When it comes to beer, I like mine gluten-full. But I empathize with the gluten-intolerant among us, who watch from the sidelines as we beer enthusiasts indulge our palates with endless pints of pales, lagers, sours, porters, saisons, browns, ambers, reds, wheats . . . ah, you get the idea.
Gluten-free people need love—I mean, beer—too! Fortunately, there are now plenty of GF beers for them to try. The biggest selection in Bellingham is found at (where else?) Elizabeth Station, a must-see destination for beer lovers of all descriptions.
Elizabeth Station is the exceptional bottle shop located just northwest of downtown Bellingham; owner Patrick McEvoy opened the doors in March 2012. Since then, the number of taps increased to 16, the lovely wine department was expanded, and many, many pints and growlers of beer and cider (and even kombucha and ginger beer) have been enjoyed by the thirsty hoards living in or passing through the City of Subdued Excitement.
Elizabeth Station’s bottled beer selection is massive, arranged by country or state of origin, with the GF section all the way to the right. Here, you’ll find about 15 different varieties, along with about a gazillion ciders.
How is Gluten-Free Beer Made?
Most GF beers are made with sorghum extract and hops. Harvester, one of the better-selling GF beers at Elizabeth Station, brews in a 100% gluten-free facility in Portland, Oregon and uses chestnuts, buckwheat, berries, oats and other GF ingredients. Their lineup includes IPA, Pale, Dark and a variety of seasonals, such as Apple IPA and Coffee Pale.
A popular GF beer is Widmer Brothers Brewing’s Omission. However, according to the great state of Washington, Omission is not officially gluten-free. That’s because Widmer uses barley in its brewing process. Through a proprietary process, the gluten is removed, so the end result falls below the standard for gluten-free (20 parts per million or less).
In Oregon, Europe and other places, Omission is considered totally gluten-free. However, because it once contained gluten, it’s not labeled “gluten-free” in Washington. But take heart, gluten-insensitive folks—you can be sure that Omission is below the accepted level for gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Beers at Elizabeth Station
Of the 15-or-so GF beers available, three are European and the rest are U.S.-made, hailing from Oregon, to Colorado, to Delaware.
In other gluten-free potables, at least one—but usually two—ciders are always on tap at Elizabeth Station. One selection typically runs a bit sweeter and the other a bit drier. You’ll most often find Finn River on tap—it’s popular and they’re always doing some interesting and fun varieties, like jalapeño and cranberry ciders.
During my visit to ES, I was sipping on a Fremont Brewing Company Universale Pale, so I didn’t have a chance to taste the GF beers (see sentence #1). However, I did poll the staff and a fellow Fremont Brewery fan about gluten-free beers. They described them as tasting “kind of like” beer, or having the taste, but not the aroma, of beer. The exception? Omission—which, according to my very casual poll, “tastes like beer.” What more can you ask?
Regardless of how they are described, Patrick tells me that ES sells plenty of each of the GF beers in stock and people generally give good feedback.
Gluten-Free Beer on Tap
Now for the really exciting news for our gluten-free beer buddies: Elizabeth Station will soon have GF beer ON TAP. Yes! Everything you love about keg beer in a safe-to-consume version made just for you! Brewed by Harvester, it will debut at ES on Friday, April 25, which just happens to be April Brews Day Eve.
Harvester provides its outlets with strict serving guidelines to reduce the chance of cross-contamination. There will be a dedicated tap for Harvester, meaning no gluten-containing beverages will ever be on it. Patrick also connected with potential Harvester-serving pubs in Seattle to see how they will handle the process, which includes frequent hand-washing and dedicated glassware.
Because Elizabeth Station’s staff is dedicated to providing the safest delivery of Harvester to the consumer, they will adhere to the brewery’s serving guidelines. ES aspires to ensure the safety of all their celiac and gluten-intolerant customers.
Elizabeth Station has a reputation for having one of the cleanest systems from kegs to lines in Bellingham, so you should feel confident that they will take care of your gluten-free beer concerns. And of course, the knowledgeable and friendly staff can answer your questions.
So, gluten-free beer seekers, mark your calendars for April 25 to fill your growlers and enjoy a pint of Harvester on tap at Elizabeth Station! And in the meantime, pick up a bottle or two of GF beer, conduct a taste testing and find your favorite. Now, even if you’re gluten-intolerant (like Patrick’s mom), you can enjoy a refreshing beer with your friends—or your son!
Elizabeth Station, 1400 W Holly St, Bellingham, WA 98225 360-733-8982
Open every day from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Elizabeth Station on Facebook