Lakefront Brewery worked hard for that little “GF” on the label of New Grist. New Grist was the first gluten-free beer granted label approval by the U.S. Government. The no-barley pilsner has been wearing that label with pride since it won GABF gold in 2006, back when sorghum still qualified you for the “experimental” category. That was a decade and a half ago, and while New Grist might be the first certified celiac-friendly beer, is it still the best?
New Grist’s clarity is almost unsettling. It looks more like a weak tea than a Bohemian pilsner. The dingy body immediately raises that concern that what you’re drinking isn’t, in fact, beer. The aroma makes up for what the beer lacks in body. There’s a seductive nuttiness and a full yeasty nose. It just feels like it’s missing a key aspect to the pilsner experience.
Great pilsners are built off the bready warmth of pilsner malt, and that’s partly what keeps New Grist from being great. Sorghum is a tricky malt. It can trample a beer’s flavor, giving off a sour apple flavor similar to acetaldehyde. Balanced well, it can impart a refreshing hint of lime (thus the gose version of New Grist). Lakefront offsets their sorghum with rice, a simple move that makes the beer all the more familiar to American lager lovers. It’s also less filling than your traditional pilsner, so you can take down a six-pack of this no problem.
Celiac and gluten-sensitive drinkers, you don’t have a better option. New Grist not only set the standard for zero-gluten beer, but it still maintains that standard. It might never measure up to a real-deal German lager, but few things do. At least this comes close.