A short while ago we held ourselves a little Drinking Buddies Barbeque, celebrating nothing in particular. Since the summer begins officially in June, you should start adding the new summer brews to your own BBQs, which is exactly what we did. This session's victim? Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist.
Now, we personally have not heard too much about Lakefront, but that’s not to say that it is not popular. The Drinking Buddies are only a handful of stout young lads (and sometimes lasses) that can only trek so far across the globe. The quick rundown on Lakefront is that they are nestled up to the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee “Sin City,” Wisconsin. They are not specific how many brews they have, but we suspect it settles in at about 16. They’ve been around since 1987, which puts them at the beginnings of the microbrew era and also awards them kudos for staying power.
New Grist is a specialty line. It is curiously brewed without barley. That’s right: ZERO BARLEY. In fact, it claims to be completely free of “any gluten containing products” and the first to do so authorized by Uncle Sam himself (gluten is a protein in grains, some people have bad reactions to it). This, combined with their All-Organic ESB (Extra Special Bitter) beer puts Lakefront immediately under hippy-suspicion. We’re watching you Lakefront, watching you with the watchful eye of watch-iness. One more Hemp-flavored ale and we’ll call you out.
Its barley replacement is sorghum and rice. Rice, as you might know, is pretty common in today’s mass market beers such as Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft to get a cleaner, weaker taste. Sorghum is slightly less popular. In fact, we don’t even know what is really is, so we handed this load over to Wikipedia. According to them sorghum “is a genus of about 20 species of grasses, native to tropical and subtropical regions of Eastern Africa, with one species native to Mexico. The plant is cultivated in Southern Europe, Central America and Southern Asia. Other names include Durra, Egyptian Millet, Feterita, Guinea Corn, Jowar, Juwar, Kaffircorn, Milo, Shallu and Sudan Grass…”
“Sorghum is used for food, fodder, and the production of alcoholic beverages.”
There we go! So, sorghum is a grass used in alcoholic beverages. Good enough for us. As for our assessment, it was a little less technical. Most everyone detected a citrus overtone that was more sweet than tart. This probably distracted from what could have made this beer really unique. Our panelist James had a first impression that was unmistakable:
“I picture myself in a junkyard on a sunny day with no clouds, walking through pieces of junk, seeing lots of rust and orange. That’s about the only way I could be happy drinking this beer.”So first impressions were not savory, but most everyone agreed that the beer grew on them eventually. By his second bottle, Ryan was sipping away happily. Both the first impression and a distinct mellow finish after a while to blend the flavors together for the long haul. Perhaps, like a jam band, that was Lakefront’s idea all along. Hippies, pair this beer with tofu kebabs and veggie burgers.
P.S. If you want more gluten free beers, there's weirdos like you on the internet! Check out www.glutenfreebeerfestival.com!
-Matt (with collaboration from Ryan, Dan and James)