Last month, Jeff at Beervana wrote about his experience at Ground Breaker Brewing, a totally gluten-free brewery. Owner and head brewer James Neumeister uses sorghum, lentils, and toasted chestnuts in place of barley and wheat. It sounds like a weird mash, but as Jeff pointed out, “By sixteenth-century standards these ingredients would have been entirely normal.”
More important to me, Jeff says the beer tastes good. And unlike some gluten-free beers, they look and feel like normal beers. They roast and toast the nuts and lentils by hand to get exact flavors, just like malting. When you add it all together, I think Jeff’s right, Ground Breaker might be “the Most Interesting Brewery in Oregon.”
We’re sensitive to the needs of the gluten intolerant. Sarah and I haven’t eaten meat in almost a decade and – spurred by a lactose intolerant baby – have eaten an almost entirely vegan diet for the last three years. (Full disclosure: I got a whole milk latte by accident last week, and I drank it.) I hate it when people assume vegan food is gross, so I figured I owed Ground Breaker a try, if only to see what lentils do to a beer.
I defy you to find a problem with Ground Breaker’s Dark Ale. It’s their flagship for a reason. It’s dark, ruby edged and roasty.
I got a whiff of something odd on the nose, but it was quickly subsumed by a wave of black coffee.
The body is full and flavorful. The full mash includes belgian candi sugar, which must enhance the dry finish. I got a whiff of something odd on the nose, but it was quickly subsumed by a wave of black coffee. The beer has depth and would easily pass as a porter at any bar.
The IPA No. 5 on the other hand has a few more issues. The coppery color is a little dark, but it is crystalline. It’s hard to get a barley beer that clear. The hops are spot on. Citrusy Crystals are on full display, bright and fresh. The malty replacements come out more with every sip. The color says crystal malt, but it’s not quite sweet. And then there’s the lentils. Like I said, we’re vegan. We can taste lentils. There’s a savory flavor that’s off putting in a beer like this. The IPA is admirable, if flawed.
Would I drink Ground Breaker again? Sure. I would definitely suggest Ground Breaker to any friends going gluten-free. They make good beer, full stop. No need to qualify it.