I've been putting it off and I'm not sure why: Celiac Disease hits close to home. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother, a Celiac sufferer, has struggled to maintain a gluten-free diet. I've seen firsthand the hardship of trying to find wheat and gluten-free versions of foods that the rest of us take for granted.
So kudos to Anheuser-Busch for tackling this market by introducing Redbridge gluten-free beer in late 2006. Having the backing of one of the "big boys" means Redbridge is readily available by gluten-free standards. I even found it at a bar down the street from me (though admittedly I live in the oft progressive borough of Brooklyn).
So why the delay in reviewing this beer? Well, frankly, I feared of the flavor. To avoid wheat and barley, Redbridge is brewed with sorghum, which I think we can all agree, doesn't sound too enticing. And though I laud A-B for the offering, I was afraid this love-in would come to a quick end as soon as the beverage met my taste buds.
But for the second year in a row, Redbridge took gold at the Great American Beer Festival in the Gluten-Free Beer category. Granted, only 10 beers competed, but I still thought it time to do grandma proud and give it a try.
After the jump, read my review of the surprisingly satisfactory Redbridge gluten-free beer...
Good news on the pour: Redbridge looks and smells like beer, with a somewhat distinctive orange color and an aroma you'd expect from a mid-priced lager. The only standout is a slight sweetness on the nose that is a bit peculiar, but not off-putting. I'm guessing that's the sorghum.
Better news: My fears were unwarranted. I entered with visions of O'Doul's, but this is real lager. After a few sips, I realized... this is better than Budweiser. Unlike a Bud, A-B added some decent hops to give this beer a nice little bite and a dry finish. Redbridge still features some atypical sweetness -- probably in part once again to the sorghum -- but in an effort to take off this edge, A-B actually brewed a beer with some kick. Having recently tried Budweiser American Ale, I would have to say that Redbridge is far superior.
THE FINAL SIP: If you're a beerhead who's been forced to give up gluten, you'll still miss variety, but at least you have one brew on your side. Redbridge won't enter any lists of all time favorites, but file it under "far beyond satisfactory." Even regular drinkers should give this one a try to ease your fears and see that Anheuser-Busch can make a decent specialty beer if they put their mind to it.
[Photo Credit: anheuserbusch.com]
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