Gluten Free Chocolate Brown

IMG_0701This was a 3 gallon batch that I made for my fiancé who has a gluten intolerance. Initially I put this recipe together using Sorghum syrup as the base, but, when I got to the homebrew store one of the employees recommended a product by White Labs called Clari-ferm. Apparently it helps to remove a significant portion of the gluten from the beer, suitable for people who don’t have a strong gluten allergy but are sensitive to it.  I wanted to try out using cocoa nibs in a beer too, so I figured I’d try that here too.

  • 7.5 lb Briess 2-row
  • 1 lb Quaker Oats
  • 0.5 lb carafa II
  • 0.4 oz lactose
  • 1.5 oz raw cocoa nibs
  • 0.5 oz Magnum hops (60 min)
  • WLP051 California V
  • White Labs Clari-ferm (to remove gluten)

// Mash-in (w/o carafa) with 2.5 qt 166F water to hit 152F for 50 minutes, 168F 5 min. Mix-in carafa at the start of mash-out. Add ice, chill to around 75, pitch yeast. //

Beer fermented down to 1016 pretty quickly, crash cooled for a few days, then added 1.5 oz cocoa nibs to the keg in a mesh bag (steamed them for 10 min prior). Not great flavor – very watery and bland despite the high finishing gravity. Hard to pick out any specific flavor. I think the enzyme removed a lot of stuff from this beer and we’re basically just left with the lactose and a hardly any malt flavor.

4/1/15  Really no improvement in the chocolate flavor. It has added some flavor, but it tastes kinda burnt, almost like stale coffee… weird.


Well, this beer was a dud. I really should have sat down and totally redid the recipe after deciding to sub out the Sorghum for 2-row right at the end. That being said, the Clari-ferm also seemed to have done strange things to the beer. Sure, it removes gluten, but maybe I didn’t expect it to be this big of a change. There was virtually no flavor in this beer (aside from the cocoa nibs, which I’ll get to). I’ve had some gluten free beers, and while they are a little lacking in flavor, they’re definitely not this watery and bland! The lactose was a terrible idea, so that also might be contributing to the overall badness. The head was non-existant on this beer and any soda pop-like fizz that formed on the surface during the pour dissipated before I could even snap a picture of it.

Experiencing the results of the cocoa nibs was just about the only positive takeaway from this, and I kinda wound up liking them in the end once they had plenty of time to steep in the keg. The best way for me to describe their flavor is comparing it to mole sauce used in Mexican cuisine. The cocoa flavors are very similar. It does exhibit some subtle roast and chocolate, but there’s also a component of it that reminds me of a spicy hot pepper, slightly earthy and burnt tasting – maybe that’s also stemming form the association with mole. I can see this being an interesting addition to a porter or stout, or even a pumpkin ale if it’s done right.



Filed under All-grain, Experimental, Gluten Free, Malty, Small Batch, Stout / Porter

4 responses to “Gluten Free Chocolate Brown

  1. Richard

    Hi there Alex, I’m gluten intolerant and brew all my beers with ClarityFerm and have no problems with loss of body or flavour in my beers. I typically make English ales with full volume mash, and mash on the high side. The ClariyFerm really seems to reduce the gluten and I can now enjoy beer 🙂 Thanks for great blog!

    • Richard, thanks for the feedback – I’m glad to hear that you’ve had good experiences with it, especially with English ales which I tend to brew pretty often. The more I think about it, I bet my problems were more derived from the poor recipe choice on my part, less the ClariFerm. I’ll have to give it another shot!

  2. Richard

    Hi again Alex, well I tried brewing a stout gluten free with ClarityFerm (Marris Otter, roast barley and flaked barley) and it was thin and horrible just like your stout above. I’ve brewed this recipe before many times without ClarityFerm and it’s turned out creamy and lovely. So, maybe ClarityFerm eats and thins out some ingredients that give creamy mouthfeel such as oats and flaked barley… Works great on making gluten free English bitters though, thank goodness!

    • That is really interesting! There must be something going on there, maybe with the flaked grains. Good to know that it still works on bitters, though. Are there any other styles that you find the ClarityFerm works well with?

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