Today I’m bringing a special “guest post” to you, written by my husband, Chris. He brewed a special gluten-free beer for me and is here to tell you about it. Thank you, skat!
I’ve been a home brewer for about nine years now, and by far the best part of making my own beer has been sharing it with friends and loved ones. When I met my skat (aka Sulten Skat), I wasn’t able to share any of my beers with her because of her gluten allergy. Bummer, right? So, I kept my eyes open for commercially made gluten-free beers that she might try, but I didn’t have much luck finding any that tasted really good. So, having lots of experience at creating all kinds of different beer recipes, I set out to create my own gluten free ale that I could share with my skat.
Beer, in reality, is a pretty simple beverage, made from a foundation of four basic ingredients: grain, hops, yeast, and water. Of course, one can add all kinds of different things to beer (fruit, spices, sugars, etc.), as we often see in today’s wide proliferation of unique micro-brews across the U.S. and around the world. The problem, however, for people with a gluten sensitivity, is that beer is a no-go because of the grain (barley, wheat, rye, etc.). Exacerbating the problem is that many beers also contain corn, which is also problematic for a lot of people.
Being an experienced brewer, I knew that creating a good gluten free beer would require the right ingredients. Arguably, the most important ingredient is the base grain, because it determines the fundamental taste and character of the beer. At the same time, the grain must also have sufficient fermentable sugar that can be used to convert into alcohol. Just like when cooking or baking, good results require good ingredients. The challenge, then, was finding the right base grain that was also gluten free. Hmmm.
With this in mind, I did some research and study on various gluten free beer recipes, but I couldn’t find anything that would taste good. Then, one Saturday morning, inspiration struck when Sulten Skat made pancakes for us for brunch. Taking a bite of the pancake, it was delicious, with a complex and bready flavor that I didn’t recognize right away. I asked my skat what the grain was that she used, and she replied “millet.” That was it! I had my base grain for the beer, and set off to create a recipe for it.
For those who are not familiar, home brewing does require a few specialized pieces of equipment, but the process itself may be understood as consisting of a few basic steps: Selection of the ingredients, extraction of fermentable sugar, boiling, fermentation, and carbonation. First, of course, comes the ingredients. Our gluten free beer would be made up of millet, buckwheat, and rock sugar for some added fermentable material in the beer.
Next, I crushed the grains in a special mill that cracks the grains open.
Then, the grains are soaked for an hour and a half in 160-degree F water in order to extract the fermentable sugar from the grains. The consistency is something like oatmeal. The special container used here (called a mash tun) allows for the fermentable liquid to be drained off, while the grains are left behind. Sort of like a giant teabag.
After the soaking, the liquid is drained and moved to a large pot for boiling. Since we have a very small oven here that isn’t powerful enough to boil so much liquid, I use an induction cooker that sits on the floor for boiling. Many brewers use outdoor propane cookers. The beer boils for about an hour. Hops are also added during the boil. Hops give beer its bitterness, and also serve as a preserving agent. There are many different varieties of hops, and can drastically change the character of a beer, depending on type, quantity, and timing of hop additions.
After boiling, the beer is cooled and transferred to a fermentation vessel called a “carboy.” Yeast is added, and the beer is set aside in a cool and preferably dark area for about two months to ferment.
After fermentation, the brewer has a choice: the beer can either be bottled or placed into a keg to be served. I like to keg my beers, so into the keg it went, and the keg was then refrigerated and pressurized with carbon dioxide. A few days later, and Sulten Skat and I were able to toast our first beer together. On top of that, she used the beer to make an awesome beer bread that we shared with our friends during a small happy hour at our apartment. The bread and the beer both drew great reviews, with our friends saying that they had no idea that the beer or the bread was gluten free! Check back later this week for Sulten Skat’s beer bread recipe!
I hope this post has been fun and interesting, even if you don’t have any desire to brew your own beer. It was fun and interesting for me to create a gluten free beer, and, most importantly, the results taste just as good as a regular beer. Maybe this can encourage you to have some fun and do some experimenting in your own kitchen, to create something awesome to share with your skat. If you’re interested in my gluten-free beer, contact Sulten Skat.
-Chris (Sulten Skat’s Husband)