Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tweason'ale (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery)

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has built its considerable fame on creating "off-centered ales" that defy the conventional wisdom of what beer is. It has done this, ironically, by reclaiming and embracing the actual glorious and diverse history of beer.

Exotic ingredients and sometimes bizarre brewing techniques have characterized the brewery's releases over 16 years. Guided by the vision of founder Sam Calagione, they eschew the famous German "purity law," the Reinheitsgebot (which decreed in 1516 that the only permissible ingredients for beer were water, barley, and hops), in favor of obscure -- like, hieroglyphic obscure -- recipes from all of history and all around the world. The brewmasters of Dogfish Head wipe their feet on the Reinheitsgebot on their way in to work.

So, it shouldn't be surprising that Dogfish, of all breweries, has taken a swing at a beer with one truly challenging production requirement: Must contain no grains! According to the brewery's website: "The No. 1 thing Dogfish lovers ask for at our pub, in our brewery and on our website is a gluten-free beer." The barley, wheat, or rye content in traditional beers can have grave effects on the digestive tract of a person who suffers from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Dogfish has answered this challenge with its latest debut: Tweason'ale, a gluten-free, sorghum-based ale brewed with strawberries and buckwheat honey. They plan to release the beer in 12-ounce four-packs four times a year, interweaving it with their other popular seasonals (hence, the name).

Though not the first gluten-free beer on the market, Tweason'ale enters a niche with no dominant competitor. Surveying reader-submitted reviews of eight gluten-free beers on the website Beeradvocate.com, one finds they are not enthusiastically regarded, garnering an average rating of 2.76 out of a possible five. One critic summarized: "Drinking these beers always makes me grateful that I am not gluten intolerant."

Let's see for ourselves how Tweason'ale rates. Pouring the beer brings up big, fizzy bubbles that disappear straight away, leaving the crystal clear, pale copper-colored ale with no head. The aroma is very sweet, reminiscent of strawberry taffy, with an underlying darkness of husky grain.

Behind bright carbonation, the taste is surprisingly dense and flavorful, like a sour ale, offering green apple tartness backed by seedy strawberry sweetness before a quick, dry finish. Big tartness is definitely the main impression.

The flavor of Tweason'ale is distinctive, and certainly unusual in comparison with grain-based beers (apart from the Flemish sour ale, which it somewhat resembles). I would rate it a success on its own terms, but don't suspect it will become widely popular outside its niche. Hopefully the gluten-intolerant target audience will appreciate that Dogfish Head took another leap outside the box rather than brewing a neutered facsimile of a familiar style.

Featured beer:

No comments:

Post a Comment