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For the Love of Brewing

Beer, what an amazing invention! It comes in so many forms and styles and is brewed all over the globe. It has been brewed since ancient times in one form or another.  Earliest known evidence of beer production dates back to about 5000BC, and has evolved over time as technologies changed to become the beer we all know today.   It is currently the third most popular beverage behind water and tea, and there are about 196 billion litres consumed every year.  That is a lot of beer.

Unfortunately for people with gluten allergies, we are unable to enjoy this delicious drink as 99% of beer produced is made from barley, wheat, or rye, which are all gluten containing cereals.  Even beers that are labelled gluten free aren’t necessarily gluten free, as some companies will add products to their beers to break up the gluten particles into indictable amounts. Which doesn’t mean the gluten is not still present. As far as I know, there are only two certified gluten free beers in New Zealand.  The first is Scotts Brewing Co’s Gluten Free Pale Ale, and the second is Kereru Brewing’s Auro Gluten-free Ale.  Both are very nice.

Until recently, I was unaware of my gluten allergies, and thought that being tired and run down all the time was just part of life.  I started brewing beer about 10 years ago and quickly fell in love with the hobby.  I loved the flexibility and creativity of taking a bunch of grains, and turning them into a delicious beer, which I could then share with friends and family.  I even became a qualified beer judge. Dream come true! Then I found out I was gluten intolerant and I could not drink it any more.  This got me to look at alternatives for brewing.  I found that the information is very hard to come by and that there are virtually no gluten-free malts available in New Zealand.

Now you may be asking what is malt?  Malt is the back bone of any beer.  It is the second most important ingredient behind water in creating beer. Malt is made by a very long, time consuming process where the grains (usually barley) are soaked in water, then allowed to sprout, and then once they are sprouted to the correct point, they are dried and roasted to varying degrees of colour and flavour.  For barley and wheat based beers, there is a huge variety of different malts available in New Zealand so you can make a large variety of different styles of beer. But as we don’t have any gluten-free malt producers here, there are none available to buy.  Which means you have to create your own.

So this is why I started my blog to gather together the information and make it available for other New Zealanders to use.  It is still a work in progress,  but I try to add information to it as I find it, and it also contains some of my experiments so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I do.  So I would like to leave you with the recipe that started my fascination for brewing way back when I was a kid.  I used to love help my mum make this ginger beer recipe, and I’m sure you will too.  You can find this and other recipes on my website

Ginger Beer

8 Sultanas
1 tsp Lemon Pulp
2 tsp Ground Ginger
4 tsp Sugar
600 mL of water

To feed:
2 tsp Ground Ginger
4 tsp Sugar

Ginger Beer:
1.2 L Boiling water
1 Kg White sugar
Juice of 4 lemons
8.4 L cold water


The first step is to create a plant. Now it is not actually a plant in the normal sense as if it has leaves and roots, it is essentially a yeast starter and is really easy to make.
First, you have to get a preserving jar that holds about 1 litre. Then add the sultanas, lemon pulp, 2 tsp ground ginger, 4 tsp of sugar and 600 mL of water.
Then screw the lid on the jar but leave it loose. If you screw it all the way shut it may build up pressure and cause the jar to crack or explode. Leave on the bench for 2-3 days until it starts to ferment. Then feed every day for 1 week with 2 tsp ground ginger and 4 tsp of sugar. You should see the sultanas swell up and rise to the top, and you will see bubbles forming and rising. This means it is fermenting.

Ginger beer:
Dissolve sugar in boiling water, add lemon juice and set aside.
Get a large bucket, muslin cloth, and a sieve. Line the sieve with the muslin cloth and pour the plant through the cloth into the bucket. Allow to drain until all the liquid is gone from the plant and you only have the sediment left.
Add the 8.4L cold water and the sugar/lemon mixture to the bucket and mix thoroughly.
Pour into bottles. I recommend plastic soda bottles because it makes it easier to gauge the carbonation level by giving the bottles a squeeze. If they are really hard, it’s ready to drink. Leave in a warm place and check on it every few days for the carbonation level.
Once carbonated enough, put bottles in the fridge and enjoy it. Keep an eye on the bottles as you open them though as sometimes they can be real gushers.

And finally, if you want to keep the plant alive, simply put half of the residue from the cloth back into the jar, add 600mL of water, 2 tsp ground ginger and 4 tsp of sugar. Feed for another week and repeat.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoy this recipe. It may not be super gingery, but you can simply adjust the amount of ginger you add to tailor it to your liking. Also try experimenting with some cinnamon, vanilla, and other spices to make it truly your own. You could also use fresh ginger instead of ground ginger, it’s totally up to you.

One last note. As this is a fermented beverage made from natural yeasts, it may have a little amount of alcohol. But the amount is usually very low. I have never measured it myself but I’m told it is not above 0.5% ABV so it is quite safe.

Article provided by John Thomson

John is a 35 year old father of 3, who is on a quest to find the best way to make gluten free beer at home.  He has about 10 years brewing experience making a large variety of ales and lagers and is certified as a BJCP Judge.   He is not afraid of trying new things or experimenting with new ingredients.  Brewing is a part time hobby, alongside his website

Allergy Free and Healthy Living Show 2019
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