Gluten-Free Beer Review: Redbridge

redbridge

Staring in the face of the real possibility of gluten reactivity, the biggest hurdle for me to clear is going to be the beer issue. I’ve tried a few gluten-free beers in the past, but they were totally lackluster and not really worth drinking, let alone reviewing.

Alas, times are different now for the gluten-free world at large and things have gotten better. Maybe they’ve also gotten better in the beer world?

Anyway, Redbridge is a sorghum-based amber/red lager made by Anheuser-Busch. It weighs in a 4% ABV and an unspecified IBU rating. So what does this beer have to offer? Let’s find out.

Drank straight from the bottle so I can’t comment on color, but looking at the appearance of the beer through the bottle suggests a light golden color. Aromas of citrus hops come through the nose, as well as a glycerin-like sweetness from the sorghum. Flavors were very interesting and much more like that of an American pale ale than an amber lager – pale malt sweetness/breadiness supported by a bite of piney and grapefruit hop notes. Pretty thin/light in body and with high carbonation; this one is easy to kill several of.

Honestly, I found this beer to be very good. I got it to go with my gluten-free mushroom-Swiss burger at The Cove in San Antonio and it was a great pairing. The Cove is a great option in SA if you want a great gluten-free burger and fries, and obviously they have gluten-free drinks too. Oh, and the staff is super friendly and helpful. The bartender that day? As I paid out my bar tab and returned to my table, she noticed my lower half wear and gave me a pretty high compliment – “Oh, I love your shorts!” Never did I think I would get paid a compliment on my “Davy” Dukes but then again San Antonio and Abilene are totally different animals.

Anyway, I’m just glad I have at least one beer option should I have to make the commitment to gluten-free full-time. I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve not written a beer review in a long time, and that’s the reason – I don’t drink much beer anymore and what I have had recently in that respect are all previously reviewed beers. Alas, I might specialze in gluten-free beers in the near future as I try more. Bartender lady assured me she’d have some more different ones back in stock in a couple of weeks, so when I’m down there again it’ll be worthy of exploration.

Whatever the case, I’m giving this one a rating of 4/5. I would definitely drink this again.

Advertisements

Continuing the Gluten-Free Discovery

I spent yet another weekend in San Antonio hanging with Laina, sniffing out some other parts of town and visiting tourist locations (downtown, the missions, etc.) and of course food destinations, in which I jump in to gluten-free mode.

The more I get into the whole GF thing (with Laina practically holding my hand through it all), the more I discover so many new favorite flavors. Saturday mid-morning we ventured into the Pearl Brewery area (which is no longer a brewery by the way) for the farmers market, intending just to peruse for the time being but she spotted a stand making gluten-free crepes. Naturally we had to stop, for neither of us have had a crepe in years. We both ordered one to our tastes and they were absolutely delicious and filling. We totally skipped our planned lunch spot as it held us over until dinner. Like wow.

Also at the farmers market there was a winery with a stand (Bending Branch). I decided what the hell and got a glass of their Cabernet Sauvignon. It was delicious, so much in fact I went back and bought a bottle.

Over the course of the weekend we also visited two sushi places, and while I wasn’t able to order what I am accustomed to, I found other great, flavorful alternatives. Pitfalls to avoid include, but are not limited to, imitation crab, wasabi, soy sauce, eel sauce, none of which you would think have gluten but in fact do. That’s ok, with help I navigated to safe options, axing wasabi and doubling down on ginger instead. Oh, and GF soy sauce is a thing, and I cannot tell any difference between that and regular soy sauce. Why then do they add wheat to soy sauce I haven’t a clue. Oh, and I can still have sake too, which I love and will order with sushi when they have a hot sake option (I don’t care for cold sake, has to be hot for me, for that’s how my great-grandmother drank it and what I developed a taste for).

Sunday morning I munched on some GF crackers with roasted red pepper hummus while we ran some unexplored territory (at least on my account). Oh man that was delicious. We then stopped into a Mediterranean place. I considered a lentil soup appetizer but that was quickly shot down as I asked and it was in fact thickened with flour (dammit!!!), but afterward I was glad I forwent it as the entree was very filling indeed, with lots of very exotic flavors from the sauces used (which were totally safe).

So then the weekend comes to a close and I venture back to my dwelling place, where dad had grilled hamburgers. Not having any GF buns on hand, I grabbed a normal bun and had dinner. First bite of gluten since the Thursday evening prior to my trip. I also had a scotch with my cigar after (which is distilled from barley – and while there is no consensus as to whether or not it is GF, I would assume it at least contains traces of gluten). I had no ill effects at the outset, but I woke up this morning with terrible stomach cramps. OMG I hurt something fierce, and whereas I can’t tell for certain that the gluten was the cause, I can’t think of any other variable that would account for it.

At this point, given my own personal anecdotes and experiences it seems to be that the evidence is stacking up – I would say there is a higher chance that I am reactive than not. Again, I’m not jumping to conclusions and I will have the Array 3 run to verify, but it just seems that way to me. And if it is, I’ve decided I’m ok with that. I’m quickly discovering great new flavors that I love. My palate is morphing the more I consume GF foods, many of which I’m finding I like better than the mundane things I was eating day to day. Like this has gone from “well shit, this fucking sucks” to “oh wow, this is actually fun!”

I’ve learned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I can still have many of my existing favorites, some with just a slight modification, and I’m exploring all sorts of uncharted territory and finding great new-to-me flavors. Whereas beer and probably whisk(e)y is a no-go, I can still have wine, hard cider and a variety of liquors I’ve yet to get into. I can still have sushi (while avoiding certain pitfalls) and sake.

I can totally do this. If my suspicions are confirmed, I’m ready to make the switch full time. I’ve proven to myself I can do it, and I will do it if my well being depends on it.

Some Brief Reflections on Going Gluten-Free For a Weekend

As the sun set on the biggest day in motorsports, with a stomach full of all gluten-free food and plenty of Ace and Angry Orchard hard cider, I smoked the day’s last cigar and wound down for the day, completely satisfied that I had accomplished my major project for the weekend: going gluten-free for a couple of days.

Of course, it’s not because I had to. I don’t know yet whether or not I am gluten reactive, though I still think there’s a high probability that I am for reasons mentioned prior. Rather, I did it because it was because I wanted to. I wanted to experience the struggle first-hand, as sort of a sympathy/empathy thing for those who have to fight this battle every day. I wanted to learn about what all has gluten and what doesn’t, and just how careful gluten reactive people have to be day to day. I wanted everyone at my viewing party to feel fully accommodated so that nothing was off-limits. And…there might have also been some other ulterior motives for this personal project. 😉

At any rate, I was shocked by two things – not only how much stuff actually is gluten free, but how much stuff is NOT that one would think is. In looking at getting hamburger patties, my jaw hit the floor when I saw that the lesser priced ones actually had soy flour in them! Like what the actual fuck? Why does that shit even need to be in a hamburger patty? Needless to say I quickly rejected those and paid the premium for the “real thing” – the real thing probably tastes better anyway.

So after figuring out what all I could and could not have, it was a huge learning experience to say the least, not only about the logistics, but some about how I personally felt this weekend. For reasons I cannot explain, I did feel like I had more energy this weekend than I had in a long time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact I did eat gluten free this weekend, maybe it was some other factor. I don’t know and I’m not going to make a call one way or another.

Lastly, I also figured out just how flavorful gluten free food can be. I actually found out that I prefer the taste of a gluten free hamburger bun over a plain white bun, especially after toasting it (though I should say I absolutely despise the taste of plain white bread). Gluten free barbecue sauce? I couldn’t tell the difference. Of course, base spices, etc. are also great and dress up just about any food, and everything in the end came out just fine.

I guess at the end of the day, I proved to myself that if I do wind up having to be gluten-free, it is something I can do. There are as many different varietals of hard cider out there as there are beer, of course I already love wine and rum. I could still have sushi, minus wasabi and imitation “crab”and with gluten-free soy sauce (yes, there is such a thing!). Who knows? Maybe even sorghum beer is better than it used to be, and I forget what it’s called by a prominent bagpipe maker who is also a homebrewer has to be gluten-free and brews his own beer with normal barley malt and adds an enzyme that removes the gluten. Maybe I could try my hand at homebrewing and still have my beer and drink it too?

Of course, I can’t go completely gluten free yet. I need to wait until the test because I’ll need to continue consuming gluten at least intermittently to keep the antibodies up to show in the test (assuming I do have such antibodies). Alas, nothing says I can’t experiment with doing so on a part-time basis in the immediate future, and I plan to do just that.

I guess whatever happens, does. So be it.

 

The “G” Word…

…and I don’t mean “gay” either. I mean another one, and one that might be the mystery as to why I am totally unresponsive to antidepressant medication despite fitting the description of clinical depression. A word that is, in the eyes of many alternative/naturopathic medicine practitioners as well as some MDs, “the root of much evil.” A word that almost took away the budding opportunity in front of me.

Gluten.

Given my medical history, a more than casual correlation between neurodivergence and gluten reactivity, and certain parallels I’ve drawn in a story similar to mine, here I am faced with a painful reality. I now realize there is a very real possibility that I am gluten reactive. Of course it’s not a certainty and won’t be unless I have a full diagnostic performed, but given my family history of autoimmune disease (my biological father having been diagnosed as Grave’s but possibly was something else, and my mother having some unknown but definite autoimmune disease) and what presents as clinical depression in myself, there is a consistency there that is impossible to overlook.

Obviously this is a real shakeup of my life story and one I had never considered before as I have absolutely no GI-related symptoms with consuming gluten (though maybe my chronic piles are aggravated by it?) and I obviously do consume a fair amount.

Which brings me to why I am just down in the dumps about it all and I’ve been crying sporadically throughout the day. You know I LOOOOOOVE beer and whisk(e)y. Beer is obvious as gluten is found in abundance in barley, wheat and oats (the first of which is a common ingredient in all beer and the latter two in many styles of beer), and though distilled, whisk(e)y is debatable and there is no consensus as to whether or not it contains gluten. I also love artisan pizza, especially from a local place here in Abilene.

As such, facing the possibility of being gluten reactive depresses the shit out of me. If it turns out I am gluten reactive, all of the above has to go away, lest I face a future where I have no quality of life and suicide/euthanasia would definitely be preferable. As depressing as the thought of having to go gluten free is, the alternative is even scarier and more depressing – loss of motor function, coordination, life bound to a wheelchair. I definitely don’t want to go there.

Given this information, I’ve decided I have no choice. I have to be screened for gluten reactivity. I have to know so I don’t inadvertently fuck myself up 10-20 years from now.

So why now, of all times? Well I’m now at a point where I am receptive to making changes if I have to. Up until now my thinking on these matters (including not only gluten but getting trashed every night, diabetes, etc.) was the same – I’m unwilling to change and give up enjoyment (read: escape from pain) in exchange for better health. My attitude was “if it kills me then so be it.” You know, the same excuse heavy cigarette smokers use to justify refusing to attempt to quit (I know I sound like a hypocrite using that analogy but cigars are indeed different in how the tobacco is cured and the product is made and consumed).

So am I or aren’t I gluten reactive? For now that remains an unknown and will until I can put the immediate fires that are in front of me out because god(dess) knows that will start a whole other set of fires. I’m already finding out what a major pain in the ass being gluten free is as I am having to prepare a gluten free feast for my Indianapolis 500 viewing party Sunday to accommodate two gluten reactive guests. It won’t kill me not to have gluten after all so I’m totally accommodating.

Alas, I guess I’ll cross that bridge if it is in my path. I just don’t know how I’ll deal. There will be a years-long grieving process if I have to cut gluten, but I know it won’t be the end of the world. Plus I have the best support system I could ask for if it does transpire that I have to.

In the meantime, I’ll just do some pre-grieving so maybe I’ll have less of that to do later, so excuse me while I go cry some more.

Weighted Blanket – The (Shocking) Results

57730527175__1cb142ef-f452-4164-8506-4f5cf994a061

So I said I would report back in approximately two weeks in regards to my weighted blanket and how well it’s working for me, but I’m writing this post after just six days because the results are truly shocking and instantaneous.

The first night after I got my blanket I had to be up at 5:00 AM for my Friday half-day in office (note: my current office schedule is currently full-day Monday, half-day Friday and home otherwise) so I didn’t dare take a chance at a sleepless night and downed my usual 50mg diphenhydramine liquid gel, but since then I have not taken one. Have I needed it? Absolutely NOT.

I have slept just as well with my weighted blanket as I ever did on diphenhydramine, and without the night sweats and next-morning grogginess. Luckily the blanket breathes and radiates body heat away from you so it won’t overheat you (this was my big concern as I sleep hot – I’m a Pitta by nature; the “Davy” Dukes serve another purpose than just vanity after all) and the effects it has are immediately calming and quiet my IndyCar-paced mind almost immediately. I drift off to sleep quicker than it would take diphenhydramine to kick in, and naturally.

Now, do I sleep perfectly? Of course not. As has been my sleep pattern for years (even before diphenhydramine), I sleep for 3-4 hours and wake around 2 AM +/- 10 minutes like clockwork, stay awake for a brief period, then nod back off for another 3 hours give or take. It’s what I’ve always done since I was a kid and I don’t expect that pattern to ever change. Alas, being able to achieve my natural sleep pattern again after years of not being able to sleep for shit is absolutely incredible.

Of course, I can’t help but wonder how much of the change is due to my sister from another mister (is that even a term?) virtual cuddling me to sleep every night (a ritual we recently started). Maybe something to figure in, but I imagine it isn’t a huge player. I still appreciate her kindness in that realm though. I will say even she noticed an instant change in how quickly I nod off at night though, so it’s probably a small factor at absolute most.

Now, all that’s fine and good, but how does it actually feel draped over you? I’m sure that’s the question you all are wondering. Does it actually feel heavy or like a lot of weight is pressing down on you? The answer is NO. It does not weigh you down really. It’s a gentle weight – almost like you’re wearing a hug all night. It’s just enough weight/pressure for the secure and calming effect but nowhere near enough to feel like you’re being crushed or suffocated (that is, assuming you get the correct weight for your size – 10% of your body weight plus one pound or half a kg, whichever system you use). To me, it’s just enough for the feeling of “security” without being too much.

Are there some for whom the weighted blanket wouldn’t be a good option? I imagine so, especially if you tend to shift positions frequently. Note that weighted blankets are not meant to fill the size of the bed. They are meant to distribute gentle yet constant pressure over the body. As such, a twin size is the right size for one person, regardless of the size of your bed. Frequent shifting around might cause the blanket to not cover your body entirely at some point. Another is if you just don’t like sleeping with a blanket in general – this will not solve that issue. Other than that, I don’t see many drawbacks to it.

Anyway, I write this to say I’m amazed at how well it’s worked for me. I swore I would have to gradually wean/taper off of the diphenhydramine but that has not been the case. Even though conventional medicine has yet to embrace the concept, we know how that industry operates – if it ain’t pharmaceuticals it’s shit in their eyes. Anyway, if this sounds like something you’d be interested in, check out Weight on Me weighted blankets at https://myweightedblanket.com/ to browse their various prints, styles and materials to find your perfect blanket. Shipping usually takes a few weeks, but trust me when I say the wait is well worth it to get the blanket custom tailored to your specific needs.

I truly am shocked. In a string of devastating blows, I’ve found something that actually works for me. Of course, I have my dear neuro-sister Laina to thank for this – she’s the one who recommended it to me. Thank you so very much, good doctor.

My Blanket Has Arrived!

Remember how I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I was pulling the trigger on a weighted blanket? Well it’s arrived!

Well there it is. Cool pattern huh? Matches my four pairs of space themed meggings beautifully.

Anyway, I’ll report back in a couple of weeks after I’ve slept under it for awhile but man, I crawled under it a few minutes ago and man it was instantly calming – my heart rate and BP dropped considerably as soon as I crawled under it.

So far I am impressed but the sleep test still remains. Hopefully it works as intended!

The Hopeless(ly Deprived) Power Cuddler

Would you make fun of me if I told you I still sleep cuddled up with a teddy bear at night? Yes, you say? Well go ahead and make fun of me because it’s true and I don’t deny it. Yes, I know sleeping with a teddy bear is so 1st grade, but when you have an autistic brain that runs 230 MPH at all times (you know, as fast as an IndyCar runs on the straightaways of Indianapolis Motor Speedway), getting to sleep is hard enough without being even more anxious so you do what you damn well have to in order to make it easier to fall asleep and stay that way.

Anyway, childish personal anecdote aside, time to get a bit serious here. The title of this post describes me to a tee. As I’ve eluded to in prior blog posts, I thoroughly love physical touch. I thrive on it. I’m a hugger, a kisser, a hand-holder, you name it. I’m what my “twin soul” affectionately calls a “power cuddler” – no holding back, all of the aforementioned stuff, playing with each other’s hair, ears, rubbing various (non-intimate) body parts up against one another, all up in your business, whatever. It’s just absolutely sublime to me.

I’m sure to someone on the outside looking in it appears to be totally smutty. To the bystander it might look a little like foreplay, but I assure you I completely separate cuddling from romance, sexual behavior or anything. I never understood why the neurotypical world associates these acts solely with sexual attraction. Love comes in many forms after all, not just romantic. If I cuddle up to you, it’s not anything creepy or sexual. It’s because in some way we share a close common bond (whatever that might entail) and it’s merely an outward expression of that bond, regardless of what type it is or who you are – I’ll “power cuddle” with people of any sex/gender, orientation, whatever.

Now, the descriptor in this post is “hopelessly deprived” for a reason – it seems very few people see this kind of thing as something to be shared between people who are otherwise just friends or family and as such I really don’t have anyone around here to engage in power cuddling with. I, of course, respect others’ boundaries and won’t just go up to and randomly put an arm around someone and pull them into close body contact with me. That’s not acceptable behavior in any way, shape or form. I get that. I also get that some people have various traumas in their past that would make such action conjure up memories of painful or traumatic experiences. I also get that. Alas, where all this does put me is in a place that is not conducive to my mental health – I get more anxious, snappy, irritable, depressed, etc. when I’m lacking that.

Living in a world that frowns upon physical affection, being one who loves it is tough. If only everyone else (and especially neurotypicals) understood the power of a good cuddle. It releases endorphins, dopamine, among other “feel good” hormones. It relieves stress, has a calming effect (especially on someone like me), among other things. In a lot of ways I feel sorry for people who frown upon it. Our lives are so much richer when we openly express our love for each other (again, whatever form that love might be in).

If we learned how to hug, kiss, cuddle, hold hands, etc. each other with no strings attached and completely divorced it from romance, think of how much kinder of a world we’d live in. Maybe we wouldn’t have so much hate, pent up rage, school shootings, among other bullshit that’s the reality of life in the modern world. Baby boomers and older love to complain about social media being the reason for it, but I question the validity of their claims. We were detached long before the invention of Facebook.

Alas, I’ve only met one other person on this planet who sees things the way I do, and seeing as how that person is hundreds of miles away, the best I can do is “virtual cuddling” this person whenever possible and just longing for the real thing. It’s better than nothing for sure, but every time we virtual cuddle, god I can’t help but wish it was the real deal. Hopefully someday soon the universe will bring us closer together, but until then, I remain the hopelessly deprived power cuddler.

Tear, sniffle, tear, sniffle, repeat ad nauseam…