Yep, you read that correctly – gluten-free and beer. Doesn’t really fit together, does it? To be honest, it’s one of the hardest parts of changing my lifestyle to accommodate my health. I love craft beer and the Fraser Valley has some of my absolute favourite finds for delicious, creative and complex microbrews. But alas, until more breweries really nail down the science of making hoppy beverages a little more gluten-friendly, I’ll be here to taste, try and test all of the non-gluten options. First Stop, The Clover Valley Beer Festival!
So at the 2019 Clover Valley Beer Festival, that exactly what I did! Teamed with a positive tasting attitude and a pocket full of tokens, I sampled all the best in ciders and gluten-free food fare I could manage.
Ciders are another up-and-coming offering from the Fraser Valley and beyond. The many of us who cannot partake in beer are truly grateful for a tasty option to enjoy. Featured at the Festival were: No Boats on Sunday, Magners Irish Cider, Somersby Orchard Selections, and BC Tree Fruits Cider Co. And while I’m sure that many of the breweries on site do make a gluten-free option, I asked around and there weren’t any available that day to taste.
I’m not typically a cider drinker – as BC beer and wine are my jam – but this was a great opportunity to see what’s out there and find something my tastebuds might like – and my gluten-sensitive system can handle. I find that most ciders appeal to beverage drinkers who enjoy the taste of sweet, fruit-forward flavours. Unfortunately, I do not happen to be such. I did find many of the options that day to be on the sweeter side. They were unique and flavourful in their own right, but just not what makes my soul sing. I like something a little more dry, tart and nuanced – yep, I’m that flavour snob, I’ll own it.
But despair not, fair readers! There was a cider that won my heart and my tokens that day at The Clover Valley Beer Festival! The BC Tree Fruits Broken Ladder Rosé was exactly what I want cider to be. With a blend of BC Okanagan apples and cherries, this cider is tart and not too sweet with hints of hibiscus flowers. A nice dry finish and I am a happy cider drinker.
If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, the Somersby Rosé was just as layered and tasty but with that cider sweetness. If it’s something different you’re craving, the Magner Lemon would be my recommendation. Not too tart and the lemon adds a delicate acidity to the balance.
When it came to pairing my ciders with some good eats, most food trucks these days have at least one gluten-free option. My first snack was Caribbean Jerk chicken with coleslaw from The Jerk Shack. I’m a big fan of spice but even with a finish of their spicy sauce, it was just nice and warm. Everything was fresh and light but the chicken could have been even spicier for my taste. If you like your spice on the mellow side, this truck is absolutely for you.
Grimm’s was on site with their delicious and gluten-free sausages BUT they were cash only that day. Festival Pro Tip: cash is king! However, I went purse free and being able to use my card is just easier. So I had to pass. It was just nice knowing that the option was there. Another Festival Pro Tip: rompers are not your friend – no matter how fantastic the port-a-potties are. Just trust me guys…
So, my next food stop was at Earth & Fire and their plant-based choices. Not only was their team ridiculously friendly and helpful, but the Vegan “Tuna” Poke Bowl was the highlight of my day. I love a good salmon or tuna poke and this came so close to the real thing that I almost couldn’t tell that there was no actual fish in it. With a texture similar to tuna but no fishy after taste, this poke bowl was a pleasant surprise.
Although the afternoon started out with some dark clouds and a few raindrops, eventually the sun came out and I finished off my time at the Clover Valley Beer Festival by making some new friends. We chatted about our favourites, which vendors they had voted for and what they were looking forward to trying again soon. I got the chance to share all my gluten-free victories for the day and they shared some alternatives I could try in the future that were not available to taste that day.
So there is hope for us gluten-sensitive folks. We may not be banished from fun and delicious events forever. And if you find an amazing tried and true gluten-free beer, hit a girl up. I need that goodness in my life!
2019 Clover Valley Beer Festival Winners
Best in the Fest – Yellow Dog Brewing Co.
Enjoy a pint from the champs at Sammy J’s Grill & Bar, Langley.
People’s Choice – Camp Beer Co.
Check them out on tap at Hawthorne Beer Market & Bistro.