Being gluten-intolerant would suck. Heaps. Like an industrial-strength bilge pump. Black holes wish they could suck as hard as being gluten-intolerant.
Okay, maybe that’s way, way waaayyy too much hyperbole. Lets just say I wouldn’t like to be gluten-intolerant. Why? Because it’d mean you couldn’t drink beer.
Well, you could drink it but it wouldn’t be all that pleasant an experience. See, being the medical expert that I’m not, gluten intolerant people (aka coeliacs) get damage to their lower bowels if they ingest gluten. And who really wants to damage their lower bowels?
So they give up on beer and start drinking wine. But in recent years there have been a few gluten-free beers pop up on the market. I’ve had a few and, while they certainly don’t taste like ‘‘normal’’ beer, I guess, for someone who thought they could never drink beer again, close enough is good enough.
I decided to trial two of the gluten-free beers side by side to see which is the best. Why? Well, why not? The two beers were O’Brien Pale Ale and Wilde Pale Ale. The latter was chosen because I got some samples of it, the former because it’s the only other gluten-free beer I know that is easily accessible.
The O’Brien is made with millet and sorghum and features a pale colour with a fast-disappearing head (is that a byproduct of gluten-less beer?). As far as flavour goes, there’s a mild toffeeness that hides behind what is a malt-dominated beer. Can you call a gluten-free beer malt-dominated? I hope so.
For me the O’Brien tastes like there’s something missing. If you poured someone a glass and didn’t tell them it was gluten-free, I reckon they’d still pick up on the fact that it obviously tastes different.
The makers of Wilde Pale Ale don’t seem to mention the identity of their gluten-free grain on their website. They state that they use ‘‘an alternative grain’’ and make their beer with the help of an also unnamed ‘‘technical breakthrough’’.
I first tried this at a recent beer and wine festival and was quite impressed with the beer – I liked the toffee notes and felt it tasted like ‘‘real’’ beer. I was also a bit drunk by that time and so my taste buds weren’t that useful.
Trying it again in a more sober frame of mind, I felt that, no, it doesn’t taste like ‘‘real’’ beer. Again there’s that sensation of something missing but it’s a sensation that is less strong than with the O’Brien’s. That’s in part because those toffee notes are still quite present and they’re more balanced with the malt flavours.
Would I drink them again?: Given that I’m not a coeliac I’m not in a rush to drink either of them. But if I was I’d definitely take the Wilde over the O’Brien.