When Jen Kimmich, who co-owns The Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, Vt., was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2007, it meant the unthinkable for someone whose life revolves around beer: She could no longer drink the stuff. So her co-owner and husband, brewer John Kimmich, set out to make a beer she could drink.
The result: Celia Saison, a gluten-free beer.
"Imagine our shock when faced with the prospect of her never enjoying one of my beers again," reads the Celia Saison label. "I immediately began researching my options, and the resulting effort is now in your hand." (The beer has been around for a few years. It was occasionally on draft at The Alchemist brewpub in Waterbury, but now it's in bottles.)
Made with sorghum instead of barley, Celia tastes quite different from most saisons. (Saisons originated in the 19th century the French-speaking part of Belgium, where the beer was used primarily to hydrate workers. Traditional saisons were low in alcohol -- around 3 percent -- but today's are often much higher.)
Celia Saison, which is 6.5 percent alcohol, has an odd aroma -- clean and lemony, but not very strong. (It's brewed with orange peel and Celia hops.) The taste is much sharper -- notes of lemon, orange rind, and coriander intermingle with a peppery spiciness and strong Belgian yeast. It's tart but not quite sour, and it some ways it reminds me of the funkiness of Orval Trappist ale.
Some people will undoubtedly be turned off by this beer, in part because it does not taste like a "normal" saison. I absolutely love it.
A four-pack costs between $9 and $10. Because it's made by The Alchemist -- brewer of the outstanding Heady Topper double IPA -- it may not always be easy to find. When you see it, grab it. That's what I plan to do. And I don't have celiac disease. In fact, I eat this every day -- sometimes twice a day. TMI, I know.
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