After discovering that I had a pretty severe gluten intolerance six months ago I went into a little mini-depression on the realization this news meant that I could no longer safely consume one of the little indulgences that I enjoyed most in this world: wonderful, malty craft and home brews! In fact, when I learned my fate wrt gluten I had a nice lemon summer ale (aka a gluten bomb) in primary. Yikes..... (at least the guests will be taken care of for a while)
I spent a few weeks tasting all of the commercially-available gluten free brews I could find (Bards, Red Bridge, Greene's, St. Peter's). All of them were drinkable in my opinion (Bards and St. Peter's were my favs), but none really met what I preferred in a beer... plus I just wanted more control over the situation. I wanted the freedom that we have as homebrewers: consuming beer styles limited only to our imaginations!
So I took a dive into research mode... Gluten free brewing is obviously still in its infancy and it seemed everyone was focused on one grain: sorghum, but had the same complaints about beer made from it... that it had a bit of a funny citrus-ish aftertaste.
My first beer was purely sorghum-based and I thought it was certainly drinkable... but it had the telltale citrus-like aftertaste of sorghum and just didn't taste or seem that interesting to be honest. Over the coming few months I tried a few different types of homebrews sans gluten... all based on sorghum, but including different grains like Millet and Buckwheat. None really were even drinkable to be honest!...
Then from a google search I stumbled upon a a list of grains that also included other things like nuts and had a starch profile (and nutritional info) alongside in the same spreadsheet. I think it was used for substituting ingredients in baking, but I happened to glance at the line for chestnuts just below that of malted barley and - wallah - a similar makeup!
So I started mixing up google search terms to see if anyone (anywhere in the world) used chestnuts in beer brewing. I found chestnuts mixed in with barley in beers in france and brazil, which was encouraging, but it wasn't until I found an article by "bella online" about a little chestnut grower in the pacific northwest experimenting with chestnuts to make gluten-free beer (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art38250.asp
) that I started to really get excited. Although the article only included a base recipe to make mead, the grower's website included a rudimentary recipe for a base chestnut beer (http://www.chestnuttrails.com/pages/about-beer
Since reading that recipe I've made 4 beers from the chestnut chips Lee Williams sells at trail's end and 3 have far surpassed in beer-like flavor and quality any GF commercial beers I've had (one was too thin and bitter to keep ).
To date I've made an APA, IIPA, and have an American Cream Ale in primary as of this writing. I'm planning to try a lager next... and have chestnut chips on hand with variable toastings for several more batches of beer. I've used a little bit of sorghum and some corn sugar in all of my chestnut beers to increase gravity and I've put some other grains in to steep as well (namely buckwheat).
I will followup to this post in a few days with some rough recipes that I've used in the hopes that some more experienced brewers here can improve on them or work to make divergent styles. In the meantime I hope this long-winded post can help get some of you beer minds out there thinking about this new ingredient for beer making. I didn't want to lift info from Lee's website, so please go check that out (http://www.chestnuttrails.com/pages/about-beer
) and come back and tell us what you think.
Chestnuts are a bit expensive...... but for me to again have beers that taste like, well, beer they're a bargain.