Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Welcome!

Welcome to Brewing Beyond Barley!  If you are interested in delicious and adventurous craft-brewed beer that eschews such familiar grains as barley, wheat, and rye, you have come to the right place!

Here you will find a growing collection of reviews, interviews, tips, tricks, and techniques related to what is often called "gluten-free" brewing.  As a gluten-intolerant brewer myself, I try to avoid describing the beers I make and drink as "gluten-free", for while that label is useful for helping other gluten-intolerant folks find safe beverages, it says nothing about what the beverages are actually like.  Unlike in pizza dough or french bread, gluten contributes nothing to the quality and flavor of beer, and there is no limit to what can be achieved qualitatively or stylistically with non-glutenous brewing ingredients.  While it can certainly be argued that it is not possible to replicate the flavors of wheat, barley, and rye with non-glutenous grains, that does not mean that delicious, exciting, adventurous beers cannot be brewed with different grains.

Some grains, like corn, rice, sorghum, and millet, have rich histories in the traditional fermented beverages of non-Western cultures, and are ripe for cross-over into the Western brewing world.  Other non-grain ingredients, like buckwheat, sweet potato, various sugars, fruits, and even vegetables like carrots and beets, have much to offer in terms of exciting new flavors that can surprise even the most worldly of beer connoisseurs.

However, this can be a double-edged sword for inexperienced or traditional brewers, as tried-and-true barley-based techniques either fail catastrophically or achieve subpar results.  There is vast room for research and growth in this field—it is truly the bleeding-edge of brewing, free of guidelines, traditions, and expectations.  There is little to no institutional support, and very few commercial examples leading the way; even finding ingredient suppliers is often difficult for the homebrewer.  But the field is growing, and I predict that in the next decade we will see exponential growth in the quality and quantity of gluten-free beer, in both the homebrew world and the commercial brewing world.  Brewing Beyond Barley will be keeping tabs on these advances, and perhaps even bringing some of them about, so check back often!