I know, I know. The science on “gluten sensitivity” is a bit murky. But the market for gluten-free products is clear as day. And enormous. Like, nearly-$9-billion-in-sales-in-2014 enormous. We’ve got gluten-free Girl Scout Cookies, Pizza Hut just announced a new pizza with a gluten-free crust, and major newspapers are printing recipes like “Gluten-Free Pancakes with a Sense of Adventure.” (I know I’m not the only one who pictures a pancake taking to the high seas in little pancake shorts and an eye patch. In search of adventure! And maple syrup!)
It makes sense that the beer industry would find its piece of the gluten-free pie. Or gluten-reduced, as is the case with Stone Brewing’s latest IPA offering. The beer, available through April, is called Stone Delicious IPA, which would seem a bit presumptuous if it weren’t totally true. But it is. We’ll get to that in a moment. First, the science: What the hell does “gluten-reduced” mean?
Beer is inherently gluten-fortified. It’s made of large quantities of barley after all. But Stone teamed up with the geniuses at White Labs (yeast-science extraordinaires) to develop a process by which gluten protein chains are broken down during the brewing process, subtracting much of the gluten from the beer. It’s not totally gluten-free, but what’s left amounts to mere traces.
I wouldn’t chance it if I had celiac disease (mo murkiness here–people who suffer from this cannot tolerate any gluten at all), but those who avoid most gluten should give it a taste. And about that taste–Stone Delicious IPA does not sacrifice anything in the way of flavor on the road to gluten reduction. It’s a lovely IPA, citrusy and aromatically hoppy, and somewhat lighter than the usual Stone fare. The ABV is a manageable 7.7 percent. This beer stomps all over the competition when it comes to gluten-conscious beers.
There are an increasing number of gluten-free beers out there, including the entire line of Green’s beers and Omission Beers. But you’d probably be better off with a cider or glass of wine (both naturally gluten-free).
The only gluten-free beers that come close to the flavor and complexity of Stone Delicious IPA are from Mikkeller. But Stone beers are much more widely available to the Southern California masses. A good portion of which avoid gluten like the 405 on a Friday afternoon. Which is, incidentally, a perfect time to try out Stone Delicious IPA.