Rickoli Brewery: Brewing DELICIOUS Gluten-Reduced Beer

Brewery Rickoli On TapWhen was the last time you enjoyed a really GREAT beer? In fact, when was the last time you had YOUR CHOICE of several great beers??? Ever? Since before you were diagnosed with Celiac, or gluten-intolerance, or a gluten-allergy? For me it’s been 16 years…. Yes, 16 years of being in a gluten-free beer desert.

Now there have been tiny oases over the years…Harvester Brewing in Portland OR, comes to mind- they are brewing quite possibly the best gluten free (meaning brewed with gluten free grains) beer in the country. (They ship outside of Portland, and if you want a treat- I highly recommend their St. Denny Dubbel) Then there’s New Planet Beer in Boulder- also using gluten free grains and I can buy them at my neighborhood liquor store. They sell a fantastic Raspberry that’s perfect for our hot, humid summers, and a Brown that is out of this world. They rock the Brown..

Brewery Rickoli What's On TapThen there’s Brewery Rickoli, a nano-brewery located in Wheatridge, Colorado, which has been on my radar for about a year. My friend Elke sent me a link to their website exited that they were brewing ALL their beers with the gluten-reducing enzyme Clarex (Clarity Ferm). Originally used to stabilize beers and prevent chill-haze, it turns out the secondary application is denaturing the gluten molecule in a way that the beers are consumable by many celiacs and test- with current testing methods- at less than 20ppm. However, this process is not without controversy. Very heated controversy.

Check out the links above here and read about it yourself if you don’t believe me. In a nutshell the ‘gluten-free grain’ brewers claim their products are better and safer for celiacs than the ‘gluten-reduced’ brewers. The ‘gluten-reduced’ brewers respond that you just don’t get great beer flavor without barley. I think they’re both right. I mean- where’s the ‘gluten-free grain’ Guinness equivalent? Or the whiskey barrel aged stout? The Vanilla Porter? Right now the ‘gluten-free grain brewers’ haven’t figured it out. And thankfully, there are more traditional brewers who are realizing every day that adding an enzyme to bust up a gluten molecule doesn’t hurt the quality of the beer, and gains them entry into a previously closed market.

I do appreciate that for now the FDA and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) are very clear on differentiating between ‘gluten-free’ and ‘gluten-reduced’. I want to know exactly what’s going in my body. Anecdotally, some folks have had no problems with ‘gluten-reduced’ and others have. If it’s labeled clearly, then you get to decide. Ultimately, I think the market will support good taste- for the same reason craft beer sales have been skyrocketing and Budweiser sales have been slipping. Everyone loves a good story, and everyone loves a good locally produced hand-crafted beer. Which brings me back to Rickoli..

Brewery Rickoli SamplesThese guys make some seriously good beer. And so much of it, that I was informed if I ordered a tasting portion of everything they had on tap that I would be consuming over 93oz of beer!! (That’s well over a 6pack for those of you interested in the math) However, Brewmaster Rick Abitbol was happy to pour me tiny sips so that I could at least taste most of what was on tap when we visited.

In some ways, I was like a kid in a candy shop. When you have that much selection, you don’t know where to start. Like wine tasting, I decided to start at the light end and work my way up. Really it’s all great, and if there’s a specific style of beer you love, Rickoli is sure to either have it on tap or be brewing it soon. Their line-up is constantly changing- all the more reason to make this a regular hang-out if you live in the Denver Metro Area. Plus, Rick is just so darned cool and knowledgeable!

Of special note the day we were there was the Double Cream Ale- a rich, creamy ale with a whopping 8.6%ABV, The Social Lubricant Scotch Ale 8%ABV..it’s so good even the shyest among you will start chatting with your neighbor! The Elke Brown- named after my good friend Elke, and while I loved so many, this was the one I purchased a growler of to take on the road.

A Taste of HeavenAnd now- let’s talk Stout..

To me this is the Holy Grail of Gluten-Free/Reduced beers. For 16 years I have been crying for a stout that wouldn’t wreck my insides. When the time finally came to try the stouts I was actually a little…nervous…  Like going to a High School Reunion (which I have successfully avoided for 20-something years) nervous. Or meeting your college sweetheart years later…Would I still like stout? What if I’d been waiting for this magic experience for 16 years and it turned out I didn’t even like stout anymore? I was worried my tastebuds had changed…

So what was it like? Unexpected. Rich. Different…Delicious.

We were lucky enough to be at the brewery the weekend they were tapping 3 versions of their Monolith- an American Imperial Stout. On tap that day was the traditional Monolith, Monolith aged in locally produced merlot barrels, and Monolith aged in bourbon barrels.

Brewery Rickoli MonolithThe Merlot Monolith was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. One doesn’t usually consider two-fisting dark beer and red wine. First off, you could really taste the merlot in the beer. Second- it rounded out and added a mildly fruity note to the beer. It was creative, definitely unexpected, and really good!

My favorite had to be the bourbon barrel aged Monolith. For years, I have inhaled the tantalizing aroma of Mr. Kitchen Diva’s bourbon barrel stouts from places like Goose Island & Stone Brewing. The idea of getting to drink one made me positively giddy. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, yes. What was interesting to me was that my overall impression was that it was delicious, and far richer than I had remembered. I think my tastebuds have definitely suffered during the 16 year drought. I didn’t have much because I felt like I could easily overwhelm my body. I recommend enjoying it in small amounts if it’s been awhile since you’ve had a thick, rich, beer.

Infinitus PieSince Rickoli is so small, they don’t have much food on hand to accompany their beers. They have hummus & veggie cups for the gluten free, and a few gluten-bombs for those who prefer. However..they do allow you to bring in your own food, and there just happens to be a pizza joint (Infinitus Piewith quite possibly some of the cleverest graphic design I’ve seen for a pizza company)around the corner that makes a really good gluten free pizza crust. And they deliver.. Did I mention they were delicious??

Lastly, Rick mentioned that Rickoli is hoping to get bottling capacity soon… and while I recognize it may still be some time before those bottles make their way to Kansas City, one can always hope!

Brunehaut Gluten Free Beer

Brunehaut Gluten Free BeerHappy Friday!  Do I have a treat for you today! I was fortunate enough to receive a few samples of an outstanding de-glutenized barley beer from Belgium, called Brunehaut.  For those of you who are beer aficionados, you know that Belgian beer is the standard bearer for high quality, sophisticated, subtle flavor. Of course, this might have something to do with the fact that they have a 1000+ year history of brewing beer! For years I have listened to Mr. Kitchen Diva wax rhapsodic about the finer qualities of the Belgian beers he loves to enjoy, while I sat crying into my weak, sorghum based lager. But, beggars can’t be choosers, and on a 106 degree day in July, any beer after a workout is a good one. But, now I get to be a chooser too! The gluten-free craft beer market is really exploding, and Brunehaut gluten free beer is a great-tasting addition. In fact, if I could get it where I lived, it would be at the top of my list. It should be at the top of yours too-especially if you appreciate Belgian Beer.

Brunehaut is a tiny little village in Belgium, just north of the French border. The history of the region is fascinating. It’s in one of those locations where the border tended to switch with some frequency. It wasn’t uncommon for residents during the middle ages and later to wake up one morning and find themselves living in a new country! In spite of the border changes, the local monastery managed to brew beer pretty continuously from about 1096 AD- plenty of time to get things right. Brunehaut Brewery has been in existence since 1890.

Brunehaut Gluten Free BeerWhat is so amazing about this beer is that it’s made with de-glutenized barley. A process which I am looking forward to learning about this spring when The Adventuresome Kitchen hits the road again- this time to France and Flanders! What’s exciting is that both the Brunehaut Amber and the Blonde are tested at less than 5ppm. To provide a point of reference, EU guidelines for gluten-free labeling have been set at 20ppm. Most companies though, are shooting for much less than that. You can safely drink both Brunehaut beers (Amber & Blonde). Now, here in the US, because the FDA has yet to set a standard for Gluten-Free labeling, Brunehaut is not labeled as gluten-free. But it is, and believe me- there is a big difference between de-glutenized barley based beer and other gluten-free beers. To my tastebuds it is a richer, deeper flavor.

The Amber paired beautifully with a block of Comte we had. And the blonde tasted very delicious with pizza and chile. What makes me so happy about discovering Brunehaut gluten free beer is that there are really some wonderful choices for gluten-free beer drinkers now. And while there is still no gluten free porter or stout on the market, I have no doubt that day will come.

If you’re lucky enough to live out West, along the Eastern Seaboard, the Upper Midwest, and the Ohio River Valley- this is your happy weekend- you can probably find Brunehaut right now on the shelves of your local liquor store. Check with your local distributor, as Brunehaut is distributing in 33 states!

May you all have a safe and enjoyable weekend, and consider Brunehaut gluten free beer for your next gluten-free beer run!

Ground Breaker Brewing

** Harvester Brewing Company is now Ground Breaker Brewing! Still the same fabulous beer though! They just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign so look for their beer to appear in cans soon!

Happy Friday fellow Foodies! Thanks to my friend Tana Fryer- proprietor of an awesome new joint in Tuscon called Blu-a Wine & Cheese Stop– for introducing me to what is quite possibly the best gluten free beer anywhere.

Harvester Brewing Company– a dedicated GF craft beer company in Portland Oregon (how come Portland has all the best beer?) is setting the GF Beer-world on fire. I tend to  be pretty skeptical of GF Beers. Before being diagnosed with celiac I was a craft-beer drinker who especially appreciated a good, thick, creamy dark beer. Stouts, Porters- you name it. I am desperately waiting for some brewing genius to come up with a GF Oatmeal Stout that will make my dreams come true. Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet. And in the meantime, I will have to comfort myself with the fabulous beer that is being produced by Harvester Brewing.

Since I don’t live in Portland, the only way I can get this beer is via mail at Let’s Pour. (click on the link and then search for ‘Harvester Brewing’) And so in the spirit of Adventure, I took the plunge and ordered a couple of bottles of each beer they offer.

I have to say- shipping was almost as much as the beer itself- but was it ever worth it.

Here’s a brief rundown of what I got in the mail:

Harvest Brewing Experimental Ale

Harvester Brewing Experimental Ale

This Experimental Ale was a fall seasonal produced with squash and spices. Of all their beers, this was one of my favorites. I don’t know if I got a bottle from the first batch, or the second, stronger batch-but either way, it was great, and it worked beautifully with our family favorite Vegan Chile. I found the flavor to be smooth, and the squash and spices subtle.

Harvester Brewing Pale Ale

Harvester Brewing Pale Ale

This was perhaps the biggest surprise for me. Unless it’s the middle of a God-Awful Sticky Kansas City Summer, I tend not to gravitate towards Pale Ale. Even then, my taste lies more in the Raspberry Ale land- like the one New Planet Beer makes. But this…. This pale ale was a delightful surprise. It’s not sour or overly hoppy. It’s light, balanced, and has a faint hit of citrus. I found myself gravitating to this repeatedly, and really enjoyed it- with or without food accompaniment.

Harvester Brewing Red Ale

Harvester Brewing Red Ale

It’s been ages since I’ve been able to enjoy a good Red Ale. I tend to gravitate to the more malty less hoppy beers, and no one in the GF Beer World has successfully managed to come up with a full-bodied Red Ale. Congrats to Harvesters for pulling this off.

Harvester Brewing Dark Ale

Harvester Brewing Dark Ale

Can I just start out by saying this beer pairs perfectly with a brick of Comté?!? It was so good in fact, that neither cheese nor beer lasted long.

I was initially surprised at how light the beer was in terms of mouth-feel. To me it’s reminiscent of the German Black-Beers. There is a definite toast that comes across in the flavor that I really appreciate.

One of the things I admire and respect most about Harvester Brewing is their dedication to locally sourcing ingredients. In this era of factory farming, I firmly believe that local/regional sourcing helps rebuild, preserve and maintain our local economies.

But what’s a celiac to do when your local economy (like mine) has no immediate plans or desire to hatch a GF Brewery? Well, fling your net far and wide, and support those who support a local economy somewhere.

My hat goes off to the Brewmasters at Harvester Brewing. You are doing incredible, innovative work, and bringing hopes of decent beer to celiacs everywhere. Just please, please, please- consider distributing beyond the boundaries of the Pacific Northwest? Pretty Please? I know some great shops in Kansas City who will happily carry your beer!

For those of you who are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest- run- do not walk- to your nearest vendor and support these folks. For the record- Mr. Kitchen Diva, who can consume gluten at will, enjoyed these beers as much as I did.

In closing, I have one request for you folks at Harvesters- How about a Stout? Porter? Milk Stout, Coffee Stout, Chocolate Stout, Imperial Stout? Bourbon barrel aged Stout? If anyone can create something like this, I have faith it will be you!

Thanks for the great beer and keep brewing!

Peach Tart and Deep Fried Chicken (gluten free)

Summer is finally here. Officially, that is. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, it’s felt like it for weeks, but now that it’s official, I feel I can unabashedly enjoy all of my favorite summer fare. For me that entails much more finger food: fruits that I normally don’t enjoy in the winter like grapes, berries, melons, and of course peaches. Is your mouth watering yet? How about fresh fried chicken, brats on the grill, grilled veggies, corn on the cob and shish kebobs? I find I slow down too. Not in the hibernating, bury yourself in a comforter and hole up until the first light of spring way, but in the sitting on the back stoop, drinking a cool beer (gluten-free in my case), sipping a sangria or an iced-tea, not wanting to move until the fireflies have finished their nightly romp, kind of way. Of course, my children are there at the ready to remind me that they do indeed have to eat. So I spend my days multitasking; hopping from work at the kitchen table, to parenting in the living room, to stirring up something at the stove. Making my rounds so that I can enjoy the twilight, the fireflies, and the company of whomever has popped over.

Last weekend we indulged in one of our yearly summer rituals- a picnic blanket dinner at our local Shakespeare festival. And of course, since it’s a festival, it calls for festive fare. Try a gluten free peach tart and fried chicken with potato salad served up with a chilled not-sweet rosé. Ultimate picnic indeed.  Below you’ll find a lovely and quite simple recipe for a maple glazed peach tart- made gluten free by using the proper crust.- and quick instructions on how to make a delicious deep fried chicken. It’s really quite easy and will give the ole’ Colonel a run for his money. A gluten-free picnic fit for a king- Richard III that is.

Maple Glazed Peach Tart      

makes one 8-9 inch tart

Ingredients

Gluten Free or regular pie crust

4 ripe peaches

4 tbs granulated sugar

4-5 tbs maple syrup

2 tbs butter

Directions

Prepare pie crust and turn onto a tart pan, crimping the edges as you like. (A tart pan has straight sides, whereas a pie pan has sides that lean outward. If you don’t own a tart pan, you could use a cake pan and even the pie pan.)

Prebake shell at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Since my last post about this crust, I’ve found when pre-baking that I prefer to grease a large piece of parchment, placing the greased side against the pie crust, and then filling the pan with uncooked beans. This makes for less sticking and a crust with sides less prone to collapse.

Partially pull out oven rack, leaving the crust still in the oven. Gather the corners of the parchment together and remove paper and uncooked beans to a nearby bowl to cook. Prick bottom of crust with a fork, and if the top part of crust is browning too quickly, cover with a ring of aluminum or a pie-crust ringfound at your local cooking store. Return crust to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, re-pricking bottom if crust begins to balloon. Crust will be ready to remove when it begins to look a bit dry and paper-y.

Allow to cool for a minimum of 15 minutes before continuing. When crust has cooled (at least partially) sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the bottom of the crust. Then, working quickly, but safely, slice peach in half longitudinally, and remove the pit. Then slice into thin strips about 1/4 inch thick. These will inevitably vary in size. This is fine, we’re going for a ball-park here, not perfection. Begin to layer by placing one slice on the outside of the crust with one end touching the side. Place slices in a ring along the outside, just overlapping. Look at the picture if you need help visualizing this part. Keep halving and slicing peaches until you’ve completed the first outside ring. Pick a starting place for the center ring, doing the same thing, and working to keep the peach points as close to the center as possible. One helpful trick is to choose peaches that are of similar size. Placing the peach slices can be more challenging when the slices are vastly different lengths.  

When the crust is filled, brush 2-3 tbs of maple syrup over the peaches, allowing the syrup to get into the little nooks and crannies. Sprinkle remaining sugar over the top and dot with pea-sized slices of the butter. Place in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Peaches should still retain their color and the juices should be starting to bubble. Remove from oven and brush with remaining maple syrup. You may have syrup left in your measuring cup- that’s ok- use what you like. The glaze is to keep the tart looking pretty and to enhance the flavor of the peaches. Allow to cool thoroughly before enjoying. You could serve this with whipped cream or ice-cream. We were at a picnic and didn’t have that option and it tasted heavenly just by itself.

Deep Fried Chicken

serves as many as you like

Ingredients

2 pints-1/2 gallon buttermilk, depending on how much chicken you are frying.

4-8 cups of flour, we used 1/2 sorghum 1/2 corn flour

Louisiana hot sauce or worcester (optional)

Salt, pepper, and other seasonings we added jerk seasoning to our mix

2 lbs vegetable shortening

Directions  

Place chicken pieces in a bowl and thoroughly cover with buttermilk. For a little extra zest, mix in 2-4 tablespoons of hot sauce or other spices you enjoy.  Allow to soak anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. The buttermilk is a flavor enhancer as well as a meat tenderizer, so the longer the chicken soaks, the more tender the meat will be.

In a bowl place 2 cups of flour (1 cup of sorghum, 1 cup of corn flour or corn meal), salt and pepper to taste and any additional spices you enjoy. Do the pinky test to make sure the flavor is where you like it (lick your pinky, dip and lick again. Of course the more sanitary way is to do this with a spoon, but given you’ll be frying at 350 degrees, what goobies if any that are on your pinky will be killed at first contact with the oil.)Some people say it’s a waste of spices to flavor the flour and that you should season the meat directly. This is entirely up to you. Each way affords a slightly different flavor experience.

Set up a dredging/draining area by putting a cooling rack over a cookie sheet next to the dredging bowl, and on the other side of your deep fry pan, placing an additional cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Once you’ve dredged the meat should rest about 2 minutes before going into the hot grease. This helps the coating to adhere more tightly to the meat. Only when you’re ready to go, place the shortening in a deep sided fryer- I use my trusty Deep Sided Cast Iron Fryer for this- and turn the heat on to medium-high. To ensure even cooking, keep a candy or meat thermometer in the oil at all times.

While the oil is melting remove a piece of chicken from the buttermilk, give it a good shake, and then dredge in the flour, thoroughly covering the whole piece of meat. Give another good shake and place on the cooling rack next to the dredging flour. Repeat this with 2-3 more pieces. Your oil should now be nearing 350 degrees. Once it hits that temperature, with tongs (to protect your hands) gently place pieces in the hot oil, towards the side of the pan. Do not cook more than 3-4 pieces at once. You should see the oil temperature drop on your thermometer, and over the next several minutes climb back up. Note: Don’t let the temperature get above 365-370. The oil begins to break down and the food can lose its flavor. After about 5-6 minutes flip your meat and allow to cook on the other side. This is really an eyeball thing- after a few rounds you’ll get to where you can judge if a piece is done. If you’re not sure, use the meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of your chicken is around 175. Breasts and smaller pieces will cook faster than larger, thicker, or bone-in pieces. Thighs and legs need to be cooked for a longer time, and the heat of the oil will have to be closely monitored so the outside doesn’t burn. You may have to turn down your heat here, or add additional meat to regulate the temperature of the oil.

When the meat has finished cooking, remove to the second cooling rack. If you’re storing for a picnic, once the meat has cooled, you can wrap each piece in a paper towel and place in a paper bag in the refrigerator. This will keep the crust happy and your meat delicious.