Greenview Brewing was founded in 2013, and released its first gluten-free brew in May 2014.
For those in Madison who follow a gluten-free diet yet want to drink beer, there is now a locally brewed option. Greenview Brewing just released its Alt Brew Farmhouse Ale in bomber bottles. It's the creation of the husband-and-wife team of Trevor and Maureen Easton, who founded the gluten-free brewery for a personal reason. Maureen lives with celiac disease, which is caused by a reaction to certain proteins in grains like barley and wheat. Since these ingredients are used to make most beers, Trevor, an avid home brewer, took up the challenge to develop a gluten-free brew that Maureen could enjoy.
What is it? Gluten-Free Alt Brew Farmhouse Ale from Greenview Brewing of Madison, Wisconsin.
Style: Alt Brew Farmhouse Ale can be said to fall loosely into the saison style, partly because of the rustic-earthy accents from the yeast used to ferment the brew, and also for its bright and sharp flavor profile. But as with many gluten-free beers, it doesn't neatly fit into commonly accepted styles made with barley and wheat.
"We've been brewing 4,000 years with barley, and we don't have that much experience brewing with gluten-free ingredients," says Trevor Easton. "That makes it a challenge. We may not do it exactly to style, but we are getting close." It's all about blending the right hops with ingredients that are gluten-free, he explains.
There is a growing market for gluten-free beers. Not only do they appeal to those with celiac disease, but also among others who simply want to reduce gluten in their overall diet. Sales of gluten-free foods and beverages in the U.S. are estimated to grow to $5 billion by 2015.
A "saison" is sometimes broadly referred to as a farmhouse ale. Emerging in the French-speaking regions of Belgium well before the advent of mechanical refrigeration, the style's low alcohol and light body were likely very refreshing to farm workers on hot days. Saisons are usually low to medium in malt aroma and have a light to mild, yet crisp, bitterness. The hoppiness can be assertive but shouldn't be overwhelming. These brews can have a spicy and fruity character, with a balanced amount of sour or acidic flavors. Saisons range from 4.5-8.5% ABV.
Background: About three years of recipe development have gone into Alt Brew Farmhouse Ale, starting in the kitchen and continuing in a tiny, custom-built brewhouse dedicated to a gluten-free process. The beer is made with a blend of sorghum, rice and honey, and is hopped with Sterling and Mt. Hood. Easton notes its unique apple tones, explaining that they come from the sorghum and the Belgian yeast strain he uses for fermentation.
"We brew it for a longer period of time than a standard ale and at cooler temperatures," he says. "It takes about four weeks of fermentation time, which helps the yeast take away some of the off flavors you get from gluten-free ingredients like sorghum."
Last summer, Easton started working with Page Buchanan, owner of House of Brews, on the brewhouse design for Greenview Brewing. He ended up leasing space from Buchanan, and taking over an enclosed room that had been initially set up to be a recipe design lab for House of Brews.
With not much more than 130 square feet, including space in the House of Brews beer cooler, Greenview is among the smallest commercial breweries in Wisconsin. Easton makes his beer in one-barrel batches, and then fills and caps the 22-ounce bottles by hand. He self-distributes to local liquor stores and taverns out of the back of his truck.
Greenview Alt Brew Farmhouse Ale finishes at 5.5% ABV and sells for $7.50-$9 per 22-ounce bottle. It debuted on May 7, and is sold in select shops and taverns around Madison. The company's Facebook page provides more information about availability.
Easton would eventually like to offer his beers to local taverns to be served on draught. However, avoiding gluten contamination from other beers requires dedicated serving lines, a major commitment by the bar owner. So unless there's a strong following for Greenview's gluten-free beers in Madison, a tap option might be awhile. However, there's a growing number of establishments offering gluten-free beers.
Easton has also developed a homebrew kit for "Solstice Saison" that sells for around $45 at the Silly Yak Bakery, the Wine and Hop Shop and online from Greenview. He's also making plans to expand his line of gluten-free brews with a dark beer this fall.
If Greenview Brewing finds its niche among Madison drinkers who are looking for gluten-free alternatives, Easton says he's open to expanding and even building a larger stand-alone brewery. For now, though, he's focused on developing recipes and making hbeer a couple of days a week.
- Aroma: Light, sweet floral.
- Appearance: Hazy copper, with a medium tan bubbly head that doesn't last long.
- Texture: Medium, with roundness.
- Taste: A sharp apple flavor that is sweet and crisp.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The hints of apple continue with a light dryness. There is just a hint of hops in the end.
Glassware: I like the Willi Becher for this beer because the inward taper near the lip will focus the fruity-apple nose. A tulip glass also works well for a saison; however, since this farmhouse ale's bubbly head doesn't last very long, there isn't much carbonation and foam to show off.
Pairs well with: Fresh salads, especially cold summer ones, will go well with the sharp apple tones of Alt Brew Farmhouse Ale.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Alt Brew Farmhouse Ale is a great alternative for those seeking a gluten-free beer. I liked its sharp apple tartness, which falls between a cider and a light crisp sour brown. This is a different flavor profile from what one might expect for a saison, given its assertive apple. And it's much better than many gluten-free creations that just don't taste like beer.
Greenview's Farmhouse Ale separates itself from other gluten-free brews in large part through two qualities. First, there's its medium body. Second, it looks like a beer, with its amber-brown color. I'm honestly looking forward to its crisp apple flavor on a warm summer day.