It wasn’t until around 18 months ago I properly began my gluten free beer journey, before this I was happy to accept Cider as the only option available to me, or on the rare occasion Daura Damm by Estrella, thinking this was the only gluten free beer out there.
With a group of friends I work with, we do a monthly pub crawl around the Sheffield area, known as Brewcrew, this is what happened to get me interested in the craft gluten free beer scene, more so over the past 12 months. By this time last year I’d already discovered First Chop, Wold Top and Brewdog Vagabond amongst a few other more regular beers including the gluten free Peroni and other supermarket available beers.
During the first few weeks of 2017, I made my first visit to Beer Central, a handy little bottle shop located in Sheffield’s Moor Markets and managed to discover a few new gluten free beers, namely from Brass Castle Brewery based in Malton North Yorkshire with their Helles Lager, Sunshine IPA and Bad Kitty Stout – this was almost the start of my craft gluten free beer journey. Over the following weeks I returned to Beer Central on finding out they’d increased their gluten free range by now including some First Chop cans and Brewdog Vagabond.
And then something happened, that has perhaps changed the world of gluten free beer forever. Not too many miles away from home, over in West Yorkshire an idea was brewing. Before we knew it, a new gluten free beer had hit the local pubs in the Sheffield area, Fantasma from Magic Rock. Turning up to the local pubs and having this 6.5% citrus beer on a keg line was nothing short of amazing. Fantasma was also canned and various outlets through Sheffield stocked it. But Fantasma was short lived, within just over three weeks it was gone, as it wasn’t a Magic Rock core range beer there was no confirmation we would ever get to drink Fantasma again, even though it did go down just as well with the none gluten free community!
March then came around pretty quick, with a trip to the BeerX Festival in Sheffield where there was a selection of gluten free beers on offer, ranging from cans of First Chop through to Wold Top Scarborough Fair IPA on keg. It would have been good to have seen a gluten free category in the beer awards, but equally as good to see gluten free beers outdoing the competition of regular beers. My work colleagues then arranged my birthday gift, knowing I’m now heavily into my beer trying to seek out more and more gluten free beers, a with ‘Gluten Free Beer Store’ on the side arrived, 12 new gluten free beers to try I’d never sampled before plus another two new in at Tesco from Redwell Brewery. By this point, my gluten free beer count is probably around 25, but that wasn’t enough, there were more gluten free beers to be found.
A visit to Birmingham saw the number increase thanks to a local brewery from the Dudley area, Sadlers and their range of gluten free beers. I only managed to find one pub that had this available, the Canalside in the mailbox area, however was well worth the find. Shortly after this was a trip over the pond to Drogheda, about 30 minutes north of Dublin, where I discovered there was a bar in the town called Bru, knowing about the Bru Brewery I could only imagine these two were linked so paid them a visit only to find Bru Lager on keg, they also have a few other locations out in Ireland, well worth a drink if you’re out there. Coincidently in another pub over there I tracked down Wold Top Against The Grain, one of my most local brewers for gluten free beer at home.
Moving into mid April, I’d heard on the grapevine Magic Rock Fantasma was making a come back! So what better to do than head to the Magic Rock Tap it’s self for a quick brewery tour followed by a few pints right there in their very own taproom. I of course couldn’t resist brining a few of their cans back for later consumption too. Shortly after this, Fantasma again started to appear in the bars and shops throughout Sheffield, all rightly so making a song and dance about it. Of course, once again we lost Fantasma after a few weeks but made a return again in the summer months and just prior to Christmas.
Gluten Free Beer continued over the course of the next few months to be a common theme of discussion, continuing to discover yet more gluten free beers I’d not sampled before. The Sheffield Station Tap began to stock the gluten free version of Bernard in bottle along with their standard offerings of Bernard which went down a treat, and now often have GFPA from Allendale Brewery available on cask or keg, both well worth a trip into the tap for! Their offering also continued to grow throughout the later course of 2017, introducing Arbor OZ Bomb and Gun Scaramanga to the Sheffield area.
Continuing to drink in the Devonshire Cat, where the manager happens to be a coeliac too, their great range of gluten free beers excelled throughout the year, there is now both a dedicated cask and keg line available serving up a range of First Chop beers, Raw Independence and Magic Rock Fantasma amongst others. They also have a massive bottle stock with around 15 different gluten free beers available to drink in, hence why it wins my award for the Best Gluten Free Pub in Sheffield 2017!
I then took a trip north across the borders to St Andrews in Scotland passing Edinburgh on the way, whilst making a quick overnight stop off in Edinburgh I happened to visit a bar, called the Beer Kitchen, it was obvious they’d have some gluten free offering. Amongst the standard beers I’d heard of before, I was pointed towards two beers from Bellfield Brewery, a pilsner and an IPA both available in bottle and brewed in Edinburgh. Since I was in their city, it was only right I tried the local beer, so did! Both the IPA and Pilsner made for great drinking and it was a shame to not be able to find these beers back home in South Yorkshire. Thankfully on my next trip north of the border to Scotland in September, I managed to find the same bar then had the IPA available on keg. Not only this but I thought it would be a great idea to being 6 of both the IPA and Pilsner back home to enjoy in the comfort of Yorkshire.
Between my two trips up North to Edinburgh enjoying the Bellfield Brewery beers, I discovered a facebook group, Beers4Coeliacs, an amazing community of likeminded people looking to find the very best gluten free beer available. This made me even more aware of the availability of craft gluten free beer throughout the UK.
It was then time for the Sheffield CAMRA Beer Festival held at the Kelham Island Museum, when the beer list was revealed thee were a few beers I recognised from First Chop and also the RAW Independence, alongside this Shiny Brewery had two of their beers at the festival, both of which were gluten free. Affinity and Happy People are two beers I’d never sampled before, both of which ticked the boxes and happened to begin appearing more in pubs around Sheffield following from the festival. It was amazing to be able to attend a beer festival and enjoy the beer along with everyone else there. Sheffield’s own Brew Foundation also had their Free Beer available on cask, last time I’d tried this I wasn’t best impressed but thought it was worth a second opinion, the result was fantastic and instead of having a tobacco aftertaste, it was much more easy drinking and changed my original perception of the beer.
On the way back from the beer festival, we happened to call in to Bar Stewards, a fairly new micropub in the Kelham Island area, first impressions weren’t great… there were no obvious gluten free beers available however after asking it appeared they stocked Arbor Oz Bomb and TOOL and Fantasma in cans. Up on returning to Bar Stewards several times, I discovered one of the owners has a daughter who’s coeliac, hence the availability of gluten free beer in such a small venue. They appeared to be the first place in Sheffield to have the new Arbor Simcoe on cask, and it went down so well, they got it back a few weeks later. There’s also talk of them introducing a dedicated gluten free cask line at some point in the new year – so certainly one to keep an eye out for!
Before I knew it, the year was coming to an end, Christmas was up on us and I’d left it pretty late to sort out my Christmas beer supply. This wasn’t anything to worry about though as our monthly ‘brewcrew’ pub crawl took us to Chesterfield for our Christmas edition where another new beer was ticked off the list, Kennet & Avon Caen Hill Hop found in the Chesterfield Alehouse, several pubs also had RAW Independence or one of the beers from Shiny available as they are both local to the area. On returning to Sheffield for the evening of drinking we called in both a Thornbridge pub and a True North pub both of which as promised now stock First Chop cans as standard.
Christmas beers were then sorted, with another order from the Gluten Free Beer Store, this time a mini-keg of Kennet & Avon Caen Hill Hop after the sampling in Chesterfield earlier in the week. Obviously I couldn’t place an order without choosing another 12 new beers to sample over the festive season either. Oh and just on a side note, an early Christmas present from Magic Rock announcing Fantasma will be in their core range from next year!
So there we have 2017, the year of gluten free beer. Hopefully 2018 will bring yet more new beers to the table for us to enjoy and a much wider availability in pubs and bars throughout the country. Now time for some awards from GlutenFreePint
Best Bar for Gluten Free in Sheffield
Bar Stewards – Highly Commended
Sheffield Tap – Highly Commended
Best Gluten Free Beer
Bellfield Bohemian Pilsner – Highly Commended
Arbor Simcoe – Highly Commended
Best Gluten Free Brewery
Bellfield Brewery – Highly Commended
From GlutenFreePint we wish you all the best for 2018, happy drinking and beer hunting! I have a can of Fantasma or two chilling in the fridge to welcome in the new year!