Brown Ale – Snowman Brewing

So at the Black Oak night at Volo during Toronto Beer Week, I was lucky enough to meet a young home-brewer called Kevin Snow.  With his partner, Hirsch Goodman, they make up the brewing team called “Snowman Brewing”, specializing in trying to perfect a gluten-free beer.  My wife, Erika, has recently gone (mostly) gluten-free, so we’ve been experimenting in the world of gluten-free cooking, including using a gluten free beer in a batch of Fish and Chips.  If you’re in Ontario, the two gluten-free options at the LCBO are Lakefront Brewing’s New Grist (in the cellar for review) made with sorghum, and La Messengere from Quebec made with buckwheat.  If you go to Quebec, La Messengere comes in a variety of styles (I have a rousse in the cellar too).  But here in Ontario, it’s one of the two, or homebrew.  Kevin, a passionate brewer (okay, to be honest, I’ve never met a half-assed lazy brewer), was happy to share what they were doing with gluten-free brewing, both in talk and in bottle.  They are making a brew using millet and buckwheat, and have been tweaking the recipe for some time.  Let’s be fair and honest for a moment:  Beer is nearly always made with at least some barley or wheat.  It is one of the defining tastes.  Trying to replicate that taste without barley or wheat is difficult at best.  My hope as I’m about to open this bottle, is not that it will taste exactly like a beer I’m familiar with, but that it will be interesting, with a good balance of grain to hops, and some nice depth.  Fingers crossed, let’s do this

Snowman Brewing Brown Ale

Snowman Brewing Brown Ale

From an unlabelled ISB, the beer pours an opaque brown, with nearly no head.  Aroma is quite grainy, with a hint of molasses or rum.  Possibly something a little earthy, hops?  Taste is less grainy, sweet though.  A nice bitterness comes in fairly quickly, not super hoppy tasting, but there is a bit of a sharp/sour note.  Not certain if that is hop, yeast or a touch of oxidization (it is homebrew, after all).  As it warms a bit, there is a definite yeast flavour with a little spicy and sharp tang, actually quite nice.  A bit like a Belgian brown ale.  Mouthfeel is actually pretty velvety, surprising for a beer with no barley in it.  It is quite drinkable, though it’s differences from a barley-based beer are enough that I want to take it slow to appreciate it.  It’s a bit like when I first started drinking things that weren’t macro-lagers.  I want to soak it up.  There is no doubt this isn’t a “normal” beer, and while many people might be looking for a (near) perfect replacement in the gluten-free category, I think this is a very good alternative.  Not identical, but tasty, and something different to enjoy.  I’m still looking for a decent gluten-free bread.

Congratulations to Kevin and Hirsch, for making some real progress in the gluten-free beer search.  Still some way to go, to be sure, but for two dudes in a garage, they have produced a very respectable beer that can be enjoyed by celiacs as much as anybody else.  Keep up the good work lads, I’ll happily sample more as need be.

13 Comments

  1. Posted September 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article! Can’t wait for the finished product, it sounds like a very good gluten-free alternative.

  2. Posted September 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article! Can’t wait for the finished product, it sounds like a very good gluten-free alternative.

  3. clone7
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    great review. Do these guys have a website?

  4. clone7
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    great review. Do these guys have a website?

  5. Hirsch
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the great review! We just brewed another Brown Ale last night with many improvements to the recipe based on the feedback we got. I’ll save you a bottle when it’s ready.
    clone7: We don’t have a website up yet, but it’s in the works… Stay tuned! 🙂

  6. Hirsch
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the great review! We just brewed another Brown Ale last night with many improvements to the recipe based on the feedback we got. I’ll save you a bottle when it’s ready.
    clone7: We don’t have a website up yet, but it’s in the works… Stay tuned! 🙂

  7. Posted October 1, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I commend you guys….as there is celiac in my wife’s family I know how irritating it can be to have to have to compromise on food and beverages. I would love to try your next batch as well…

  8. Posted October 1, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I commend you guys….as there is celiac in my wife’s family I know how irritating it can be to have to have to compromise on food and beverages. I would love to try your next batch as well…

  9. Gutz
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Way to go guys, looks like soon there will be 3 different gluten-free options to choose from at the LCBO! Keep up the great work and best of luck.

    Much love!

  10. Gutz
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Way to go guys, looks like soon there will be 3 different gluten-free options to choose from at the LCBO! Keep up the great work and best of luck.

    Much love!

  11. Posted October 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    @Gutz, soon at the LCBO might be generous, but here’s hoping Kevin and Hirsch get to a level of production where they can quit their day jobs and just make excellent gluten-free beer for the growing number of people looking for low/no gluten alternatives.

  12. Posted October 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    @Gutz, soon at the LCBO might be generous, but here’s hoping Kevin and Hirsch get to a level of production where they can quit their day jobs and just make excellent gluten-free beer for the growing number of people looking for low/no gluten alternatives.

  13. Posted November 28, 2013 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Hi there! I have been trying to find out how to contact Kevin or Hirsch in regards to getting one of their gluton free beers on tap. If someone could contact me @519-658-0367 I would love to hear from them.

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