Upon going “gluten-free” (GF) or “paleo,” many folks will immediately begin to notice a conundrum when it comes to social engagements that include alcohol. Can I drink that? Is that made from grains? Is it gluten free?
But have no fear, here is a list of hand selected (and tested) gluten-free/paleo-friendly libations to keep you feeling involved at the next gathering. This will consist of two lists, one utilizing accessibility as the more important variable. These drinks are very good, and you can find them almost anywhere. The other will focus on premium options for those who are more apt to go the extra mile for the perfect taste.
Additionally, this list will not include wine (which is a good option) or hard alcohols like gin, potato vodka and tequila (also good options). For the purposes of this list, we’re looking only at alternatives like hard ciders and gluten free beers.
Top 5 Accessible
5. Omission (Lager) – if you really like beer, and just can’t see sticking with a GF or Paleo template without it, this is a highly accessible and acceptable GF beer. Omission makes a few different varieties including a lager, an IPA and a Pale Ale. Stay away from the Pale Ale.
4. Angry Orchard (Crisp Apple) – One of the most widely distributed and decidedly decent hard ciders is the Crisp Apple variety from Angry Orchard. They have a bunch of different flavors, and while not organic, they are tasty. Many ciders use “natural” flavoring, and you can taste the fake apple right away, but this one is less noticeable.
3. Ace Pear Cider – light and crisp, made with champagne yeast, this is a no-nonsense perry that is great to mix things up. Serve over crushed ice.
2. Crispin: The Saint – one of their premium offerings (only available in large 22 oz bottles), this cider has hints of maple syrup and Belgian trappist yeast. Packing a 6.9% alcohol by volume punch, it’s one of the stronger ciders out there.
1. Strongbow – with medium sweetness, this highly available offering is surprisingly beer-like in appearance. But it’s not just looks. It’s dangerously smooth and delicious.
Top 5 Premium
5. JK Scrumpy’s Organic Hard Cider – on the sweeter side, this was the first cider I tasted that gave me hope. It’s got a bite that keeps you from thinking it’s just spiked apple juice. Complex and organic, it’s a little hard to find, but snag some when you do!
4. Doc’s Draft – not organic, but hailing from Warwick Winery in Upsate NY (my home state), I’ve found this at beer stores all over the northeast and World Market stores in California! It’s a great balance of medium sweetness and darker color. The key is their use of champagne yeast. If you find it, buy it!
3. Reverend Nat’s Hallelujah Hopricot (Dry-hopped Cider) – The best of both worlds! The apple sweetness is cut by the bitterness of the hops. I’ve tried a bunch of these dry-hopped ciders and didn’t care for too many, but this one is just right. Hints of apricot give it a more mellow finish than other hopped ciders. Made in Oregon and available on the west coast, you can also order it online.
2. Green’s Endeavour Dubbel Dark Ale – let’s be honest, a lot of GF beer sucks. That’s why there are only two on the list. You can find this one in a fair number of places (even chains like Bone Fish Grill). And it’s glorious. Many GF beers use sorghum which give them a terrible aftertaste (see Bards). While Green’s utilizes this ingredient (along with buckwheat, rice and millet), it doesn’t have that same harsh finish. If you are GF and miss beer, give this one a try.
1. Samuel Smith Organic Hard Cider – On top of having fantastic balance, taste and being made from organically grown apples, you can find Samuel Smith almost everywhere (whole foods, wine shops, etc)! Here’s what the brewer says “A medium dry cider with brilliant straw colour, light body, clean apple flavour and a gentle apple blossom finish. Samuel Smith’s makes this cider at a small, independent British brewery, the oldest brewery in Yorkshire.” It’s really quite perfect and a good place to start if you’re trying cider for the first time.
A Note to the Cider Connoisseur
We’re in the midst of craft cider explosion. It’s actually a great time to be exploring this world of GF drinking. All over the country and world, people are developing new takes on this classic alternative. There’s even a cider house here in San Francisco with more than 70 ciders on the menu!
I recently had a chance to sample a lot of craft ciders at the Cider Summit in SF. Here are a few standouts.
1. Gowan’s 1876 Heirloom – OH MY! Easily the best cider I’ve tasted in awhile. This local Northern California family is producing Gold Medal quality ciders from their heritage orchards. The result is this farm-house semi-dry with plenty of complex honey, caramel and earthy notes.
2. Finnriver Habanero – One of the trends I’ve noticed is adding some heat to an otherwise sweet drink. The Habanero offering from Finnriver is among the best. Enough spice to know it’s there, but not too much to blow out your palette and ruin a meal. I also love their Sparkling Pear.
3. Hemly Perry – An unfiltered semi-dry mix of Bartett pears and gala apples, this perry from small cidery in Norcal really hits on a lot of my favorite things. Not too sweet, easy to drink but complex in flavor.
Lastly, a quick nod to my most recent favorite GF Beer discoveries. In Portland, Ground Breaker Brewing is using a base mash of chestnuts and lentils to produce absolutely stand out brews. The IPA no. 4 is one the best I’ve ever had. Check their site for shipping and purchase options. It’s worth it!
Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list? Let me know below!
Yours in Health,
(Disclaimer: I did NOT receive free samples for review, but if I had, I would’ve said what I would’ve said regardless. That being said, if any company wants to send me free cider, email email@example.com!)
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Last modified: May 27, 2017