Lorette C. Luzajic

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Gluten-Free Guinness?

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By Lorette C. Luzajic

First the good news: you may be able to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a Guinness draft, even if you have a gluten-free lifestyle.

Now, the bad news. You may not be able to celebrate with a Guinness draft if you have a gluten-free lifestyle.

What the ????

I found this news elating, as it has been one year since I have had beer. And I loved beer, but I especially loved dark beer. I did try rice beer, and I won't be trying that again. Gin will have to do.

However, it must be the luck o' the Irish, because most Guinness brand beers are made with malted barley, not wheat. (The exception is a little known and not very popular "white" version.)

Barley contains proteins called hordein and gliadin. These proteins both affect gluten-sensitive individuals, but their effect is often milder, and some people have zero problem with barley protein at all.

Whether this is good news or bad news depends on how religious your health requires you to be about consuming reactionary proteins. I'm personally going to take the chance on St. Paddy's day, because I will not keel over dead from exposure. I lived for 35 years without knowing, ingesting gluten over and over. Of course, I was sick as a dog and now after one year nearly every one of my more than thirty conditions has disappeared. Strangely enough, I find myself in foreign and surreal situations, such as looking forward to going to the gym, and bounding out of bed without pain in the morning. I sail through menstruation without five days of vomiting, fever, suicidal pain levels, and depression. My blood pressure has gone from coma watch to normal. Needless to say, I do not want to invite these toxic gluten friends back to visit or to stay.

But that said, I would not get sick and die tomorrow if I have toast today. I choose not to, because I like being hemorrhoid-free more than I like toast. (Don't believe the �eat more whole grain/vegetarian bowel cure,' folks. It makes everything much worse. Don't take my word for it, either: read Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Gottschall, or research starch free diet and digestion.) It's not optimal to cheat on the diet because every gluten ingestion means intestinal damage that translates to nutritional deficiency or digestion or immunity issues.

However, I sometimes choose to enjoy the empty calories of ice cream, and last I checked sugar is the deadliest plague of the last century. Also, I have had no issue with oats, and oats have no gluten but are processed in flour plants. So for me, it seems that small variances will not cause symptoms to recur. I haven't tried barley, but I was planning to reintroduce it and see what happened- it would be great to have beef barley soup again. There seems no better time to see what will happen than to have an ice cold Guinness.

Some celiac or other gluten sensitives only have problems with wheat products. Some are not very sensitive and can tolerate minor excursions into dough-land. Some could die from a mis-step. So hopefully you know who you are and listen to your doctor before you listen to me.

If you decide that you can celebrate St. Patrick's properly, know that Guinness is one of the most popular beers in the world. Though it appears black, the beer is actually ruby red, but very dark. It is far and away the best selling beer in Ireland, though sales have gone down in recent years in accord with new varieties introduced and slightly lower intakes of alcohol.

Though the company makes no medical claims, popular lore says Guinness is the good-for-you beer. It's recommended if you're sick, sad, or recovering from surgery (IN MODERATION, FOLKS!) I could neither disprove nor substantiate the rumour that Guinness was once made with pig's blood, which gave it a considerable nutritional profile. But our knee-jerk reaction of yeah, right may be wrong- a great deal of Irish cooking uses blood as an ingredient. Yummy. Regardless, Guinness does contain iron, B vitamins, and serious antioxidants, and it is extremely useful at preventing blood clots, lowering �bad' cholesterol, lowering homocysteine levels, preventing cataracts, and helping with erectile dysfunction. Who would have thought? It also contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than competing beers. Indeed, it contains fewer calories and carbs than o.j. or low-fat milk!

It all began in 1759, making St. Patrick's Day 2009 an extra special 250th anniversary year celebration. By the 1820s, Guinness was being exported far and wide- to surprising markets like Bahamas and Sierra Leone!

Though Guinness has a few varieties, and they come in bottles and cans, the best way to have it is in a pint.

Pouring a Guinness is considered one of the fine arts of bartending. A helpful video from master brewer, Feral Murray, on the brewery website (Guinness.com) makes a quick lesson for the uninitiated, or a review for barmaids who aren't too sure they're doing it right. The ritual must begin with a Guinness brand glass, a firm grip, and your finger on the harp logo!

At a 45-degree angle, begin filling the glass. You should hear the beer hissing on its way in. It should take about two minutes- "good things come to those who wait." When the beer comes close to the harp insignia, straighten the glass. Cease pouring at the harp line. Now set the glass down, and let the beer settle and surge. A nice cream should rise and fill the rest of the pint. If the cream does not rise slightly over the lip, slowly pour in a bit more until it does.

The drinking is also an art, so the barfly needs a quick lesson, too. And what could be more fun that beer drinking school?

"First of all, you never look down at a pint of Guinness. You always look to the horizon. Bring that elbow up," says our teacher. "Bring the glass to your lips, and not you to the glass." That's when you should "break the seal" and "get that cream on your lips."

Now take a big enough sip to lower the beer level to below the rim. This will cleanse the palate and prepare it for the pint-long taste sensations ahead. Apparently, we want to aim for to get the bitterness near the back of the mouth, the sweetness at the front of the tongue, and the "roastiness" to the sides. What's next? "Enjoy."

What about the warm-cold debate? Some purists insist the brew has better "mouthfeel" and fuller flavour at room temperature. But I'm sure not alone in preferring it cold. The opposing camps may actually be on the same team: for room temperature in an Irish beer cellar is not warm, it's quite cool. It is not ice cold, however- and beer lovers agree that �ice cold' is the only way North Americans can mask the tastelessness of new beers.

Either way, as Fergal says, "Enjoy." I say to each their own. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever tickles your pickle. Whatever trips your trigger. Whatever tickles your fancy. Whatever frosts your cookies. Whatever charges your batteries. Whatever pops your cork. You get the picture. Warm or cold, we can all agree on one thing: I want some more, please!


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