When we did our round-up of gluten-free beers the other week, we didn't talk much about what goes into brewing them. Evan Kleiman had a timely interview with Beer Chick Christina Perozzi this past week where they delved into what makes gluten-free beer different and how the best ones are brewed.
We didn't realize how much influence the particular grain - or mix of grains - can have over the final taste of the beer. Perozzi describes buckwheat as having a nutty earthy flavor while sorghum gives a more grain-like taste. Quinoa would give the beer toasted grassy notes and rice adds a crisp mouthfeel.
Much like starting to work with whole grains in cooking, it sounds like making an excellent gluten-free beer isn't just about finding a substitute for barley and wheat. Instead, it's about appreciating the unique characteristics of each grain and using them to their advantage in a beer recipe.
But other than the grain profile, Perozzi says that brewing a gluten-free beer isn't that different than any other kind of beer. The grains are malted to extract the sugars and then yeast is added to start the fermenting process. Hops are also important to crafting a well-balanced and good-tasting gluten-free beer, just as they are in a regular beer.
There's no reason why a gluten-free beer can't be just as richly flavored and satisfying to drink as a regular beer. The problem is the number of brewers that are willing to step outside the mold and start experimenting with them. The fact that Perozzi's list of best gluten-free beers is almost an exact mirror of our own isn't so much about our similar tastes as it is about the lack of quality gluten-free beers out there. Hopefully, brewers will start to see this as an emerging market and start coming up with some better beers!
• Listen to the Entire Interview: Beer Chick Christina Perozzi on KCRW Good Food
(Image: Adding hops during the brewing process, Emma Christensen)