The best gluten-free beers: tasted and rated

Susanna Forbes

Susanna Forbes

12 October 2017

This issue, Imbibe told you how and why to improve your gluten-free beer offering. We've even gone and tasted a load of them to help get you started


How it works

A selection of leading gluten-free beers available in the UK were invited in, assessed, and scored, with the totals normalised out of 100.

Panel

Susanna Forbes, Imbibe
Cathy Holmes, Hereford Coeliac Society
Alan Holmes, Hereford Coeliac Society
Jonny Bright, Hereford Beer House

90 Brunehaut, Blanche, 5.5%
‘It’s zesty, peppery, spicy, earthy and fresh on the nose,’ said JB, adding: ‘Light and refreshing. A good interpretation of the style.’ ‘Really lovely,’ said CH. ‘Very moreish,’ said AH.
POA/12x33cl; Beers of Europe, 01553 812000

88 Brewdog, Vagabond, 4.5%
Great aromas – ‘a New World cocktail,’ according to SF – this is balanced with depth.
POA/24x33cl; Matthew Clark, 0344 822 3910; Venus, 020 8801 0011; BrewDog, customersales@brewdog.com

88 Ridgeway, Oxfordshire Blue, 5%
Lovely depth and flavour, beautiful length, with excellent tropical/green hop notes. ‘Nice aftertaste,’ said CH. ‘Left me wanting more.’
POA/12x50cl; Cotswold Fayre, 0345 260 6060; Best of British Beer, 01782 617000; Beers of Europe, 01553 812000

86 To øl, Reparationsbajer, 5.3%
‘Great hoppy aroma, big malt and hop character on the palate. Bitter and bold,’ said JB.
£56.16/24x33cl; Beer Hawk Trade, 01423 226514

85 Chiltern Brewery, John Hampden’s Golden Harvest Ale, 4.8%
Amber in colour, with caramel mousse aromas, good depth and rich-tea-biscuity flavours. ‘This is very moreish,’ said SF.
£19.97/12x50cl; Chiltern Brewery, 01296 613647

85 Chiltern Brewery, Three Hundreds,
Dark Old Ale, 5%. Rich malt notes and roast chestnuts characterise this food-friendly ale.
£20.31/12x50cl; Chiltern Brewery, 01296 613647

85 Damm, Daura Marzen, 7.2%
With its big malt character plus plenty of sweetness and body, JB felt this was stylistically sound, while CH and AH appreciated the flavours and great depth.
POA/12x33cl; Beers of Europe, 01553 812000

85 Westerham, Double Stout, 5.1%
A toasty number with complex aromas of roasted grains, coffee, nuts and chocolate. ‘Great aftertaste – very deep,’ said CH.
£19.48/12x50cl; Westerham Brewery, 01732 864227

85 Wold Top, Marmalade Porter, 5%
Great depth of flavour with big roast notes, good flavours on the palate and a long finish. AH loved the colour, head and aromas, while JB felt it was ‘stylistically on point’.
POA/12x50cl; Beers of Europe, 01553 812000

84 Mikkeller, Sally Monroe, 3.5%
Lovely session number, with piney, exotic notes. Works well with light, spiced food. ‘Light aftertaste leaves me wanting more,’ said CH.
£50/24x33cl; The Bottle Shop, 020 3490 9252

83 Greens, Grand India Pale Ale, 5%
A high scorer for half the panel, but it was said to be too hoppy for the others. ‘There’s an exciting hop explosion to this, followed by an exotic finish,’ said SF.
£19.80/12x33cl; Greens Brewery, 0161 456 4226

83 Westerham, Scotney Bitter, 4.3%
Great amber colours, with good depth of body. ‘Light, bready, sourdough-like aroma, with some caramel. A solid bitter,’ said Bright.
£17.43/12x50cl; Westerham Brewery, 01732 864227

81 Mikkeller, Peter, Paul & Mary, 4.6%
Good bitterness on the finish, and typically hop-forward – well, this is Mikkeller! ‘It’s a good example of a craft/US-style pale ale,’ said JB. ‘There’s quite a tangy aftertaste to this,’ added CH.
£59/24x33cl; The Bottle Shop, 020 3490 9252

81 Ridgeway, IPA, 5.5%
Plenty of malty depth, with pine notes on the palate. ‘Balanced with lasting bitterness,’ said JB.
POA/12x50cl; Cotswold Fayre, 0345 260 6060; Best of British Beer, 01782 617000; Beers of Europe, 01553 812000

80 Mongozo, Premium Pilsner, 5%
Rice additions makes the palate lighter. Well-balanced. One to ‘sip in the garden’, said CH.
£30.21/24x33cl, Cave Direct, 01622 710339

79 Celia, Organic Celia, 4.5%
With biscuit notes and a hint of green, according to CH, ‘This is very refreshing. Its lightness of touch leaves me wanting more.’
POA/12x33cl; Carlsberg, 0800 027 4144; Nectar, 01747 827030; Pig’s Ears Beer, 01306 627779

79 Westerham, Bohemian Rhapsody, 5%
English malt gives this ‘oomph’, said JB, praising the beer’s ‘good flavour and body’. Food friendly.
£30/24x33cl; Westerham Brewery, 01732 864227

78 Bellfield Brewing, Lawless IPA, 4.5%
Green-tinged hop aromas, with good malt/hop balance. ‘Subtle, pleasant finish,’ said CH.
POA/12x33cl; Matthew Clark, 0344 822 3910; Vivas Wines, 01494 555900; Pig’s Ears Beer, 01306 627779

77 Bellfield Brewing, Bohemian Pilsner, 4.5%
Light and drinkable. ‘A good interpretation of the style,’ said JB.
POA/12x33cl; Matthew Clark, 0344 822 3910; Vivas Wines, 01494 555 900; Pig’s Ears Beer, 01306 627779

75 Daas, Blond, 8.5%
A panel splitter, with some appreciating gentle aromas and hints of spice, and others feeling it fell wide of the Belgian-style mark.
£35.76/24x33cl; Vintage Roots, 0118 932 6566

75 Peroni, Gluten-free, 5.1%
Launched in 2017, light on the nose, with pleasant rich tea biscuit notes. ‘Well balanced with a clean finish. Tastes like Peroni,’ said JB.
POA/24x33cl; Asahi UK, 01483 718100

73 Ridgeway, Bitter, 4%
A well-judged, balanced food-friendly bitter, with biscuity notes and a lengthy finish.
POA/12x50cl; Cotswold Fayre, 0345 260 6060; Best of British Beer, 01782 617000; Beers of Europe, 01553 812000

71 Magic Rock, Fantasma, 6.5%
Intense hops split the panel, with both the highest – and lowest – scores of the tasting. While AH felt this was ‘uncompromising’, JB said: ‘So interesting. A great Citra IPA. This is stylistically spot-on.’
POA/24x50cl can; Magic Rock Brewery, 01484 649823

70 St Peter’s, Dark G-Free, 3.9%
Light chocolate aromas. ‘Good flavour, with nice, bitter aftertaste,’ thought AH.
POA/12x50cl; St Peter’s Brewery, 01986 782322


Conclusions

  • It was a high rating tasting, with an average score (excluding the beer with no GF indications) of 78
  • The panel was impressed by the quality and consistency
  • It was good to see the variety of gluten-free styles on offer
  • This category is no longer just the preserve of pale ales and lagers
  • A few hoppier beers split the panel

Many thanks to Jonny Bright and the Hereford Beer House for hosting our gluten-free beer tasting and for the time of all the judges.

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