“I’m old school,” D.L. Geary says from behind his desk. His crystal blue eyes make him look boyish, despite the white hair, ruddy complexion, and outdated office decor.
I’ve been invited to his brewery to try IXNAY, a gluten free beer that by all accounts actually tastes like beer. But before we can get to the beer, D.L. has some thoughts he wants to share about the current craft beer scene.
Geary is certainly old school in his approach to the complex beer-scape in Maine right now. He isn’t impressed with the cloudy, hop-forward beers that spring up daily in this state. Geary learned to brew beer by apprenticing at breweries in England. The man wants his beer simple, clear, and refreshing. Though I might be a student of the new school, I can respect that.
If he doesn’t like the look or the taste of the new beer offerings in Maine, he absolutely cannot stand the new names being slapped onto these beers. Moose Drool? Pork Slap? Arrogant Bastard? No. No. And hell no.
“We’re in the age of the stupid beer name,” he says to me, leaning forward in his seat. He tells me about a YouTube video called Hipsters Love Beer. I watch it when I get home. Even if I am a major supporter of the nouveau beer scene, I did almost pee myself laughing at this video. (“It’s brewed by slutty nuns up in the Appalachian mountains.”)
So here were are, a Maine brewing icon who was at the forefront of the craft brewing movement in the mid-80’s, and the new school beer writer who loves him some hoppy, strange-named, cloudy beer. What could possibly bring us together?
IXNAY, of course. After we share a laugh over the stupid beer names, he asks, “Do you want to try the beer?”
Confession: I’ve never had a gluten free beer. By all accounts, they taste like (cover your kid’s ears) ass. Most GF beers use Sorghum, a grain substitute that gives beer a non-beer taste. My GF friends are desperate for a beer that tastes like actual beer. And because I want everyone on this planet to find the beer that’s right for them, when D.L. asks if I want to try IXNAY, I give an emphatic, “Yes!”
He takes a bottle from his small office fridge, pops the top, and pushes the bottle and a Geary’s pint glass across his desk. He is giddy. I love his enthusiasm for this beer.
Here’s the lowdown on IXNAY. The first characteristic I notice is the clear, golden appearance I’ve come to expect from a Geary’s beer. It develops a nice foamy head with tiny beads. I bury my nose into the pint glass and breath in the coppery, yeasty aroma. So far, all signs point towards this baby tasting like beer. With D.L.’s crystal blue eyes intently watching, I take a generous gulp. The verdict? It’s beer.
I put the glass down and wait. From what I’ve heard, GF beers often start out tasting like beer, but leave a tainted aftertaste on the tongue. After a few moments, all I’m left with is Geary’s beer. This a Herculean triumph. I take a few more healthy glugs and by the time the pint is finished, it’s apparent that this beer is the real deal.
Geary tells me that the beer is somewhere between their Pale Ale and Summer Ale. I can imagine drinking this beer on a hot summer day and not even thinking that it’s GF. I cannot offer a bigger compliment to a GF beer.
Because people with gluten afflictions can be so painfully ravaged by exposure to gluten, I’ll try to clarify some of the science behind IXNAY. It’s technically not free of gluten. The Geary’s team experimented with a number of recipes over the last three years, and finally developed a recipe that calls for grain instead of Sorghum. They use an enzyme from Aspergillus Niger – a clarifying agent – to break down the gluten in the beer. The FDA has a threshold of 20 parts per million of detectable gluten for something to be considered GF. Geary tells me that when he has IXNAY tested by an independent lab in San Diego, it always comes out well below the 20 ppm mark. He’s given IXNAY to three people with Celiacs Disease, and none of them have experienced the horrific pain associated with ingesting gluten products.
Though D.L. Geary’s cantankerous aversion to the vibrant post-millennial beer scene does make his product seem antiquated, his passion to give the world a beautifully crafted GF beer, just might put the Geary’s brand back on the ever-shifting beer map.