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!

A beer like Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist Gluten Free Made From Sorghum And Rice Alcoholic Beverage!

new_grist

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.

new_grist_2

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

jenny_mccarthyjenny_mccarthyjenny_mccarthy

  • Nicole

    Believe me, after 20-some years of being a beer drinker, having it yanked away from you because it contains wheat gluten *really* sucks.

    The shocking thing here is that the A-B product (Redbridge) is far superior to the New Grist Mill in that it tastes more like actual beer. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t cut it beer-wise, and I think the Canadian government has a point.

    Finding hard cider too gooey after one pint, I drink a lot of wine and cocktails now. Sigh.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Ah Jenny McCarthy…I suppose her little crusade is to be expected, given that her main medical advisors are her (admittedly quite large) basoombas. And since when did we start listening to the sage wisdom of vag-flashing and facial-contorting members of the glitterati? Harumph.

    Gluten-free is something I’m pretty sensitive about. Because there are people who have verified celiac disease. Then there are people (children) who are systemically allergic to wheat, not just gluten. This systemic allergy presents as hives and breathing problems. Those two groups should not eat gluten. But other than that? General “gluten intolerance” is totally a made-up illness. I know that people “feel better” after removing gluten from their diets, but that’s mostly because they stop eating a diet that consists of mostly pasta and white bread and start subbing things like garbanzo flour and vegetables. OF COURSE their digestive tracts thrive on a diet higher in roughage. I’m just sayin’ that they could achieve the same results if their diets were balanced in the first place, even if they included gluten. And that’s my soapbox. Oh, and my credentials are that my running group includes four allergy doctors, and we’ve talked about this ad infinitum.

    My little sister says she’s allergic to red gatorade, because it gives her an upset stomach. Almost as upset as MY stomach gets when I listen to her say things like that.

    I like the description of the beer, though, and would happily drink it to wash down my PB n’ J on whole wheat.

    • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

      Oh, and when I named children under wheat allergies, it’s because they’re the most common sufferers. Adults can have true wheat allergy, too. It manifests as hives and/or anaphylaxis.

      • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

        Wow. I sound really cranky today. Sorry. I haven’t been allowed to exercise in three weeks, and it’s starting to take a toll on my ability to behave like a nice lady.

        • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

          It’s okay, I knew a guy with a genuine wheat allergy, as well as one to refined sugars and a brutal reaction to dairy. One of the saddest things I’ve ever heard was when he said, “I don’t know why you all get so upset when I say that I’ve never had dessert — I’ve literally never had dessert, so I can’t miss what I’ve never had.”

          So, when I hear someone (like an ex-girlfriend of mine) say, “I have a savage milk allergy, so I can only have chocolate sometimes!” … well, it can be enraging.

  • Nicole

    I hate saying I have celiac disease.

    First of all, it tends to lead to discussions about bowel habits, and those are not discussions I like to have. Second, it bugs me to describe a food intolerance as a “disease” as much as I hate people calling alcoholism a “disease” (but maybe that one is just me). Third, a lot of people seem to think it’s a made up thing and have no idea that it can be verified with blood work. Because of all this, I usually just pass myself off as a low-carber to avoid the discussion.

    It’s a little annoying that the much maligned Atkins diet (a choice) is more socially acceptable than having a genetic food intolerance, but there it is.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Plus it sounds totally scary, so people want all the details you can possibly offer. Oh boy! Graphic descriptions of digestive processes!

      I’m interested in this “Redbridge” of which you speak — is it available in our Great White North? Is it even worth pursuing it?

      and if you’re consigned to a horrid fate of cocktails, fear not: We will help you through.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    In fairness, I did say that celiac is one of the ones that was a legitimate food limitation.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      POP QUIZ: How many people do you know who have self-diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

  • Nicole

    As I live in the US, I couldn’t tell you if it’s available in Canada, but it’s made by Anheuser-Busch, so probably.

    And, I know no one with self-diagnosed IBS, and I’m fairly talented with a cocktail shaker. 😀

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Ohhh, then you’re most welcome here.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    IBS isn’t real. Neither is fibromyalgia. Both are treated with antidepressants. So…there’s that.

    • http://ElderberrySisters.com Sandy Morris

      Wow! What a statement! Neither IBS nor fibromyalgia? Really?! I am not so much angered by statements such as these as I am sickened in my heart. Intolerance is ugly.

      At a recent gathering I picked up a piece of candy and it had a fully glutened brownie stuck to it so rather than put it back, I threw it in the garbage. One of the other guests cackled with laughter, slapped her knee and said, “Oh my gawd!! It won’t KILL you!!!” As she tried to get some of the other guests to join in her joke at my expense.

      All I know is that for me going gluten-free has given me my life back. I no longer fear having experiences like this: Having to go home in the middle of work to change my pants, having to tell my date that he has to drive me home to change my clothes because I messed my pants, involuntarily messing my pants in public.

      I don’t like having to discuss my toilet habits either, but having IBS to me meant projectile diarrhea for 15 years straight. This kind of a health issue is a REASON to need antidepressants. They are not a CURE for it. I know because I tried it. The only thing that did cure me was going gluten free. I had tried everything.

      Yes, it is a current ‘fad’ to go on a gluten-free diet lately, but there are truly people who need it. Ignorance is not a virtue. I am saddened by comments such as these.

      • http://ElderberrySisters.com Sandy Morris

        BTW: Technically beer or not is of no matter to me but I have to say this: I was a beer snob before going gluten free and I LOVE New Grist. It is as close to a micro-brewed wheat beer as I have tasted in years and downright delicious! Thank you Lakefront!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    So I’m going to bypass the gluten-free swannings of our neo-McCarthyism, and focus on the beer: I don’t care if it’s not actually beer. It was good. I mean, surprisingly good as an ice cold brew on a swelteringly hot day (because despite how I may position myself in the princess ilk, I’m not. Of course I was in the trenches digging out roots and shoveling piles of stinky rot into wheelbarrows to the point where my arms don’t bend straight right now), and not….ricey tasting? Does that even make sense? If you had passed me a glass of this beer, I actually WOULD have said, “what a crisp, refreshing and citrusy micro-brew!” No jokes. I dug it….almost as much as I dug those trenches.

    (I think my brain might be somewhat addled by days of manual labour and possible heat stroke)

  • Michelle

    Listen here buddy, I have been a diagnosed Celiac Disease for over 5 years now. The one thing I missed the most was beer. Who cares if it isnt “called” beer. It tastes like it and makes me feel like I can be normal and sit with my husband after work and enjoy a New Grist while he chugs back his cold Budweiser. This beer was OBVIOUSLY invented the large population of people who cant enjoy a real beer. I mean think of it, it’s genious. I buy it all the time and I know many other celiacs from my community that do as well. I am sure that their are lots of people who say staying away fron gluten is healthy for you but for some of us its Survival!!!!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      I believe that I have been told.