The Inspiration Behind the Aurochs White Ale
Brewing is as much an art as it is a science. That goes double when you’re talking about gluten-free beer, which comes with a slew of extra unknowns, guesswork, and trial an error. So how did we come up with out first gluten-free beer offering, the Aurochs White Ale? Where did it come from and how did we get it here?
Well, the inspiration behind this brew actually came about when I was hanging out with some of my close friends. While I usually indulge in a hard cider (preferably an Arsenal Cider) or a glass of red wine, many of my friends (fiancee Emily, college roommate Kevin Doyle, cousin Kevin Bove, co-founder Ryan Husted, and friend Jason Williams) gravitate towards a Belgian-style White Ale or German Hefeweizen. Although these are two distinctly different beer styles, they have some serious similarities. For starters, they are both traditionally made with the most glutinous grain and my arch nemesis, wheat. Second, without a similar gluten-free beer, it made me feel left out. Like to the inspiration for Aurochs Brewing Company, the inspiration behind the White Ale stemmed from filling a void and creating a refreshing, yet flavorful, complex beverage I could enjoy with my friends. Thus began a Witless Composition.
If you were a traditional brewer going to create a beer, your starting point would be to go to the nearest craft beer retailer and try a few beers of a similar style. Unfortunately, as many of our team members are gluten-free, we do not have that luxury. So, like a deaf composer, we had to resort to other means. The first step I usually take to learn about a new beer style is to understand the historical circumstances that caused its creation. The history of society has shaped the beers we drink and the consumption of beer has shaped society. Take the White Ale for example. It is traditionally made using unmalted cereal grains and spices. This beer style originated in the Flemish region of Belgium, close to farmers (a great supply of unmalted cereal grains) and Netherlands (a great source for spices). This beer was extremely popular in the middle ages, and also goes by the Flemish name, Witbier, and the French name, Biére Blanche, but then fell out of favor in the early 1900’s because of the increasing popularity of the golden lager. It was revived by Pierre Celis, a milkman, in the mid-1960’s and really hit its stride in the 1990’s with the rise of Hoegaarden and Blue Moon (These beers are not gluten-free).
Having some historical perspective, I always find it beneficial to reference the work of the Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster, Garrett Oliver. He does an awesome job of explaining beer styles in the context of food in his book Brewmaster’s Table. He specifically talks about the strength of impression the beer leaves on your palate and the flavor hook, the part of the beer’s flavor that harmonizes or accentuates the food. By understanding the food that a beer pairs well with, it makes it easier to understand the essence of the beer’s flavor. According to Garrett, the subtle impact and high carbonation of Belgian-style White Ale pairs well with seafood, sushi, and salads while the citrus and spice flavors allow it to pair well with brunch and many Mexican, Thai, and Indian dishes.
Having a historical perspective, and the essence of its flavor behind me, I then ask my friends to describe to me the flavors they are tasting since I can not try the beer myself. It only took a few seconds to see the magic behind the White Ale. It has a subtle impact on the palate and is highly carbonated, making it very refreshing, approachable, and easy to drink. At the same time, the diverse citrus, grain, spice, and yeast flavors provide a complex drink with a depth of flavor. It toes the line between being subtle, refreshing and drinkable, yet packed with flavors that parallel many of popular styles of foods. This is the beauty of this style.
The Aurochs White Ale
To finally recreate the style, I usually go to the beer judge certification program to understand the guidelines of the style (the science behind a style). Having all this in hand, it is time to get creative and let the art of the beer play out. We turned the traditional white ale on its head by replacing the barley in the beer with millet and replaced the high-protein wheat with quinoa. Quinoa and millet provide a solid base for the Aurochs White Ale. We then complement this delicate grain bill with European hops, fresh orange peel, coriander, and chamomile. The high protein of the quinoa creates that familiar pillowy white head followed with flavors of citrus and spice that can be enjoyed year round.
We created the Aurochs White Ale so that we could enjoy a gluten-free craft beer with our friends whether or not they were gluten-free. We look forward to enjoying one of these beers with you someday.