gluten free home brew beer

Gluten free home brew beer explorations

Gluten free home brew beer

Gluten-free home brew beer has been an interest of ours for some time. For many folks, the gluten in barley can be a real bummer for their beer and ale consumption. For others, it can be a serious health threat.  There are other reasons to make a gluten free home brew beer. A good old-fashioned sage ale just tastes better when made sans barley. I like to think it’s because it lets the sage shine!

In the beginning, there was table sugar

Most of our gluten-free beers have used regular table sugar as the main fermentable (Sage with style), with some occasional adjunct of oats, brown rice syrup or honey. Table sugar is cheap. It’s easy to ferment (you just dump it in, no mashing, you don’t even really need to boil it). It also stores well.

These beers were usually enjoyable, though light in body. They definitely were more on the cider end of the spectrum than what people would normally think of as beer. Though to be sure, we have made many a delicious sage ale and ginger beer with simple sugar.

This is the easiest method of making gluten free home brew beer. No doubt about it.

Sorghum syrup as a gluten free home brew base

More recently we’ve been trying what the pros use, sorghum syrup. Sorghum syrup as the main fermentable has been yielding good results.  It makes for a more traditional beer body and color. Sorghum really allows the end product to get away from the cider flavor. In the end it gives it more of a beer or ale flavor.

A combination of mostly sorghum syrup and a little bit of brown rice syrup, table sugar, or honey as an adjunct makes a great gluten free home brew beer.

Using sorghum syrup is just about as easy as making gluten free home brew beer with simple table sugar. It comes a little bit closer to tasting like what most people think of as beer.

Add something roasty or toasty

If you are still not satisfied with the results, try a little bit of roasted gluten free grain. You could also try some roasted nuts. Adding a roasted or toasted something can go a long way to making that gluten free home brew recipe complete. That’s how the pioneering Ground Breaker Brewery does their gluten free beers. They add roasted chestnuts to their mash. Brilliant!

Buckwheat is a gluten free grain that is easy to obtain, roast, and mini mash before you add your sorghum syrup. This is the option we have been tempted to go with for our next gluten free home brew beer experiment.

Let’s use buckwheat as an example. Put the grains in a 350 to 400F  oven. It’s best to place them on a flat baking sheet. Stir them around every five minutes so they get evenly toasted. Make sure to keep a close eye on it. In twenty to thirty minutes you’ll have yourself some pale style, gluten free, and toasty grains.

After they’ve cooled off, put them in a small brown grocery bag to left them waft overnight. This lets some of the off-flavors out and keeps the good stuff in.

This is definitely more medium to intermediate brewing difficulty. It requires toasting preparation in the day or two ahead of the brew day.

How we really want to make our gluten free home brew beer

Usually we get our doing more jollies out by dry-mushrooming a beer (A Wee Heavy Chanterelle, Part 2) or making gruit from highly inebriating garden herbs (Do-it Gruit, Do-it Gruit Redux, Do-it Gruit Redux, Revisited), or some such wildness (The Green Man Cometh).

A long-term goal of our brewing is to find local sources of fermentable gluten free sugars. We are very place-focused. Wild-gathered or locally farmed are most ideal. Preferably ones that can be made to taste beery.

With barley, the sugar starts out as a starch, and through and enzymatic process, is converted into sugar. Basically, the seed is allowed to begin germination before it is roasted. If you think about it, it’s simply a matter of starting germination of a seed or nut. After that, give it a little roast. From this perspective, the possibilities of barley substitutes begins to seem limitless.

What grows around where you live?

One of the first things that sprouted to my mind were acorns! Acorns, also called oak nuts, have a long history as a food source. Most people who gather acorns nowadays are doing it to make flour. Native Americans had countless uses for products of the oak tree. Why not gather acorns it for the potential sugar?

We happen to be lucky enough to live in beautiful Oregon. The Oregon white oak produces acorns that I suspect would be perfect for a gluten free home brew beer.

Oregon white acorn, a potential source of sugar for gluten free home brew beer
Mature Oregon white oak acorn

And alas, somebody has already thought of this! This person was interested in sprouted acorns from an enhanced nutritional standpoint. Not specifically making alcohol from them.

This will be a great jumping off point for our next  gluten free home brew beer experiment. With any luck, we can find a few Oregon white oak trees that have sprouting acorns underneath them. Then we could make ourselves an acorn gluten free home brew beer sooner rather than later. Otherwise we’re waiting until autumn. That’s when the next crop drops.

Gluten free home brew beer conclusions

Why stop there? I know there are other sources of gluten free fermentable sugar out there. Some good brainstorming sessions with the brew crew ought to get us really thinking.

What grows in your area? Can it provide a fermentable source of gluten-free sugar? Hopefully, this blog post will inspire you!



Oregon White Oak, Garry Oak, is copyright © 2011 by Walter Siegmund and made available under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

If you’re interested in a wider range of gluten free home brew, besides just beer, check out our Easy Alcoholic Beverages: No-Boil Edition! zine. All the recipes in there are 100% gluten free.

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