Finding a suitable beer when you can’t consume barley or wheat is a challenge. But when there’s an opening in the market, wait around long enough, and someone will fill the void. When Albany-based Steadfast Beer Company co-founder Jeremy Hosier decided to do just that, he wanted “to take gluten free beer seriously, to make something flavorful.”
Remarkably, nobody at Steadfast actually suffers from Celiac disease, but “we made a whole lot of new friends who do,” Hosier tells us. Let’s start with the basics: Steadfast uses only naturally gluten-free ingredients like rice, sorghum, honey, sugar cane, and tapioca in its beers. The company works closely with the owners of the breweries it contracts (Steadfast doesn’t own its own facility) to ensure equipment is totally cleaned of gluten. And then, just to be extra safe, Steadfast has each batch tested by a lab to make sure the beer is 100 percent gluten-free.
But it’s not enough for the brewery to just make beer without gluten. The founders also want that beer to be delicious–and to actually taste like beer. “Our challenge is to make a familiar product from a set of ingredients that is entirely unfamiliar,” Hosier says.
Not everybody is on board with the idea of making craft beer without using the all-important malted barley ingredient, though.”There’s a pretty wide spectrum of reactions,” Hosier says. “From the worst reaction you can imagine,” to decidedly more positive responses from Celiac sufferers themselves.
And, says Hosier, this opens up the beer world to a new slice of the population. “A beer festival isn’t a forbidden zone for somebody with Celiac disease anymore. We were at a festival in Saratoga and a nice lady came up to us and said, ‘I thought I was the D.D. [designated driver] today. I thought there’d be nothing here for me. I can’t believe you make gluten-free beer.'” Her reaction to her first beer in six years, the Steadfast Sorghum Pale Ale? According to Hosier, she said, “‘I just got chills. This is amazing.'”
With a year-round lineup of their Pale Ale and Golden Blonde Ale, the company is planning to add more brews to its portfolio. “We just brewed up the world’s first gluten-free Pumpkin Spice Ale,” Hosier said. Steadfast is also testing out recipes for the world’s first gluten-free oatmeal stout.
Want to try some? Come to Brooklyn Pour tomorrow in Fort Greene, where the Pale Ale and the Blonde Ale will definitely be on tap, and the Pumpkin Spice Ale will pour if we’re lucky. Can’t make it? Check out the Beer Locator map on the company website, or stop by the gluten-free restaurant Risoterria on Bleecker Street, where an upcoming collaboration will keep Steadfast’s beers permanently on tap.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 11, 2013