Ballyvourney-based 9 White Deer Brewery, which launched a year ago with Stag Bán, adding Stag Rua in December, has pioneered the innovative gluten-free craft beer Saor.
Brewery proprietor Don O’Leary of the Mills Inn explained that he is gluten intolerant. “There is no Irish-made gluten-free beer,” he said .
At the moment they are brought in from places like Spain, England and Belgium.
“We had a look at the market and we said there was definitely a niche for us there,” he said. “When its craft and gluten-free, you will have more taste.”
Brewer Gordon Lucey said that, up to now, some gluten- free beers had to use cereals such as sorghum and millet which made it impossible to get the same flavour as malted barley. He said that because craft beers retail at a higher price than conventional beers, the cost of ingredients per brew is less significant and there are no chemicals used.
Mr O’Leary said: “Gordon went on a scientific journey to research how to make it. Using clever brewing techniques, we have denatured the gluten contained in the malt, which is now below 20ppm. We made a small batch, got it tested, and it came back okay. Every batch will be certified ‘gluten-free’ by an independent laboratory.
“The Food Safety Authority requires that you can prove you can do it. They don’t ask for every batch, that’s something we’re doing, it’s just so important that it’s right and we want to make sure that its right every single time.”
A light beer with just 203 calories, Saor is described as “gently hopped, refreshing, and easy drinking”.
“If you weren’t told it was gluten free, you would not know,” Mr O’Leary said.
Spin-off ideas, Mr Lucey explained, include being able to cook with beer, including making a gluten-free batter.
Saor means ‘free’ as gaelinn, as the language is termed locally, and the usual question is if it is ‘saor an aisce’ meaning that there’s no charge. “We thought it would get people talking and it does,” Mr O’Leary said.
News of the beer reached more than 10,000 people in 24 hours on Facebook.
“Over the past four months we have been brewing pilot batches of Saor and we are now scaling it into full-time production,” Mr O’Leary said.
The beers are distributed by Cork’s Classic Drinks solely for the Irish market and Saor will be in shops in about a month’s time.