Friday, March 9, 2012

Harvester Brewing: Review: Local, Dedicated, Gluten-Free

James Neumeister (Left) & John Dugan (Right)

When I first heard about Harvester Brewing, the pioneer brewmasters who started the first dedicated gluten-free (GF) beer brewery in Portland, my cheek muscles nearly seized from the sudden grin blossoming on my face. I've combed the GF beer aisles of Whole Foods and New Seasons before, and I've tried several damn good GF beers from other parts of the world. But you must know this: Portlanders have a thing for local, and I am right there with them. I am proud to know that our beermongering city has come of age and joined the GF movement grown-up style.

Harvester had a tasting last night at Belmont Station--part beer retailer, part beer bar that boasts of having over 1,200 beers in circulation. I was happy to see that our new beer makers were getting a lot of attention from GF and Non-GF drinkers alike. Harvester featured three beers: Pale Ale, Dark Ale, and Experiment Red Ale. Each beer is made of the same ingredients: chestnuts, GF oats, sorghum, cane sugar, hops, and yeast. The chestnuts are roasted to varying darknesses, which changes the consistency, color, and flavor of the beer. When asked if he planned to use other grains, head brewmaster, James Neumeister, said they were willing to experiment with other grains, including buckwheat, something I've always wanted to taste in a GF beer.

I was told that the GF oats are grown in Montana on an isolated farm. That means their are no gluten-containing grain farms in the vicinity. If that isn't enough, the GF oats are sent to a facility in Seattle for testing before making their way to Harvester Brewing. That tells you how serious these guys are about keeping customers safe.

Harvester is a two-man operation. It was started by James Neumeister in 2009, and he was joined by his partner, John Dugan, in May of 2011. Together they are creating a variety of beers that make taste buds, and sensitive tummies, very happy.

Here's the thing. These guys are just getting started. Their beers are good, but they will improve as the company and its brew masters mature with time. We need to keep our eyes on these guys, and support them by buying their products, and by asking our local beer retailers and restaurants to carry their products. If we do this for them, we will have delicious, dedicated, GF beer flowing copiously throughout our lovely river city. And people like us will be able to order a GF beer at any location we damn-well please, thank you very much!

The following are my tasting notes for each beer:

Experiment Red: An intense ale with dark, smoky, and bitter notes, with a hint of molasses in the mouth. The beer was not well balanced or very complex, and it left a bit of an aftertaste, but it had a lot of potential. I expect this one to mature as they master their technique.

Pale Ale: A refreshing, crisp, aromatic beer with a rich, silky texture. A well-balanced brew that is ripe for summer BBQs. I heard that Steve's Cheese will be selling Harvester, and I hope this fine beverage will be on the menu. It will stand up to sharp and pungent cheeses like a champ.

Dark Ale: A delicious, creamy, smoky beer with molasses on the finish. It isn't quite balanced just yet, but it is very drinkable now, and I am confident that the Dark Ale is going to be a future prize contender.

You can find Harvester beers at all New Seasons grocery stores (accept Arbor Lodge, so ask for it) and at Bridgetown Beer House, Saraveza (Yeah!), Food Front Coop, and more. Click here for a complete listing. As of right now, the beers are being sold for $5.99 per bottle. For the GF crowd, you know that's a good price. So go and get you some, and remember to drink responsibly. Make someone else drive.

Click here to "Like" Harvester's Facebook page.


  1. You hit the nail on the head! These are some tasty beers, and I'm eager to see how they expand their line.

  2. Thanks, Gina! It's great to see another solid blogger getting the word out for these guys. I'm with you. I can't wait to taste more. BTW, I just have to say that I love your Tips for Nerds blog! Very sweet ;)