‘9 White Deer’ is a brewery from Ballyvourney (Baile Bhuirne, pron. Bail-yah Voorn-yeh) in County Cork in Ireland’s south-west, which is a Gaeltacht (an Irish speaking town for those non-Irish, pron. gwail-tockt). Their beers aren’t intended on being hop monsters or on being boundary breaking flavour-of-the-months. Their mission is well made, easy-going, accessible craft beer. However, what they have done recently is fairly vanguard for any craft brewery out there with an entire range of gluten-free beers. And they were kind enough to ship bottles of them my way to give them a try.
Let’s get some science stuff out-of-the-way first. Gluten intolerance is not a food trend despite all things to the contrary. Properly known as ‘Celiac Disease’ it can make the lives of those with a genuine allergy to gluten complicated. Going out for a meal which should be something enjoyable becomes a game of Russian roulette.
Having been able to see the Irish craft beer scene ‘grow up’ & actually contend with foreign beers has been an incredible sight. And seeing something like this, where a brewery turns out an entire range of gluten-free beers, including a stout — and a double chocolate, vanilla stout too is nothing short of wonderful.
I’m slowly getting back into lager-style beers. Kolsch’s are enjoyable. Straw colored? check. Fruit notes low? Check. Body? A little thinner than medium, but with GF beers, I expect this. Sweetness in the taste? It’s there, & it’s low. It’s dry, but not Moses’ sandal dry. This was easily one of my favourites of the selection I was sent, & definitely one I’d highly recommend, celiac or not.
The body on this is very thin for its ABV. Again, with GF beers I expect a certain level of thinness & honestly, I think the 5% shoot for this beer was a mistake given the Pale Ale from the range is 4.5%. And this beer’s hoppy notes & bitterness suffers for it. It’s not in any way unpleasant, & if it was put against a ‘Session IPA’, I’d say it’s a very decent contender.
Saor Pale Ale
There is something about this beer I can’t put my finger on. It feels slightly ‘lager-y’ in its dryness, sweetness & malt crispness. If you’re a celiac, want a Pale Ale, & this is on the beer list, I’d have it. But given that BrewDog’s ‘Vagabond’ Pale Ale exists in the market, honestly I’d opt for Vagabond if it was on the same list. The beer just does not match to the current standard of Pale Ales out there in the market right now. It was definitely the weakest of the range for me.
Now we get to something truly wonderous. This beer’s design isn’t just bold. It’s daring. And guess what? It’s easily my favourite of the range. And I’ll go one step further. In the category of sub 5% stouts/porters available in Ireland, this is hands down the single nicest & most enjoyable ones I’ve had. The vanilla isn’t overpowering, nor is the chocolate. The thin body also does not in any way hold back this beer in any way. I fell in love with this beer in a big way. I fell for it so hard, when I was beer shopping I bought a few extra bottles of it. Beers like this are welcome surprises & we need more like this, & I cannot recommend this one highly enough. This beer is clearly the best of the range.
Saor Red Ale
I am not am Irish red ale fan. I find them to be dull, boring, uninteresting, unrefreshing, characterless, forgettable & the beer equivalent of the colour beige. This beer isn’t ruby-red. But the colour nonetheless is a good healthy red. The carbonation isn’t crazy either. This is the point I always find myself sighing when trying red ales. Then I stick my nose in expecting the usual caramalt aromas. Instead I’m shocked what I smell. I walk away from the beer, & moments later come back to it & inhale deeply. There it is again. ‘Red Wine’.
This is very unexpected. This beer has some barleywine-esque qualities on the nose, which is very pleasant. Then, there’s that first taste. Thin. Again, not unexpected for a gf beer, or this range. It’s not chewy. There’s little caramel. No toffee or nutty notes. It’s actually reasonably nice for a red ale. Is there anything wrong with it? Nope. Would I buy it with my own money? Probably not. But, if someone put it in front of me as a beer to drink, I’d drink it, & not have that ‘ugh’ feeling about it.