The Brewing of “A Smokeball’s Chance in Helles”

A Story of Two Breweries: Ghostfish & Outer Planet

You know what we love more than anything? Changing the perception of gluten free and pushing the limits of what people think they can do with non-traditional grains. This fuels us.

As a result, we get to collaborate with breweries in our community to share our experience from the past five years of brewing hundreds of beers with grains that don’t contain gluten. It’s exciting learn from other brewmasters, but also witness the amazement once they taste these unique brews.

At our facility back in October, our Head Brewer, Reid Ackerman, worked to brew a gluten free beer with Ariel Klein, Head Brewer at Outer Planet Brewing. Ariel was an excellent partner as she has a significant amount of experience with lager-styled beer and yeast proposa. Additionally, she was eager to learn the art of gluten free brewing. Partnering to create this beer was a fantastic learning experience and a win-win for all involved.

What did we brew, you ask? A special helles lager we’re calling “A Smokeball’s Chance in Helles” — on tap now at both breweries. 

Check out this fun video Outer Planet Brewing produced. It showcases the brewing process and the joy of the day.

Recently, we spoke with the Reid and Ariel about the process. Here’s a Q&A we hope sparks curiosity and the desire to try something new.

What is a helles beer?

Reid: Traditionally helles are very bright, mildly sweet, light hued, full bodied, bottom fermenting beer. We wanted to add a unique dimension to ours, so we included a small portion of applewood smoked red Proso millet.

Ariel: The smoked helles style is one that has intrigued me for quite a while now – I love the delicate balance of light sweet grain and a gentle smokiness. This balance is quite difficult to achieve, and we were excited to present ourselves with a real challenge! 

How did brewing day go?

Reid: Overall it was really smooth! And, considering we were unsure how the proportion of smoked malt would play with the rest of the grist, it was a very pleasant surprise that the smoke flavor was balanced and light, but still very noticeable and appreciated. 

Ariel: Perhaps the biggest challenge was attempting to get the balance of ingredients right – something which we hem and hawed about over a few frosty pints. We were lucky to have access to some fantastic smoked GF malts – though we did consider smoking our own millet (perhaps we’ll save that one for next time!).

What do you hope customers take away/experience from this beer?

Reid: For those who haven’t tried our beers before, I hope they walk away with an understanding that you can make excellent beer from alternative ingredients. Especially, when aided by some excellent people in the community.

Ariel: First and foremost, I hope that our customers enjoy the beer! Assuming we are able to accomplish that, I hope they take away the knowledge that excellent beer of any style can potentially be brewed with gluten free ingredients and enough group knowledge. I hope to hear people say “this is a fantastic smoked helles lager” rather than “this is a fantastic lager for a GF beer”.

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Almost one year ago, we opened the doors to the first and only fully gluten free craft brewery in Seattle. Our mission was to create innovative craft beers, using ancient grains like millet and buckwheat. The whole team has been hard at work for the last year and it’s about time we celebrate. We’re doing so in a lot of ways, including releasing a limited edition First Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout. Continue reading

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