The nectar of the gods is not a crisp apple cider.
When The Amsterdam on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg was a place, one of the owners explained to me that I simply wasn’t educated enough to appreciate it. Call me crazy, but I know what I like, and no amount of education is going to make me appreciate a sour, grapefruit basil-infused porter. When I drink beer, I’m simple. I like porters, stouts and a few maligned beers (Bud Light Lime, Dos Equis and Imperial). Although I like to drink local beers to help local businesses, I won’t drink local beers I don’t like.
And here’s the problem with gluten-free or gluten-removed beer: If celiac sufferers had known in the 1980s they had celiac, we’d have plenty of GF or GR Bud Light Limes in the world. But we didn’t know we had it back then. Most celiacs believed they simply had food allergies or, more recently, IBS, so GF beer is a relatively new thing. As such, brewers tend to try and make it taste like the craft beer so many people buy, which means I don’t like a good number of GR or GF brews, and it’s a small playing field already.
For someone whose favorite beer in the world was Holy City Brewing’s Pluff Mud Porter, the preponderance of IPAs and fruity ales leaves me cold. My go-tos? Daura Damm, Omission Lager, Trader Joe’s NGB and, sometimes, Omission Ultimate Light Golden Ale.
As for picking up some GF or GR beer, hands down, Shep’s has the widest selection. The St. Pete store also sells singles, so I don’t have to commit to an $11 six-pack I may hate. I’m also a fan of a couple other places in Tampa Bay, but two spots in particular — one on either side of the bridge — are worth a stop.
You can either get Daura at the bar from Ybor City’s New World Brewery, where the staff is amazing about my hummus with corn tortillas, please (I don’t even have to tell them anymore). There’s another GF beer on hand, but it’s… well, it’s not my style.
While Mangia — a casual, celiac-friendly Gulfport restaurant — carries GF beer, like New World, the prices are designed for eating in-house. A long list of ciders and meads is featured, too — far more than their GF/GR beer menu, but that’s for another column.
At local breweries, I tend to go with local cider or wine, because none of them deals with GR or GF beer, which I get. There are development, brewing, and cross-contamination issues. But what I wouldn’t give for a gluten-free version of Cigar City Brewing’s Puppy’s Breath Porter.
If there’s a local brewery that needs a guinea pig to taste GF/GR beers, I’m your gal.
This article initially appeared in Creative Loafing.