Gluten free

Fundamentals #36 — Magic Rock Saucery Session IPA

I am yet to be convinced that both gluten and alcohol-free beers are as good as the real thing. One of the main reasons behind this is that I think that there are plenty of other delicious alternatives to beer within these categories. Be it low-intervention cider, or natural wine, kombucha or craft soda, there’s plenty of choice out there. But I understand why gluten and alcohol-free beers need to exist – because people love beer.

And they are getting better, for the most part. It is perhaps unfair to me to split hairs within these styles, especially as my privilege allows me to enjoy both alcohol and gluten. I tend to struggle when someone tells me that a low alcohol or GF beer is “as good as the real thing” when quite clearly it isn’t. I prefer to see such products sold on their own merits, instead of being compared to something that they are not.

Which is why this beer – Saucery from Magic Rock – took me by complete surprise. I have, in fact, been enjoying this beer whenever I see it on tap for several months. It’s an excellent, light, yet hop forward session IPA. Bursting with notes of citrus, a gentle bitterness at the back of the palate and a dry finish that leaves you rasping for your next sip, or pint. It’s a great beer.

I had no idea that it was gluten free until I received this can to review.

Magic Rock has previous when it comes to making excellent gluten free beers. Its special edition gluten free IPA, Fantasma, proved so popular that it has since become part of its core range. This is excellent news, because despite my own misgivings about GF beers, the more choice out there the better, especially when it’s of this quality. I concede, however, that not everyone wants to drink 6.5% IPA all the time (although personally, I’d be happy to.) At a far lower 3.9% ABV, Saucery makes it accessible to a far larger demographic, and that can only be a good thing.

As I continue to sip at this particular can, I become more impressed with every satisfying gulp. If you’re looking for a tasty gluten free beer then this certainly is one. But if you are just looking for a tasty beer, this also is most definitely one. Saucery, indeed.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a Magic Rock Saucery Session IPA in-store or online.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Mushroom Polenta And Burnt Mill Steel Cut Gluten Free Oat Pale Ale

From New York bagels to char-dappled Neapolitan pizzas to, duh, beer, my relationship with bread and grain-based products remains one of the longest and happiest of my life. You can trust me, then, when I say that you don’t have to be gluten-free to appreciate Burnt Mill’s Steel Cut Oat Pale Ale.

Made with oats, buckwheat, maize and sorghum, and then dry-hopped, this beer is an astonishingly good gluten-free rendition - so good, in fact, that I’d bet many blind tasters wouldn’t notice the difference. Given that Burnt Mill’s talented Head Brewer Sophie de Ronde is herself gluten-intolerant, you can understand the brewery’s motivation to pull off this feat. Bright with hop aromatics and laced with bitterness, Steel Cut is refreshing, food-friendly and - all things considered - remarkably complex.

A plateful of gluten-free comfort food is a fitting accompaniment to this beer. I love polenta for its optics - it looks like spilled sunshine on the plate - its ease and its sheer versatility. Top it with browned mushrooms (which pick up on the Steel Cut’s subtle, savoury edge), curls of Beaufort (an Alpine cheese that should appeal to fans of Gruyère), a sprinkling of thyme and a soft-boiled duck egg, its yolk like molten copper.

You don’t have to be a coeliac to appreciate a dish like this - but if you are, it’s hard to find more satisfying stuff to help ward off the winter blues.

Mushroom Polenta with Beaufort and Duck Eggs
Loosely adapted from a recipe by Ottolenghi
Serves 3-4

550ml chicken or vegetable broth
80g instant polenta (check packaging to ensure it’s been processed at a gluten-free facility)
90g unsalted butter, divided
40g shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
500g mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, chestnuts, shitakes, etc)
2 small cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 tsp roughly chopped thyme leaves, plus additional for garnishing
40g Beaufort, thinly sliced
3-4 duck eggs (depending on number of servings; allocate one per person)

First, prep the polenta. Heat the broth in a medium saucepan until just boiling. Add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking continuously, to prevent it from clumping. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens, roughly 3-5 minutes. I prefer a more porridgey consistency; if you do too, add several more tablespoons of broth until the mixture is slightly looser. Add 30g of the butter and the Parmigiano, stirring well to combine, and season to taste with sea salt. Cover and set aside.

Next, prepare the mushrooms. Take a cast-iron or other heavy bottomed pan and heat on high until very hot. Add 30g of the butter and, as soon as it melts, add half of the mushrooms and the garlic. Try not to agitate them too much, as you want them to get golden and caramelised. Cook for several minutes, tossing occasionally; remove from heat and scatter over the thyme leaves. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Repeat with the second batch of mushrooms and the remaining butter.

Finally, prepare the duck eggs. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and cook the duck eggs for six and a half minutes, or until perfectly soft-boiled. Remove from the pot and place in a bowl full of ice water for 30 seconds. Carefully peel and slice in half.

Ladle the polenta onto each plate and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with the slices of Beaufort, extra thyme leaves, and the duck eggs. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a can of Burnt Mill Gluten Free Pale Ale while you still can.