Gluten Free Beers: A Review & How to Brew a Good One!

New Planet’s Off Grid Pale Ale

Gluten-free beer: some would say there is no such thing, while others would say there’s just not a good example. Regardless of where you stand, any curious beer-drinker is in search of something new. For this review, our two ridiculously awesome employees Nick and Andrew review a bottle of Fort Collins Brewery’s gluten-free New Planet Off Grid Pale Ale against the BJCP Pale Ale guidelines. Before we get to the sensory descriptions, here’s a list of the beers ingredients to give you an idea of what this ale contains:


This copper-colored ale pours brilliantly clear with a generous amount of head. Unfortunately, the head quickly dissipates leaving no sign of carbonation behind. The aroma is mostly comprised of caramel, over-shadowing what little American hop aroma there is. Andrew sensed a slightly musty, stale character. Upon taking a drink, the beer comes across as dry, tangy, with a chewy malt presence, little-to-no hop flavor, and a heavy lingering bitterness. The beer finishes too dry for the style, and it comes across as astringent. Nick notes that this beer would be much better by focusing more on late and dry-hop additions, and less on bittering additions.

The reviewers agreed that, overall, this was good for a gluten-free beer, however, judged against what most people would expect out of a pale ale, this beer falls short. Its astringency and lack of body, combined with its huge lack of hop flavor and aroma does not make for a good example of a pale ale. It’s not undrinkable, but more could have been done to make this gluten-free beer compete against its barley-filled counterparts.



Category 10A American Pale Ale

Nick 34/50

Andrew 29/50



Tips on brewing a good Gluten Free beer (yes, it is possible)

*Use lactose to sweeten the beer.  Gluten free extracts ferment out really dry.

*Use a blend of rice and sorghum extracts for a better overall taste.

*You pretty much have to use Malto Dextrin for body and head retention.

*Gelatin Finings are great for clarity (another must).

*Gluten Free beers benefit from a secondary, because that astringency from the extract mellows with age.

We have several Gluten Free recipes on file that people brew all the time and are very pleased with.  Come talk to us if you are interested.   


The guys review Stone’s “Enjoy By”

We (Nick and Rob) were tasked with reviewing an IPA. Typical brewers  only want to drink hoppy hoppy hoppy beers, right? WRONG! Lately we’ve been drifting more and more into the world of Lagers here at O’Connor’s (we’ve already brewed 3 this season and have a couple more on deck). However, this was a special occasion. Western Michigan has found itself the center of the Midwest beer universe and that means a lot of eyes are on our region to create and produce some of the best beers in the world. How can we say that we make amazing IPA’s without judging ourselves against the undisputed champions of the IPA-Stone Brewing? So, when the “Enjoy By” series made its way to Grand Rapids it was time to do some serious judging. Literally speaking, this is not an IPA unless you are incredibly liberal with the ABV range, so we judged it to style in the Imperial IPA category.  Once again, we are using our O’Connor’s HBS official beer scoring sheets and guidelines.

Appearance: 15 out of 15! This beer was fined, filtered, or centrifuged. Crystal clear with a pretty golden hue and a white rocky persistent head.

Aroma: 30 for 30. Smelled like delicious hops. Rob and I really tried to find something to critique, but in the end we decided that we were really just saying what we could do differently. Basically our critiques were invalid, and Rob and I decided that we couldn’t improve the aroma, just change it for fun. Malt aroma was cookie-ish (that’s a real beer aroma). As far as hop aroma goes, it ran the spectrum: woody, floral, grapefruit, pine, and resinous.

Flavor/Mouth feel: 40/40. It tasted like what it smelled like. It was amazing on all counts. With most Stone IPAs the hops completely overpower the malt bill. However, the malt was very well balanced with the hops. Malt left a light bready flavor with a medium mouth feel. Hop flavors were citrus, earthy, pine and floral.

 Overall: 100/100. Rob and I could not find any flaw in this beer. Its rare that a beer lives up to its hype, but this one is flat out phenomenal.





A Week in Laramie: Part 1

During the first week of May, Andrew De Haan took a trip to Laramie, Wyoming to visit a friend of his. What follows is a log of beer and adventure from drinking in Denver and Laramie.

The plane hits the tarmac, shuddering with the sound of rubber coming into contact with the ground, hard and fast, friction made apparent. Standard and uneventful, I’m sure, but it sends my heart reeling every time. When I place my feet in the Denver International Airport, the respite I gain from being on solid ground is quickly overwhelmed by the fact that I’m in an airport—a spidery nebula of anxiety. An airport is never somewhere you want to spend more time than you need to—it’s a thoroughfare, a world between where you were and where you’re going, where night and day have little bearing, where all of human behavior is focused on leaving, or at least getting through security. Fortunately, this airport is equipped with a New Belgium pub and a Boulder Beer Co. pub. I catch a train and hike down the concourse to the New Belgium pub for some vittles.

The New Belgium Hub looks sort of like a cross between a sports bar and a Build-A-Bear Workshop. With televisions flickering on the wall, and a color palette brighter than the future of a National Spelling Bee Champion, it’s a bit of a clash, but I am in no place to complain. It’s 10:30am MST, but it’s well into lunchtime for me. I order a grilled portobello sandwich with fries and a 1554 Black Ale. The waitress asks if I want a 14oz. or a 20oz.—I think the answer is obvious. I sip on my big glass of 1554 while I wait for the food. It’s a deep mahogany color with beige lacing, bready and warm on the palate, with a burst of dried apricot backed up by caramel. It finishes dry, a touch of roast lingering. Not unlike a Märzen, but with a fruitier ale profile complimented by roasted malt. My guess is this ale has a significant percentage of Vienna and/or Munich malt. It is incredibly drinkable, yet at this elevation, I feel it just after one. I try to savor the food and drink, but end up scarfing it down in about 20 minutes.

Determined and wobbly, I walk down the concourse toward my bus-stop. After getting there and realizing that I have more than an hour to burn, an insatiable urge for ice cream overcomes me. I head to the food-court and spot a TCBY a floor below me. Taking the escalator, it is slowly revealed to me that right next to the TCBY is the Boulder Beer Taphouse. Looks like frozen treats are off today’s menu. I make a beeline for the bar.

Boulder Beer has been available in Michigan for some time now, particularly their Hazed and Infused Pale Ale, Mojo IPA, and Mojo Risin’ Double IPA. I’ve enjoyed each of these beers several times, but with looking at their tap list and seeing several names I did not recognize, I decided to try something new. I order a pint of Flashback India Brown Ale. A deep reddish-brown with an off-white head, Flashback smells strong of pine needles and brown sugar. Bitter up front, it dissolves and opens up into a citrusy chocolate mid-palate—reminding me of one of those orange-flavored chocolate balls. The ale finishes with a scraping bitterness, perfectly dry, toasty, and a residue of floral hops on the tongue reminiscent of goldenrod.

After savoring the pint, I meander back to my bus-stop. I board my shuttle, staring west toward the great mountain faces rising into the hazy sky. Majestic and powerful, they captivate and beckon me. I cannot imagine what is to come…