Gluten Free Sorghum Beer

I tried Bard’s Gold last night, my first sorghum based beer.  Sorghum is a species of grass and its seeds can be harvested as grain to make beer, a frequent practice in Africa.  In fact, most African beers, including their locally brewed Guinness, are sorghum based.  Bard’s claim to fame is that it contains no barley, wheat, or oats and is gluten free, like that’s a good thing.  I know that there are many people who are allergic to gluten (and many people who claim to be allergic but probably aren’t), so this just might be the beer for them.  It should be noted that gluten based grains nourished and helped form human civilization, which is why I find the present day prevalence of gluten allergies a bit ludicrous, but that’s just me…

sorghum

This is sorghum

Anyway, I’m not sure I liked sorghum beer, or at least this sorghum beer.  I found that it tasted a bit like grass.  It was rather light and had a distinctly different taste from similarly light barley based beers.  It wasn’t really bad, but I agree with some of the Beer Advocate reviews.  If I had a non-fake gluten allergy and had to drink sorghum beer for the rest of my life, I might just quit drinking beer, supposing I couldn’t find any better options than Bard’s.  For now, I’m going to stick to the gluteny goodness of the barley, wheat, and oats people have been eating for ten thousand years.

Cheers,

Chris

37 thoughts on “Gluten Free Sorghum Beer

  1. Ed

    Not ALL civilizations have developed and florished with gluten in their diet. So I take issue with the notion it is so natural as to be the best thing out there. I’m pretty sure many people who have walked this earth did so without a single gluten protein cruising down their gut. (Rice? Maize? Root crops? Quinoa?)

    Allergies are on the rise. One hypothesis is that our modern hygenic lifestyle is causing havoc upon the proper development of our immune system hypersensitzing it to things in our environment. The fact that nowadays you may have more people claiming to be allergic to this or that is probably a combination of people that believe they are allergic to something (as you say, and because we now have the idea that we can diagnose ourselves instead of seeing a health professional) as well as people that have seriously inappropriate reactions to common things in our modern day environment.

    Finally, I wouldn’t diss so harshly a type of beer made from a grain crop (that feeds a huge chunk of the people on this earth who live in places where other grains will not grow, and has been used to make culturally important beers for centuries) based upon the tasting of one Western attempt at making a product out of it. Surely Sorghum beer can’t be produced and finished with the same approach to its unique qualities as one would with barley beers.

  2. Chris Post author

    Hello Bob/Ed/(whoever you will be next),
    I apologize if I offended you. I was specifically referring to barley, which is thought to be the grain early Mesopotamians gathered around to form the first civilizations. I’m sure a lot has changed in 10000 years and many people have indeed lived without ever consuming gluten. Also, I am quite aware that many people have severe allergic reactions to gluten. My point was that not as many people that claim to have gluten allergies actually have them, which I think you can agree with based on recent trends. Furthermore, I admit that I was flippant in my post in reference to sorghum based beer and for that I apologize. What I should have said is that I didn’t like Bard’s Gold Sorghum beer specifically and that I hope not to ever drink it again, for the reason that it tasted bad (to me). I am open to drinking and liking other Sorghum based beers in the future, though I can’t see Sorghum ever replacing my beloved grains. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

    Merry Christmas,

    Chris

  3. Jim

    Hi Chris,

    I thought you might like to have more information about the effects of dietary gluten on humans, a species which is not adapted to digest the types of amino acid groups gluten is part of.

    Here’s a link to a medical doctor’s blog who discusses the problem in detail, and why it’s a problem, not just for celiacs.

  4. Chris Post author

    You drink 8-10 light beers daily? Wow. Did you know that light beers are only 20% lighter than “heavy” beers? By the way, what’s your definition of a heavy beer?

    Thanks for the info on gluten. I’ll check it out, but I don’t see myself giving up cereal grains anytime soon.

    Cheers,

    Chris

  5. Jim

    Yeah, 8-10/day is overkill i know (sigh). May have to switch to wine anyway, and hold to the 2 glasses per day mandate.

    By ‘light’ i mean low-carb. Heavy would be full carb for these purposes. If the carb load wasn’t so high, I would prefer Sam Adams or Anchor or Bass, etc. Not to mention high overall cost. I once made a batch of home brew that I swear tasted just like Sam Adams. It was the only batch that tasted good though.

    BTW, I wasn’t trying to convert you away from cereal grains, just thought you’d want some info from sound sources.

  6. Chris Post author

    Thanks for the info Jim, I did appreciate it. Drinking less per day can only be a good thing I think. I’d prefer to drink less better beer than more light or low carb beer. Why not drink two Anchor Steams, Sam Adams, or even tasty homebrews instead?

  7. Michele

    Hey Chris, why would someone want to dream up having an allergy to something as wonderful as the main ingredient to so damn many excellent foods and beers? I completely agree that more and more people are professing allergies to wheat/gluten: I overdid it with baguettes a few winters ago, so now I’m like the person with one too many bee stings. There is not much I’d like more than to have this be all in my head. And…who’s to say it won’t happen to you someday? I guess you’d be in denial, right?
    Best wishes and enjoy everything you can as long as you can!

  8. Chris Post author

    I don’t know why anyone would pretend to have a gluten allergy, that is a good question. I hope it doesn’t happen to me and it doesn’t run in my family, so it likely won’t. I feel truly bad for people who have gluten allergies, since it means missing out on so much good food and beer.

  9. Nick

    You’re an idiot. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe these allergies were not discovered until recently. Some people in my family, including my brother and father, are not able to eat gluten and have had some serious health issues because of it. Why would someone pretend to have a condition in which you have to cut out any food that is easy (or cheap) to prepare. By the way, certain ethnic groups have higher rates of certain food allergies. Keep writing about beer, stop making comments about food allergies.

  10. Chris Post author

    Hey thanks for reading. I didn’t say that nobody has real food allergies. There are definitely people that do and some people have no choice but to drink gluten free beer (which I still think tastes bad). I’m also quite sure that some people think they have food allergies that don’t. Why would somebody to pretend (maybe even unknowingly) to have a condition that requires them to cut out gluten from their diet? Possibly because they went to a naturopath who told them they did or because of an eating disorder.

  11. Billy Bob

    Just found this post after searching for Sorghum Beers. Been drinking Redbridge lately, it’s pretty good.
    You do know the wheat we ate in Biblical times is not the same wheat we eat today. In fact the wheat your Grandmother ate is not the same. They changed the molecular structure of wheat in the 1940’s-50’s Cooperative Wheat Research Production Program in Mexico headed by Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug. They were trying to help end “world hunger” by creating a more resilient plant, in other words, make more money off a better wheat. Like Aspartame,now showing its 30 year effects on the unfortunate consumers of that Rumsfeld “pushed Through” product,they never studied the long term effects of this new wheat on humans…well if you consider what is happening today, then maybe we all have been guinea pigs-Diabetes is a global epidemic and wheat is literally in everything causing it, not to mention genetically altered corn and corn sweeteners.New Wheats high glycemic level, especially in beer, along with the addictive chemical peptides in our new genetically altered wheat is now showing its long term effects on the human population, but hey!
    Can you live without bread? Who cares right? Wheat is cheap and either way, big pharmaceutical gets rich. Yes, take a guess who funds wheat production. Read the book Wheat Belly…..it might change your view on the whole deal.

  12. Chris Post author

    Well, beer is made of barley, sooooo…. Also, I know plenty of wheat eaters who don’t get diabetes. It’s usually really fat, unhealthy people that get diabetes.

  13. Mark

    Chris,

    I read your post and thanks for the insight on Sorghum beer. I find it disturbing that the population overall is getting these allergies that prohibit (us) from enjoying foods and beverages. I personally don’t have the gluten allergy and don’t have anyone in my family that I know of that has it so, in effect, I also have a hard time believing that ALL people who claim to be allergic to gluten actually are. For those who do….sorry. Me and Chris wil have some homebrews for you.

    Mark

  14. Burkina Faso

    Allergies are a sticky subject. Many people from outside the US find it hard to believe so many people really have those allergies. Often times a food will be so integral (like sorghum beer in Burkina Faso) that there is nobody in that country with the allergy. Has the population “adapted out” the allergy?

  15. Nancy

    All the grains mentioned WHEAT, RYE, OATS, BARLEY are NOT native to Africa and I know for sure most Africans are allergic or intolerant to gluten unless they have an Arabic/European gene. Even Indians and Chinese rarely consume wheat/oats and other gluten cereals. There is a reason why Africans only brewed palm/coconut wine, sorghum beer and ate roots vegetables.

  16. Chris Post author

    Wheat and barley are both native to Africa. It is speculated that human civilization got its start in Africa when hunter gatherers began staking out, then eventually cultivating, wheat patches.

  17. JD

    Chris,
    People like Oprah help hypochondriacs everywhere glom on to things like this gluten trend and turn it into something ridiculous. That being said, I’ve learned way more than I ever would have thought I needed to know about gluten in the last 6 months, so here’s the facts. There’s no such thing as a gluten allergy. It’s either an intolerance or celiac disease. About 1 in 133 people in the US have celiac disease. 95% of them will never know they had it. Of those 95%, 15% will get lymphoma, the rest of them have 40-100 times the chance of a non-celiac of getting any type of gastrointestinal cancer. They will die of the off-shoot disease never knowing they had celiac. It is difficult to diagnose. Testing is extremely innaccurate. The most accurate way to diagnose celiac, is to biopsy the small intestine, where the damage starts. You see, in celiacs, the villi in the small intestine is damaged to varying degrees (often killed completely) by gluten. The villi’s job is to absorb nutrients from food, so celiacs can’t absorb vital nutrients efficiently. Some can’t at all. At the same time, small openings in the small intestine become enlarged and lead to leaky gut syndrome. Between the suppressed nutrient absorbtion and toxins entering the bloodstream, a variety of conditions can crop up and leave people, and their doctors scratching their heads. Btw, doctors (in the US) aren’t taught about celiac because the cure costs nothing, whereas the aftermath is a cash cow. Ain’t capitalism grand.

    PS. You will find gluten in barley.

    PPS. If you want to try a full bodied gluten-free beer try “Off the Grid”. They make some tasty brews.

  18. Chris Post author

    Thanks for the info JD. Much of that I already knew; I’ve done some research for a follow up post to this, which is one of our most (un)popular posts. I feel very bad for people who have celiac disease. I feel very annoyed at all the people who now claim to be allergic to gluten. I still don’t like most gluten free beers.

  19. Pingback: In Defence of Gluten | Love Good Beer

  20. Rebecca Gould

    Funny how a discussion of food allergies can make people aggravated, or should I say intolerant. What many people call food allergies are not technically allergies. But, if eating something makes you feel crappy then it does not matter if you have an allergy or are crazy, just do not eat it. AND shut up about it. I have a autoimmune condition that is exacerbated if I eat gluten (as evidenced on lab work). I do not have celiac disease. So, I don’t eat gluten, and I don’t really talk about it more then necessary because people who define themselves by what they can and cannot eat are annoying to me. As one amusing Tweet I read said, something like, “the good thing about my cat being diagnosed as gluten intolerant is that she can’t talk about it all the damn time.
    I mainly wanted to say thanks for the review, and I find your writing style and wit enjoyable. I’ll try other GF beers first. And Green’s GF beer from Belgium is AWESOME if you like that style, which I do. Used to also love a nice Hacker Pschorr with a lemon in the Summer. Sigh.

  21. Joe

    Thanks for writing this post. Just tried sorghum based redbridge tonight at a friends house. It was quite frankly one of the worst beers I’ve ever tasted. I found your post via google and you confirmed that I was indeed drinking grass.

    Happy to be back home cracking open a nice Double IPA to rinse the grass out.

    Cheers.

  22. Chris Post author

    No worries, glad I could confirm your suspicions. I remain a fan of gluten and feel bad for those who react negatively to it.

  23. Sandi Maidens

    Gluten gives elasticity to dough helping it to rise and to keep its shape. It is found in many staple foods in the Western diet. It is a protein composite found in wheat and other grains, including barley and rye and processed foods thereof. Gluten is composed of a gliadin fraction (alcohol soluble) and a glutenin fraction (only soluble in dilute acids or alkali).-

    Newly released piece of writing provided by our personal internet site
    <'http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/can-you-overdose-on-vitamin-c/

  24. Jeff Parrott

    Decades of migraines
    gone after trying a fad.
    GF beer for me!

    I don’t claim to understand. And I won’t tell you you are an idiot for passing judgement but you might want to consider the possibility.
    There are more things horatio…

  25. Chris Post author

    I’m a science oriented person. There is no empirical scientific evidence that gluten causes migraines.

    The only thing you changed was that you stopped eating gluten and then your headaches went away?

    Also, beer doesn’t have very much gluten in it, but drinking lots of alcohol has been known to cause headaches.

  26. Jeff Parrott

    Yup, I am still often drunk.
    And a couple of times I decided my theory was bogus and tried, say, a breaded fish taco. the next day a migraine.
    So, as I say, I don’t know why. But if avoiding gluten is a placebo and it works, I’m fine with that.

    I wouldn’t have bothered to post if your condescension hadn’t smacked so sorely.
    Saying you’d just give up beer doesn’t mean anything until you go six months on cider…

    And again, Horatio, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your science, yet.

  27. Chris Post author

    I’m glad your headaches have gone away, whatever works.

    I guess my biggest problem with the gluten-free movement is the lies it tells based on conjecture. If you want me to believe something, you’re going to have to prove it, preferably with scientific research. How is it that a protein people rarely spoke of five years ago is now causing all of these problems? Most people don’t even know what gluten is, but have decided it’s bad.

    I love the scene in This Is The End where Seth Rogen talks about gluten. Pretty sure cancer is a gluten…

    Another point to consider, why hasn’t gluten-free taken hold in traditional food cultures? It’s only a thing in the English speaking western world. French people aren’t giving up their baguettes and Italian people aren’t giving up their pasta.

    Food manufacturers love it though, a whole new category of food to charge more for!

    I wrote a follow up post about gluten after this one: http://lovegoodbeer.com/2012/06/in-defence-of-gluten/

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