Coeliacs and others with gluten intolerance can thank Hamish Jones of the Nuts Brewing Co, the winner of this year’s Morton Coutts Trophy.
The Morton Coutts Trophy* is presented annually by the Brewers Guild and sponsored by DB Breweries, for outstanding innovation or achievement in the New Zealand brewing industry.
Hamish meets these in spades: while most beers are made with barley and other grains, which contain gluten, the Christchurch brewer has worked out how to brew with chestnuts, which do not.
“The beer is not made with malted barley, but is still mashed and boiled before fermentation”, explained the Trophy citation at last weekend’s awards. “By being gluten-free it appeals to a growing section of society who have been deprived of beer and forced to drink only wine and cider.”
“Although chestnuts have been used as an adjunct in beer for some time, the use of them without any barley, to produce a gluten-free beer on a commercial scale, is a worldwide first and furthermore the nuts are locally grown.”
So how did the idea come about? “It was actually created for family and friends for a laugh”, Hamish explains. “Being it didn’t appear anyone had taken the idea of gluten-free chestnut beer too far in New Zealand, the first aim was to make a beer that they could enjoy, and also being gluten-free the range was quite small in comparison to the myriad of craft beers that were making their way onto the market. The challenge was on.”
Chestnuts are packed with goodness. High in fibre and only five per cent fat, they are full of carbohydrate, making them an ideal energy source. In the brewery, being perishable, chestnuts must first be dried, then milled to the same consistency as malted barley.
When milled for brewing chestnuts can be used unroasted to produce lighter beers, lightly roasted to yield a medium-bodied beer with a more robust nut flavour, or heartily roasted, to impart rich, toasty flavours.
Located close to Christchurch airport, The Nuts brewery currently produces two beers, both easy-drinking golden lagers. Cheslic is New Zealand’s first commercial gluten-free chestnut beer, while Hamish’s second brew, Chester’s, is a conventionally brewed (barley malt) lager with chestnuts added for extra aroma and flavour.