NO longer just on the map for the Hunter Valley’s wines, Newcastle has an unquenchable thirst for beer. There are craft-beer joints aplenty, brew houses returning to the inner city and craft-beer festivals celebrating the amber ale.
Hunter producers are making their own beer too, including Newcastle’s family-owned Koala Beer which brews WILDE Gluten Free Beer. Drawing on experience making organic wine and home brewing beer, the company produces two brews: a Pale Ale and Raspberry Pale Ale, which is being launched with a celebration at Hamilton’s The Blind Monk on Sunday.
Food & Wine caught up with one of the faces behind WILDE, Chris Gordon, to chat about the award-winning, gluten-free beer range.
What sets WILDE Gluten Free Beer apart from other beers on the market?
WILDE provides peace of mind for the growing number of health-conscious, gluten-intolerant and/or environmentally aware consumers, who demand tasty products to support their healthy lifestyles. We wanted to provide better choices ... affordable beer that is a clean, natural product and tastes great. We are delighted to report that from the consumer feedback we regularly receive: WILDE Gluten Free Pale Ale and WILDE Raspberry GF Pale Ale are just that!
How long did it take to find the combination of ingredients and the brewing process that worked?
Initially Koala Beer began brewing a certified organic beer in Newcastle. After a few years of listening to complaints from our coeliac friends that they could not find a nice tasting gluten-free beer, we wanted to formulate a top-notch gluten-free beer that could fill this space in the Australian beer market – the market for coeliacs and gluten-intolerant drinkers. This fitted right into our philosophy of providing healthier choices to consumers.
But we had to get it right. We chose a very experienced and professional head brewer. We began with trials and eventually developed our original Pale Ale Gluten Free beer recipe. Beer is usually made from barley and/or wheat. After several months we had a technical breakthrough with alternative grains that do not contain gluten, to produce quality gluten-free beer that tastes like beer and yet is still a reasonable price for consumers to purchase.
Was it a challenge to make a gluten-free beer?
It is an ongoing challenge as we attempt to broaden our range. Grains that contain gluten are easier and cheaper to brew with. It is difficult to create a pleasant-tasting beer without barley. We brew without gluten and carefully select a variety of hops and yeasts to produce what most drinkers say ‘‘tastes just like beer – good beer’’.
How does the production process differ from making a more traditional beer?
The brewing process is essentially the same as brewing craft beer. We follow the original German principles for preservative-free natural beer making, as several other craft beer companies do, but we have selected grains not containing gluten in order to replace the usual barley.
What is the production process?
Traditional brewing is essentially extracting the sugars from the sprouted grains, diluting with bucket loads of clean water, adding hop flowers for flavour, aroma and natural preservative qualities, then warming the brew so yeast has an ideal environment to feast on the sugars and produce alcohol, carbon dioxide bubbles and interesting flavours. So the ingredients are grain, yeast, hops and water.
Our process only differs from all other traditional beer making in the grain we choose. We use ancient grains that do not contain gluten.
There is another very important difference, we do not use preservatives nor do we add sugar to the process. Most craft beers follow these steps. Big breweries often don’t due to pressure to cut costs by using chemical additives and sugar. For WILDE what goes in the brew is important, as well as what does not end up in your glass of beer.
Tell me about the pale ale.
WILDE Gluten Free Pale Ale presents as a flavoursome golden-hued pale ale. Careful selection of hop variety gives the beer a citrus and vegetative pine character in the aroma with floral hints which rounds out the beer, and a bitter but clean, tasty finish. A slight tartness from the grain balances nicely with the bitterness, giving a lift that leaves you wanting more. The beer has been crafted with no added sugar, colour, nor preservatives. At 4.5per cent alcohol and with a little yeast retained, it has a full smooth mouth-feel that is both satisfying and refreshing.
When did you introduce the Raspberry?
WILDE Raspberry Gluten Free Pale Ale was first released in late winter this year. It was in the planning and trial stage for all of 2015. Gluten Free WILDE Raspberry Pale Ale was created to give health-conscious drinkers and coeliacs the opportunity to enjoy another refreshing and interesting beer in the WILDE range. The daring inclusion of fresh raspberries provides a delightful pink hue, a raspberry aroma and a fruity balance to the bitterness of the varietal hops. Natural raspberries are fermented with the grain to provide a delicate complexity and a mid-strength 3per cent alcohol. Your nose will also discover citrus, orange and mandarin aromas. WILDE Raspberry is a refreshing pale-ale style of beer with a wonderful colour and flavour, crafted with no added sugar, colour, nor preservatives.
How is the production process different from that of the pale ale?
WILDE Raspberry is brewed in almost the same way as the original pale ale, with the addition of real raspberry fruit from Australia and New Zealand. We have selected hops with more subtle citrus fruit notes to complement the lower alcohol content.
What has the response been from gluten-free and non gluten-free beer drinkers to the WILDE range?
About 30,000 tasting cups have been offered at various beer festivals, and food and wine expos, and at gluten free expos in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide over the last few years. The response is overwhelmingly positive. In fact 240,000 litres of WILDE Gluten Free Pale Ale has been consumed in Australia in the last few years.
We have quite a following among craft-beer drinkers, as well as from those for whom gluten is an issue. We are always delighted when we are at beer festivals catering for all tastes, and where there are many larger companies exhibiting their wares, attendees return to us to tell us they enjoyed it more than anything else they had tasted!
Where can we find WILDE Gluten Free Beer?
WILDE is found in many independent bottle shops. Independent just means stores not owned by Coles or Woolworths, like smaller chains such as Cellarbrations, Bottle-O, Porters, IGA, and individual liquor stores/cellars, as well as some clubs, bars, hotels, and restaurants.
See retail outlets on our website.
Next week our first export pallet of WILDE Gluten Free Pale Ale will be shipped to Singapore.
WILDE Gluten Free Raspberry Ale will be launched at The Blind Monk, Hamilton, on Sunday, open to the public from 3.30pm. The event will include music, prizes, food and free WILDE beer tastings.