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Old 08-14-2012, 02:55 AM   #1
jscottAT4
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Default What has your GF brewing experience been like so far?

Hey All,

I'm still fairly new to brewing, getting ready to transition from extract to AG. Recently, I have discovered I have quite a gluten intolerance (not to be confused with the full blown allergy). I would like to try GF brewing, more out of curiosity than necessity. Currently crawling through this sub-forum, soaking up what I can. I am curious as to what everyone's GF brewing experience has been like so far.

-Are there any special considerations for GF brewing? (specifically equipment)
-How successful vs unsuccessful have you been (how forgiving)?
-What would you consider the pros/cons vs traditional ingredients?
-How limited/unlimited would you consider GF brewing to be vs traditional?

As far as recommendations...
I really enjoy Heffs, Witbiers, anything Belgian, and anything with honey. I have a feeling this is going to be tricky for me. Anyone have any (easy) recipe recommendations I could get my feet wet with? Thanks in advance for your input, Cheers!

PS - if you know of any good GF brewing books or other online resources, please share. Currently looking at the wikin page.

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Old 08-14-2012, 04:14 AM   #2
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I have the fortune to be able to drink regular beer, but my wife was diagnosed celiacs last year, so as i have been learning to brew i have also been learning the gf side of things...

From learning of the celiacs and the gluten protein, pretty much all of our equipment is immune to what i would call cook-in, where the gluten will hide til reheated the excrete into the gf batch...

For ingredients its just keeping away from the normal barley/wheat, but you still have rice, corn, gf oats, nuts, sorghum etc... Its just matching the gf possibilities up to the taste you are shooting for...

Here is one i stumbled on... http://grantsglutenfreehomebrew.m.we...etwork=fw#0201

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Old 08-14-2012, 05:20 AM   #3
igliashon
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Welcome, jscott!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jscottAT4 View Post
I am curious as to what everyone's GF brewing experience has been like so far.

-Are there any special considerations for GF brewing? (specifically equipment)
-How successful vs unsuccessful have you been (how forgiving)?
-What would you consider the pros/cons vs traditional ingredients?
-How limited/unlimited would you consider GF brewing to be vs traditional?
-Special considerations: keep your GF ingredients and your barley/wheat ingredients separate. Wash your equipment thoroughly between uses. Pay special attention to cleaning things like grain and hop bags, if you use them.

-Difficulties unique to gluten-free brewing: lack of readily-available malted grains. Don't even THINK about trying to mash using only unmalted grains, nothing will happen and you'll end up with unfermentable starch-water. If you want to pursue all-grain gluten-free brewing, you are going to need to learn basically a TON of brewing science. If you're not fluent in enzymes, rests, the diastatic power and gelatinization temperatures of various grains, you've got at least a few weeks' worth of research papers to dig through before you fire up the kettle. Most of us mainly use extracts--some combo of sorghum, rice, corn, and tapioca, plus a variety of sugars (candi syrup, molasses, palm sugar, etc.) and honey. Steeping grains are helpful, but watch out when formulating recipes: most brew calculators expect you to be steeping with barley, and thus getting conversion, so they over-estimate the gravity contributions of unmalted gluten-free steeping grains. Typically steeping gluten-free grains adds flavor and some starch, not any sugar.

-General thoughts: so far the best successes I've had are with stouts, if you can believe it. My stouts do not taste gluten-free, they taste like real stouts. My IPAs and pale ales, though tasty in their own way, don't often fool people. Lighter blonde ales come out nice and refreshing. Generally-speaking, gluten-free beers are light in body; even my stouts are a bit lighter than a regular stout, which is usually a good thing--they're more drinkable and less bloaty. This is really only a problem in IPAs, where you need a firm malt base to balance the bitterness. The best solution I've found thus far is steeping some root vegetables, like carrots or sweet potatoes. They don't taste malty, but they do add some sugars and also seem to add some balance to bitter beers. The most difficult styles seem to be the ambers, browns, and reds...it's just hard to get any good nutty/bready flavors with common gluten-free ingredients. You'd need to do all-grain to really make it work.

Quote:
As far as recommendations...
I really enjoy Heffs, Witbiers, anything Belgian, and anything with honey. I have a feeling this is going to be tricky for me. Anyone have any (easy) recipe recommendations I could get my feet wet with? Thanks in advance for your input, Cheers!

PS - if you know of any good GF brewing books or other online resources, please share. Currently looking at the wikin page.
This is the best online resource. You will not find a larger number of experienced gluten-free brewers anywhere else on the web, period. Any question you have, if there is an answer to it, someone here knows it. Search around this forum, lots of material has been covered here. Take a day or two and just sift through it, looking for anything that catches your eye. I spent months reading the archives before I even joined.

Hefes, witbiers, and belgians are a little tricky if you're limited to dry yeasts; White Labs claims to be under 6 PPM gluten, but most of us here don't trust that and tend to either wash or step the liquid yeast up through a few generations. The only remotely belgian-like dry yeast is Safbrew T-58, and it's not a bad yeast, but it's nothing really to write home about. It's just difficult to get those banana or bubble-gum esters that are the hallmark of those styles. So if that's what you want to brew, you're gonna want to look into yeast washing (for which see the yeast forum here). Or just take the risk and see how it goes. Just make sure to make a proper starter, and all that good stuff. If you comb the board here, there are some good recipes for some wits.
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Old 08-14-2012, 05:46 AM   #4
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I think that Igliashon pretty much covered it all there.

Another downside is not only trying to recreate that nutty/sweet/malty flavor, but also dealing with low enzymes with our self-malted grains, which are made less optimal since we're limited in equipment, that and higher gelatinization temperatures which means more preplanning for mash methods. (Including variant decoction mashes).

You'll probably want to consider the gluten intolerance and it's severity. There are many who are intolerant but not allergic, but the issues that it causes are just as bad and cause long term damage since it causes constant irritation to various organs. Otherwise, I don't believe it's worth experimenting with, unless you're doing it for others. I'm gluten intolerant, it's still a necessity to avoid gluten or I'm incapacitated for a few weeks. When you deal with gluten free, you're really going to need to be careful not to cross contaminate batches. Some equipment can be cleaned fairly well, but there are some, especially when you start scaling up rigs that have hoses going several ways, that it's better to have dedicated equipment rather than share. The simple, smooth sided containers are better to use to avoid having crevices and connections that the gluten can linger in, even after washing.

Alternatively, it's possible that liquid batches dilute the gluten enough that it might not be such an issue in comparison to dry products where they can pick up higher concentration on one package vs another.

We're both limited, in that it's much harder to replicate traditional beers, but it's also easier since we have more freedom to experiment with odd ingredients without expectation to conform to a certain style. (Not in the sense of doing a peanut butter beer or somesuch, but a beer that is kind of like a witbier, without having certain qualities that would actually make it a witbier.)

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Old 08-14-2012, 01:41 PM   #5
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Everything that has been shared I agree with. If you want to use new equipment you can use food grade plastic and therefore not worry about any potential cross contamination. I have the traditional 5 gallon buckets, but I also use water cooler jugs and 1 gallon gatorade cartons (mainly for 1 gallon batches of mead).

To echo Igliagshon, my Dunkel and Doppelbock seem to be the most popular beers I have made with barley beer drinkers. While those aren't stouts, they are dark beers. IPAs are also good, and I prefer those actually. But yeah, the darker beers seem to apparently be more on target for "real" beer.

If you are going to use a hop bag I'd just get a new one and not reuse one that steeped in barley juice.

But to answer your subject line question: Fantastic! I finally found a hobby that I LOVE! I've only had to pour out 2 batches, and only one of those was a beer. The other was a hard cider with super yeast that didn't die when I pasteurized it and started blowing up bottles. Even that was a comical experience. All in all, I have really enjoyed gluten free brewing.

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Old 08-14-2012, 03:03 PM   #6
igliashon
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Yeah, I guess I should have added that for me, this is probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life. Gluten-free brewing is a huge challenge, and that's what makes it so rewarding--knowing we're all out there on the bleeding edge of brewing innovation, exploring a new frontier and restoring a real craft-beer experience to people who can't drink regular beer. In fact, it's been so rewarding that I'm now in the planning stages of opening a gluten-free microbrewery here in the SF Bay Area--I truly feel like I've found my calling in life. If I didn't have this gluten intolerance, there's no way I'd be thinking about opening a brewery, and I'm not sure I'd even be homebrewing, just because there's already so much good "regular" beer out there. So for me, it's almost been more of a blessing than a curse.

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Old 08-14-2012, 05:21 PM   #7
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That's awesome Igliashon--next time I'm in SF hopefully I can sample something!

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Old 08-15-2012, 03:35 AM   #8
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Everyone - thank you all for the great feedback and guidance! I am even more excited to start my GF brewing adventure

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Old 08-18-2012, 05:26 PM   #9
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There are some really awesome brewer's here that have passed on some great advice already, but you didn't mention your level of experience so I will chime in with a rookie brewer's experience.

Like igliashon, I considered brewing before I went GF, but it was just easier to run to the liquor store and buy six pack of local beer that I knew would be really good. That all changed when I found out about my gluten problem. The commercial stuff out there is just terrible.

Every single batch I have made (even the first batch I did where I was completely clueless being "helped" by an equally hapless friend) has been better than anything I have tried in the commercial marketplace.

In terms of how GF brewing differs from traditional I would say one hurdle I have found is styling. Some of my beers, although good, haven't come out the way I intended them. I could do myself a favor by more faithfully following other people's tried and true recipes rather than constantly branching out on my own, but what fun would that be?

If you are a new brewer check out this website for a great, free read on brewing:
http://www.howtobrew.com/

This recipe is simple and really good. It ended up coming out more like a pale ale than a lawnmower beer:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f164/rec...er-ale-330071/
I'll brew that one again, but I will move the aroma/flavor hops to later in the boil. Maybe 20 and 10.

And this one is not terribly complicated and has been my favorite so far. In fact, I have brewed it (with different variations) three times so far:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f164/gf-...le-ale-327787/

Good luck!

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Old 08-18-2012, 05:56 PM   #10
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You can use alpha enzyme to mash and convert just about anything. It will do as good a job as mashing with malted barley. It may have been mentioned, but I'll that unmalted grains will be harder to mill than malted ones and some of the alternative grains have very small kernels.

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