After three weeks bottle conditioning, it was finally time to pop a bottlecap off a bottle of Zonder Gluten Belgian Wit and sample my inaugural GF homebrew! It was a moment filled with anticipation, excitement, curiosity, uncertainty, and perhaps just a wee bit of worry (what if it tasted horrible??).
I took bottle opener to bottle cap, and as I pried it off, a delightful "psshht" emerged from the bottle. The carbonation was right on the money. I poured the beer into a pint glass and assessed. The beer had almost zero head retention (I'd later learn why this was probably the case), but the nose smelled great. It was slightly sweet, and Kelli suggested that it reminded her of Blue Moon (not bad, since that's a "real" barley- and wheat-based Belgian Wit!). Frankly, I think it was one of the best noses I've smelled on a GF beer. (If only the taste matched the smell...)
The taste was slightly bitter (in a good, beer kind of way). The chestnuts were surprisingly prominent, largely masking the aromatic hops. The orange came through just a little, and I barely detected the coriander. As expected, it was yeasty. I could certainly improve on the depth of flavor, and I'd like the finish to linger longer (at present, it stops abruptly).
Overall, however, it was beyond drinkable. In fact, it was quite tasty (I think it tasted best cool, not cold). The more I drank it, the more I liked it. Sure, I'm biased, but I think it's better than many commercial GF beers I've had. My bias aside, it's objectively good GF beer. And to me, it tastes more like "real" beer than many GF brews.
You don't have to take my word for it, though. For another, take Kelli's: her first reaction was that "it's pretty good." Next: "the more I drink it, the more I like it." Finally, we agreed that it's "actually quite delicious." As evidence, she kept reaching for another sip from the pint glass.
I also shared a few bottles of the beer with my regular gluten beer drinking friends and family. Here's a sampling of their responses: "Very nice." "This is really good. I'm impressed." One person liked it enough he joked that I'm going to have to brew more beer. Another, who describes himself as a "beer lover" as opposed to a "beer aficionado" also agreed that it was good. In fact, not a single person didn't like it. Now of course, they could have just been acting polite for my sake. And that's a total possibility. But I like to think that at least one person would have given me some honest negative feedback or constructive criticism if they thought the beer was lousy.
So I decided to share a few bottles with someone who had a more discriminating palate - Dennis O'Harrow, the head brewmaster at the C.B. & Potts brewery in Broomfield, CO. In 2007 and 2008, Dennis brewed a seasonal GF beer that I reviewed here on NGNP. More importantly, he brews lots of regular beers, knows how to do it well, and could offer his experienced opinion of my inaugural effort. Here's what he thought:
"It's different, but I like it better than most gluten-free beers I've tasted."
"I get the chestnuts. The oils from the chestnuts probably killed your head of foam." [Aha!]
"The chestnut taste hides the orange and coriander."
"I wouldn't have known it's a wit. It's like a saison almost."
"There's a little caramel taste. It would taste even better if it was drier."
"I like it more as it gets warmer. I'm pleasantly surprised that there are none of the sorghum flavors to it."
So there you have it. In the end, I'm quite proud of my beer (all 3% alcohol by volume of it!). Especially for my virgin homebrew effort. Of the initial batch, I have "just" 24 bottles left, which means it's time to start planning the next brew. Now...what style to brew this time, and with what ingredients?