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Old 02-12-2013, 01:14 AM   #1
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Default Ultimate GF Beer Quest

This will be my first foray into these forums, if successful, I hope to contribute more (assuming I have anything interesting to say) to this wonderful community. Inspired by an article in Zymurgy magazine claiming that "one should lower one's expectations" of what a gluten free beer should taste like, I accepted the challenge that not only was it possible to create a gluten free beer on par or better than a gluten containing beer, but that it could be done without either the use of artificial enzymes, syrups (of any kind), special additions (read: Clariferm) or specialty/pre-processed adjuncts (flaked maize, quinuoa etc). My ultimate goal is to produce a GF Beer under the exact same circumstances as one would produce an all grain brew, that, when tasted blind against barley or wheat based beers, will completely dominate. I realize that seems like a tall order, and I also realize that many people here have claimed to brew GF beer that tastes better than commercial. I want hard proof that it can be done, and as such will always be measuring anything I produce against some sort of barley based beer in the presence of trained experts. I have already started this process with less than successful results, but now that I have a few failures under my belt, I hope to chronicle my remaining adventure on this forum as an attempt to be honest and serious with myself about my goals in this adventure. A short entry to follow with where I've been so far and what I plan to do next.

Feel free to comment, post links, and even collaborate if you're interested, I'm doing this for science, and as such will never refuse any criticisms, help or advice

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Old 02-12-2013, 01:36 AM   #2
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I would agree with the article if it said "broaden your expectations" for gluten free beer. It is irrational to eat or drink something made from one ingredient and expect it to taste exactly like something made from a different ingredient. GF grains are different than barley or wheat or rye. That doesn't mean they aren't as good, but their flavor profile is different.

But anyways--that doesn't mean you can't make a great brew. Good luck!

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Old 02-12-2013, 07:41 AM   #3
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So are you planning a full all grain, self malted grain, decoction mash? Ale or lager? You mentioned that you will not be using any adjuncts, why is that? Adjuncts are as much a part of barley brewing as gluten-free brewing.

Could you post up the recipe, process and style you are planning? Also the competitive beer you are targeting. This way we can all have some understanding of your plan and perhaps provide some input.

Good luck, looking forwad to seeing the results!

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Old 02-12-2013, 03:01 PM   #4
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I'm not sure why you're so hung up on replicating the barley-brewing process. Have you looked at the chemistry aspects of brewing, like the diastatic power of grains, gelatinization temperatures, etc.? The only grain I'm aware of that has both the necessary diastatic power and a gelatinization temperature in normal mash range is malted oats, which are not available in gluten-free form anywhere, and which (according to what I've read) are dangerous to produce at home because of a toxic mold that can easily contaminate the oats during their germination phase. Some appear to have had limited success with malted buckwheat and malted millet using decoction mashes, but the efficiency seems to be quite a bit reduced from barley brewing...to say nothing of the taste. Bard's has done alright with malted sorghum, but I believe sorghum also requires a decoction mash due to a high gelatinization temperature, and it also appears to be difficult to find and malt at home (haven't heard any success stories with it yet, anyway).

Personally, I have the same goal of going head-to-head with barley beers and winning, but I intend to use every tool in the toolbox to get there. Even doing that, I'm not confident that I can do it for all beer styles, and have had the best success with dark beers. But hey, I'm only one bloke...if you stumble on the holy grail, please share the recipe!

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Old 02-12-2013, 03:29 PM   #5
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I haven't played with malting or mashing at all yet but before brewing anything I spent a lot of time reading whatever information I could find. There are a fair number of reports, scientific papers and methodologies out of Africa regarding the malting and use of Sorghum in beverage production. Many of those include estimates for potential diastatic power and gelatinization temperatures.

I'll go back through my notes and see if I still have the links for the papers I read.

I have attached a fun little paper here. Its a discussion of setting up a undergrad experiment to examine the amount of amylase activity in various common foods. The downside is that there are no defined numbers assigned to the diastatic power, but instead referential values. Still very interesting though.

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Old 02-13-2013, 09:27 PM   #6
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I'll breifly answer questions stated above, yes im planning on doing all grain, I'll decoct if I have to, I will be self malting all adjuncts (for lack of a better word and only if I deem malting necessary), using ale yeast for now, simply bc the ferments are quicker, bu that doesnt mean I won't ever experiment with Lager, as far as recipes go, right now I'm trying to build a coherent recipe from the ground up, with sound (although not necessarily rock solid) reasoning for every ingredient and proportions thereof. I probably will be pursueing in the direction of a Pale/Nut Brown ale, but for me its far too early to know for sure

I appreciate the comments and feedback so far, I'll give you a little background of where I'm coming from with this project and where I've been. To start, my goal is only to use adjuncts and grains whose only form of processing has been malting and kilning/roasting (or even unprocessed). Being in the industry, I've seen a lot of industry brewers use specialty products or adjuncts to brew thier Gluten-Free beers (Clariferm, Sorghum and Rice Syrups, Flaked adjuncts, artificial enzymes). With a background in food chemistry and microbiology, I beleive it is possible to achieve the exact same flavors as we would find in barley or wheat based beers. My primary goal is to come up with a blend of malted GF grains/seeds/nuts that, when combined, provide a nearly exact flavor profile to equivalent Barley-Based beers and be able to be brewed the same way as a barley-based beers. Living in the Corn growing regions of the US, I decided that field corn was a s good a place as any to start my tests. I malted approx 4lbs of Corn which turned into about 3.8lbs by the time I had dried and removed the rootlets. I let the acrospires grow about 1.5 inchs long, and then proceeded to dry them in my oven on low for 48hrs. Upon drying I did friability tests to determine if the malting had loosened up the otherwise notoriously hard corn kernel. It did. I could easily crush the malted and dried corn kernels with my thumbnail and index finger, and when chewed slowly acquired a sweet taste in my mouth. I also decided to kiln some lightly to reproduce an amber malt. It worked well, because when I bit into the resulting kernels they tasted mildly toasty. Impressed with my success so far I proceeded to mash a small portion of the grains to check for diastatic power, I ground some of the corn malt in a blender and mixed it with 150F water for about 1.5hrs, using a digitial brix reader, the beginning mash read 2.3 Plato, and the end read 12.1 Plato so there was definitly diastatic power in the corn, so I proceeded with a full scale (3gal) brew trial. Mashed for 2hrs, Sparge for 1hr (half the total preboil volume) and boiled for 1.5hrs. I let it cool outside for 8hrs covered (it was winter) and racked into primary with GF dry yeast. It fermented quite happily but upon taste inspection the beer proved to be too thin (for my tastes) and had just a faint hint of cooked veg from the DMS as well as a mild cidery taste, it did however have a very sexy rubyish auburn color, and was as clear as filtered beer. Upon furthur research I discovered two main things about corn related to its status as a potential Malt for brewing:

1.) Corn malt contains far less FAN (free amino Nitrogen) than do any of the traditional brewing grains, this translates to two problems: one is that the yeast need FAN to complete fermentation in full, the cidery (aceteldahyde) taste comes from the yeast simply not having enough FAN to build the proteins required for fermentation to finish, since aceteldahyde is an intermediate in the fermentation of sugar into alcohol via the Embden-Meyerhoff pathway. The other problem is that since there is limited FAN, the diastatic power (enzymes) for Corn have proclivities for producing highly fermentable sugars, which is great for alcohol production, but not good for body and flavor.
2.) DMS is also found in much higher proportions in corn than other grains, and as such lends more cooked vegetable flavor and aroma to it than would a barley based beer, while it is driven off by heat, if in sufficient quantities and not accounted for during kilning, mashing or boiling or cooling it will almost certainly wind up in the finished product

In short, I beleive that corn will be a suitable GF malt for GF brewing only if it is combined with other malts that make up for Corn's deficiencies in diastatic power and free amino nitrogen. From here I will start experimenting with Chestnuts, and will have a post coming up on why very soon. In the meantime, please keep up the feedback and please feel free to correct me if you beleive anything I am saying is incorrect, more importantly, if you feel the need to reproduce anything I'm doing, or have any questions, feel free to ask

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Old 02-13-2013, 11:09 PM   #7
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So, what do you know about food chemistry that makes you so confident that the exact same flavors as wheat and barley can be achieved with gluten-free grains? I don't have a background in food chemistry, but it seems like an exact replication would be quite difficult, if not impossible.

Also, how much time have you spent reviewing the existing literature? There have been several papers written about the suitability of various malted grains for producing beer, including optimized malting and mashing procedures for them to achieve maximum extract potential. I strongly suggest doing your "further research" before conducting more of your own trials...you might save a lot of time and money that way! Goodness knows I could have saved myself some trouble in the past by doing my homework....

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Old 02-14-2013, 05:58 PM   #8
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I've long believed that there is a combination of GF grains that would get you closer than any single grain could. This is how it works with GF baking.

I've recently made my best, light GF beer to date. I wanted to play with my new johnson controller and some enzymes. I popped 2lbs of popcon in an air popper, put it into a slow cooker w/ 3qts of water (I think), added enzymes and used the controller to hold the mask temp for a couple hours. I then removed the popcorn and used the wort in my 3 gallon recipe w/ sorghum syrup.

It's only my first attempt at this recipe, but I like it enough that it is worth repeating. It seemed to lessen the 100% sorghum twang. Maybe the corn flavor was sweet enough to add balance, where rice syrup had failed. Or maybe I just had a better ratio than I used in my sorghum and brown rice syrup batches.

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Old 02-14-2013, 08:05 PM   #9
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I don't mean to sound trollish here or anything, but I honestly don't believe you can make a GF beer that tastes exactly like a barley or wheat based beer. Can you -make a GF beer that tastes really good? I'm sure you can. Can you make a GF beer that tastes better than a wheat or barley based beer? hey I don't think I've had a beer thats worse than Schlitz or Steel Reserve so I think you've got a chance Seriously though, this thread just reminded me of the time a vegan told me "you won't even be able to tell these ribs aren't pork!" you can probably guess how they tasted.. any who, I wish you luck in your brewing adventures; ignore anything you find to be unhelpful.

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Old 02-14-2013, 09:39 PM   #10
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I don't think you are being a 'Troll' but I do think you are being rude. Those people live that way by choice. We don't. We are just trying to make best of a bad situation. I have made beers that taste very similar to barley based beers and actually taste better. Although just because a beer is not made from barley, doesn't mean it is not a beer. Africans have made beer from Sorghum for centuries. The Chinese have probably made it from Buckwheat for centuries. Even your Mister Washington I believe made it from corn? So you see calling something a beer does not mean it has to be made exclusively from barley, wheat or rye. But saying it is not a beer because it is not made from those ingredients, and saying it would not be very good is very closed minded. I only ask that if you are going to comment in this forum, that it be productive, not insulting.

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