This year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver saw a record number of entries in the gluten-free beer category, with several fresh faces and a perennial favorite atop the list.
Though the world’s largest commercial beer competition in the world is now in its 37th year, the Gluten-Free Beer category was added only in 2007, when there were only eight entries. For the 2018 event, 38 gluten-free beers were considered by the judging panel. Here are the three award winners:
High Hops Brewery’s Puckerberry Ale
A first-time category winner, High Hops Brewery impressed the judges with a kettle-styled Gose.made with millet and buckwheat. The addition of blackberries imparts the beer with a slight tartness. Head brewer Zach Weakland created Puckerberry Ale so that his wife and mother-in-law, who are gluten intolerant, could enjoy gluten-free beer.
While the 6-year-old High Hops also produces traditional beers on the same lines and equipment, a special rinse and wash is used before production of Puckerberry Ale. In addition, the grains are milled off site at a gluten-free malt house.
Puckerberry Ale currently is available at the brewery’s taproom, located about an hour north of Denver, and at several bars throughout Colorado, but Weakland is planning on packaging it for wider distribution.
Aurochs Brewing Company’s Blonde Ale
Another newcomer, Aurochs Brewing, took second place for its light and citrusy Blonde Ale. Brewed with millet and quinoa, the beer has tropical notes of melon, banana, papaya, pineapple and lemon.
Aurochs is an all-gluten-free brewery founded by two longtime friends, Doug Foster and Ryan Bove, who are on medically necessary gluten-free diets. Their Pittsburgh-area taproom offers Blonde Ale along with several other beer styles. Bottled versions of the Blonde Ale are sold through Western and Eastern Pennsylvania.
Ground Breaker Brewing’s Dark Ale
For their Dark Ale, Ground Breaker’s brewmasters use espresso-like roasted chestnuts and lentils along with Belgian-style candi for a roasty flavor and aroma with notes of chocolate and dark fruits. This is the seventh consecutive year that Ground Breaker has medaled at the Festival, though its first two awards came under its former name, Harvester Brewing. The Dark Ale was awarded a gold medal at the GABF in 2016 and 2017.
Ground Breaker offers its beers at the Portland gastropub next to its brewery on an all-gluten-free menu that features the likes of pizza, smoked brisket sandwiches and cashew custard pie. Outside of Oregon, Ground Breaker beers are distributed elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest as well as in New England, California and western Canada. The Dark Ale and other varieties are
also sold online through Bring on the Beer to residents of 33 states and the District of Columbia.
The festival’s Gluten-Free Beer category includes only beers made from fermentable sugars, grains and converted carbohydrates. Gluten-reduced beers are not considered part of this grouping because their gluten levels – derived from malted barley – have been reduced by enzymes or other processes.
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