The Best Gluten-Free Alcohol
When it comes to a tipple, there’s plenty for gluten-free consumers to be excited.
WORDS: JAMES ATKINSON FROM DRINKS ADVENTURES.
Australian drink producers have risen to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic with a raft of new and innovative alcoholic drinks hitting the market. Fortunately, the vast majority of these beverages may be safely consumed by people who are on a gluten-free diet.
Beer of course is the only category requiring extra caution. But in good news for gluten-free consumers, the range of gluten-free beers on the market continues to expand.
Based on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Two Bays Brewing Company recently celebrated its second anniversary of making strictly gluten-free craft beers. Two Bays continues to experiment with gluten-free versions of the numerous craft beer styles that founder Richard Jeffares had enjoyed prior to being diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2015.
Fruited sour beers have proven popular among Australian craft beer enthusiasts in recent years, inspiring Two Bays to try its hand at a gluten-free passionfruit sour. “It’s a beautifully refreshing 3.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer,” says Jeffares. “This is the first time a gluten-free sour has ever been available in Australia, and there’s only been a handful of them made around the world.”
“We may be two years behind style trends in the barley beer world,” he explains. “But we’re still taking the gluten-free consumer on the same craft beer journey.”
Two Bays’ flagship pale ale is now available nationally through Dan Murphy’s, and the company is working hard to secure additional tap points for its beers Australia-wide. “We know gluten-free people still enjoy the experience of drinking a middy or a schooner of their favourite beer at the pub like everyone else,” Jeffares says.
Meanwhile, established gluten-free brand Wilde Beer has relaunched its flagship Wilde Pale Ale as a mid-strength product. An easy-drinking beer with tropical fruit flavours, Wilde Pale Ale is made from gluten-free sorghum grains.
“The gluten-free segment has really evolved in the last few years,” says Anton Szpitalak, CEO of Wilde owner Tribe Breweries. “People are seeking out gluten-free products that offer a different drinking experience, rather than purchasing on the basis that they are missing an ingredient.”
“Wilde is our key product that plays to this theme and we look forward to expanding offerings under its umbrella in the future,” says Szpitalak. First up from Wilde in 2021 is their full-strength gluten-free lager.
APPLE OF OUR EYE
Made predominately from apples, cider is almost always naturally gluten-free, but Golden Axe Cider now offers drinkers an extra level of assurance. Produced by Melbourne company KAIJU! Beer, Golden Axe was granted gluten-free certification by Coeliac Australia in 2020.
“Cider is generally gluten-free,” says Callum Reeves, founder of KAIJU! Beer. “Given that our cider is made at our brewery, we went to the trouble of having laboratory tests done to ensure that there was no presence of gluten, so we could gain the endorsement and assure coeliac cider lovers that Golden Axe Cider is safe for them.”
Tasmanian brand Willie Smith’s Cider confirms its ciders are also safe for consumption, albeit uncertified.
“All our ciders are gluten-free as they are made from 100 percent Tasmanian apples,” says founder Sam Reid. “We’re stoked to be able to offer a lower alcohol alternative to wine, for people who are avoiding gluten in their diets.”
Cider fans who want to try a cider that is more structured and complex should look out for Willie Smith’s Traditional, which showcases heritage apple varieties that have been used for centuries by cider makers in the old world.
“Willie Smith’s Traditional is now available Australia-wide in Dan Murphy’s, so it is newly accessible to a lot of people,” says Reid. “It’s taking people on the next step of their cider journey into more serious cider, thanks to the complexity of the heritage apples.”
Good news! Distilled spirits are considered gluten-free even if they are produced from grains such as barley, wheat and rye. This is because the distillation process removes all proteins including gluten from the ingredients.
Celebrate with a glass of Starward Fortis, the first higher strength single malt whisky from Melbourne distiller Starward. Weighing in at 50 percent alcohol ABV, Fortis is a richly intense, more robust expression of Starward’s signature red wine barrel maturation regime. It is one of the ‘must have’ Australian whisky releases of 2020, next to the debut single malt from Sydney distiller Archie Rose, which has been six years in the making. Archie Rose Single Malt Whisky has been distilled from a combination of six different specialty malts, resulting in a rich and layered flavour profile that is unique even on a global scale.
Meanwhile, gin continues to dominate the white spirits arena in Australia. Research conducted this year by Caroline Childerley, AKA The Gin Queen, revealed there are now more than 500 different Australian gins on the market, produced by in excess of 160 distilling companies nationwide.
Among the high profile newcomers this year is Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin, a bright, savoury and textural gin designed to be served in a martini. Olive Leaf Gin has been distilled from ingredients including extra virgin olive oil, olive leaf, lemon, rosemary, macadamia nuts, grapefruit and bay leaves, in additional to the mainstay botanicals of juniper and coriander.
Four Pillars co-founder Stuart Gregor says the spirit was also created to be enjoyed as a Spanish ‘gintonic’, a gin and tonic served in a giant tulip glass amply garnished with some of the botanicals from which the gin was distilled.
“We use about 1.5 litres of olive oil in each distillation of the Olive Leaf Gin, which is equivalent to about 1,500 olives,” Gregor says. “The olive oil and macadamia has given this gin its really beautiful palate weight and briney, savoury flavour profile.”
Wine is gluten-free in all but a few cases, offering gluten-free drinkers no shortage of appealing options.
Founded in 2016, South Australia’s Riot Wine Co has shaken up the sector by packaging its premium wines in cans. Co-founder Tom O’Donnell says the company’s remit is “fresh, accessible, easy drinking” wine styles. Don’t interpret that as meaning simple wines made from subpar fruit. Produced from grenache grapes, the current release Riot Rose 2019 is full of character; dry and floral with lovely texture on the palate.
The Riot Pinot Noir 2019 is no slouch either. It’s a fresh, unoaked style that is lovely to drink slightly chilled.
Elsewhere in still wine, 2020 has been noteworthy for the continued rise in prominence of cooler climate Australian wine regions.
With its temperate maritime climate, Mount Gambier is one of the coolest regions in South Australia. Ottelia Wines, founded by veteran winemaker John Innes, recently released the Mount Gambier Chardonnay 2019; an impeccably balanced, fine and complex modern style of Australian chardonnay that is likely to appeal to a broad cross-section of drinkers. Ottelia’s Mount Gambier Riesling 2019, meanwhile, is an equally classy expression of the variety offering citrus, herbal and mineral characters, framed by lively cool climate acidity.
Bubbles are always a mainstay of the festive season and Australian sparkling wine continues to make its case as more than just an alternative to champagne, but an exciting genre in its own right. New from market leader House of Arras is the Blanc de Blancs NV, showcasing the elegance and sophistication of Tasmanian chardonnay. Competitively priced at $34.99, it leaves many more expensively priced non-vintage champagnes in the shade.