they had rotted down to the width of pencils, here we had one corner that wasn’t going to move on account of anything short of a nuclear strike.
And even then, I have to be honest, I’m not sure it would have gone anywhere. I have visions of cockroaches snacking on Twinkies, bathing in the glow of Armageddon, lazily hanging out on the indestructible corner of our shitty old deck.
It’s enough to make a man cry — but because that man is working alongside other men, one of whom is a future in-law, it’s probably wiser to drink. So what better beer to turn to than a Man’s Beer, a Hearty Brew whose ballsy composition and refreshing flavors practically require it to be poured into frosty mugs, clinked together while inexplicable 1980’s rock blares in the background? A Manful Drink! A Milwaukee original!
Okay, so, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. And significantly, up here in Canada the packaging doesn’t call it “beer”, which I find to be significant. Where you see “BEER” in a neato Cheers-style font up there, here we see “GLUTEN FREE – A crisp and refreshing alcoholic beverage.” One might call this a warning sign.
But before I get all negative, let’s take a quick look at the promise that New Grist offers:
- By virtue of it’s sorghum / rice extract composition, it’s gluten-free. Depending on who you ask, the lack of gluten can do everything from improve your digestion to cure your autism — though I will leave it up to you whether or not you take Jenny McCarthy’s medical advice. It appears New Grist has taken a similar stance, opting not to overplay the health angle, and instead offering a beer for those who might not normally be able enjoy it.
- They aren’t kidding when they say it’s made with sorghum and rice; aside from hops and water, they’re the only two ingredients on the label. If you’re interested in a pure-hearted micro-brewed beer, it really doesn’t get any more simple than this.
- It alleges to be crisp and refreshing.
With all of those lofty ambitions, what I can tell you is this: New Grist certainly is an alcoholic beverage.
At 5.7%, it’s among the strongest micro-brewed beers I’ve ever tried, and certainly this is where the refreshment angle is supposed to come in. Pick up a six-pack of this, chill them out enough to protect you against that blaring sun with the wheat stalk in his mouth, and then dive in! Cast off the fear of your profoundly uncomfortable Celiac Disease! Have a gluten-free almost-beer for the first time in your gut-clenching life!
By and large, it isn’t an unpleasant drink. As I tend to find with any micro-brewed ales, it’s really, really heavy on the hop flavor. At first it seemed to carry something chocolatey in the flavor, but mostly what you’ll notice is a very high, citrusy sweetness that’s chased by a pretty hefty hop aftertaste. The fact that it’s a solid point stronger ABV than its competitors goes a long with me, particularly after I spent two hours today sawing through subterranean tree roots the size of my legs. But more than anything, it reminds me of the last time I tried to mix Jack Daniels with a diet lemonade soft drink, which means it would do well when it’s sitting in a cooler with a bunch of other outdoor party beverages.
But here’s where that warning sign comes in, thanks to the hilariously stodgy laws of my hopelessly pearl-clutching Protestant democratic monarchy. The rules here are fairly strict on what constitutes a beer, and if Lakefront had to go to the trouble of providing alternate labeling to export New Grist to Canada, then they couldn’t make the grade. Not that this alone diminishes the product, but it helps to describe what I feel is weird about it:
Namely, it’s an almost-product. It’s kind of like how everyone has a friend who tried to get them to eat carob brownies, because it’s just as good as chocolate and you’ll never know the difference — plus it’s better for you! It’s not all processed like the chocolate you get, particularly nowadaways! Why, if carob were given half a chance, blah blah blah blah! Even if you were inclined to give carob a chance, it’s permanently embedded in your mind as the almost-chocolate that’s nearly good enough, and will have to do if you’ve got an allergy or diabetes or you’re a dog.
New Grist is in something of the same trap — it’s brewed like a beer, at an honest-to-goodness brewery, but it’s not actually beer. It’s a gluten-free sorghum and rice extract alcoholic beverage, but it’s packaged in a beer bottle and it’s merchandised along with the other beers. Clearly, Lakefront wants to target those folks who could never otherwise enjoy their products, which is great; however, I wonder if there wouldn’t be even greater potential in just dispensing with being a beer altogether, going entirely sorghum-to-the-walls and sitting on the party drink shelf.
I’ve actually lost count of the number of sugar-free, low-calorie and fitness-oriented cocktails out there (as if those aren’t insane concepts on their face), so why not become the anti-malt beverage? Better to reign in that particular hell, than to be the Chocolate For Diabetics of the beer fridge.
Rating: 3 Jenny McCarthys