There's a new entrant to the gluten-free beer market: New Planet Beer. Based in Boulder, Colorado, the company is brand spankin' new, and founded by Pedro Gonzalez, who has Celiac, and his wife, Seneca Murley. New Planet eventually plans to offer a suite of GF beers in different styles, but for now, just one has made it to market: Tread Lightly Ale. The company describes it as an American-style Pilsner.
I spoke with Pedro several weeks ago, and in his words, the beer is still in a "prototype" phase. Although the beer has officially launched and is publicly available (in a geographically limited region confined to the immediate Denver-Boulder area), he's continuing to tweak the recipe to develop a beer he's more satisfied with. I was planning to hold off on writing a review until Pedro had settled on a finished product, but New Planet has emerged in the media a bit lately, and so I opted to write a review now in the event that people are wondering what this beer tastes like. (I'll also post updates to this review in the future as needed...)
New Planet's Tread Lightly Ale is made from a base of sorghum and corn. It's a bit on the sweet side. I initially struggled to more specifically describe the flavor profile until my buddy, Andrew, nailed it on the head - New Planet tastes like New Grist without the undesirable NG aftertaste. There is room for improvement, as Pedro readily acknowledged, and I look forward to a future iteration of this beer to see what he's done with it. In the meantime, New Planet is still a welcome addition to the still-small pantheon of gluten-free beers.
(On final word of note: New Planet is contract brewed at Twisted Pine in Boulder. Twisted Pine brews many traditional barley-based beers, so I'll be checking in with Pedro to learn about what they're doing to minimize the potential for cross-contamination. More to come...)
UPDATE: December 17, 2009
I recently met up with New Planet founder Pedro Gonzalez to chat about his beer and to taste the finalized version of the debut brew. Firstly and most importantly, let's cut right to the chase...the beer itself.
The New Planet Tread Lightly Ale has a beautiful golden color. It's flavor is slightly sweet. If you're a beer drinker who likes your brew bitter, Tread Lightly will probably not top your list. On the other hand, if you're not hunting for the most bitter beers you can find (hence, more of an American-style beer drinker), then there's lots to love about New Planet's signature ale. My one complaint is that the beer doesn't hold its head of foam very well. That's a relatively minor thing in the grand scheme, but dedicated, die-hard beer drinkers care about that kind of stuff. Never the less, New Planet is an excellent beer and welcome addition to the GF beer family, especially since the Tread Lightly Ale is noticeably different from competitors such as RedBridge and Bard's. Such variety is much needed for us GF beer drinkers!
For now, New Planet remains available in a relatively limited area in the Denver-Boulder corridor in Colorado. However, there's good news for beer drinkers outside this region. Due to high demand, New Planet is ramping up production. Currently, they're brewing 7 barrel batches (1 barrel = 2 kegs = 31 gallons) every two weeks. Over the next several months, that production will eventually scale up to 30 barrel batches, and distribution of the beer will expand in kind.
Finally, on the subject of contract brewing and cross-contamination concerns. First, it's important to note that brewing is inherently a sanitary process. Brewing good beer depends on meticulous cleaning and sanitation (wouldn't want a rogue strain of yeast or bacteria fouling a batch!). This in and of itself means good things. Pedro also says that he's instituted some new protocols at his contract brewer to further reduce the risk, though he's reluctant to offer more detail for fear of giving away a competitive advantage to other current and would-be GF beer brewers. Fair enough. In the same breath, Pedro is also very aware of the importance of transparency within the GF community (and remember...this guy is one of us!). He's very open to ways that he can give customers more confidence in his beer while retaining the competitive advantage that's so important to his growing company. Lastly, and most commendably, Pedro hires a local laboratory to test for gluten in EVERY batch of beer, using the 20ppm Codex standard. He keeps all those records on file, and so if you ever have a question, you can look at the date code on your bottle of beer, contact Pedro, and he can pinpoint the exact test results. That's some good stuff right there.
And so, when it's all said done, I'm still singing the praises of New Planet. Bottoms up.