FreeFrom Food Awards Judging
Sue Cane, coeliac and gluten-free beer expert, muses on this year's beer session...
Judging by the number of empty glasses it had been a good afternoon.
It was a quiet start, though, to the gluten-free beer tasting for the FFFAwards 2013. A group of assorted beer lovers making polite conversation in a room in North London, some clearly anxious about the category they had come to judge. You didn’t need to be a detective to tell there had been some late night Wiki research on gluten-free beer the evening before.
A nice spacious table. Clipboards, bottles of water. Plenty of space to rest your elbows and put down your glass. Two hours later: one hundred and fourteen numbered glasses competing for space with tasting notes, water, dry crackers, cups of tea - trays of samples still arriving, one after another, until all 14 gluten-free beers were sniffed, swirled, tasted, swallowed.
New products on the market and developments in brewing and testing mean that this year there is more beer than ever which has been declared gluten-free. So much so, that in the FFFAwards the category has been split into two – beer which is naturally gluten-free, ie not brewed from barley – and that which is made from barley but still tests gluten-free.
The tasters kicked off with the first group. There was a bit of a tense start but it didn’t take long for palates to adjust to new flavours and expressions of relief to briefly flash across a few faces.
Two new gluten-free British beers entered the arena this year, both from long-established and award-winning breweries, plus a range of new beers from the stable of one of Britain’s oldest gluten-free beer companies, not to mention the new and innovative products from Europe.
All these battled it out on the table with favourites from previous years. It was a tough competition.
The tasting ran from the lightest, most refreshing lager to a delicious, richly-flavoured bitter; 14 beers with an ABV from….well, the lowest is a secret at the moment, to a very respectable 6.5%.
Our tasters thought so too. By now the very best of friends, and forced out into the cold North London air by the need for more beer, they were last seen heading in the direction of the nearest pub.
The winner of the FFFAwards beer category will be announced on 16 April 2013 at the annual FreeFrom Food Awards invitation-only presentation party in central London.
And this was before they had started tasting!
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