Black Hammer beer

Black Hammer Brewing’s local founder, a chemical engineer by trade, began using an enzyme to remove gluten from most of his beers.

Launched by chemical engineer and former Worts of Wisdom Homebrew Club homebrewer Jim Furman in 2015, Black Hammer Brewing quickly established itself as a spot to enjoy quality malt-driven European beer styles in the Bay Area.

While the San Francisco-based Black Hammer has also brewed well-received IPAs and sours, it has continually served up well-crafted brews rooted in the traditions of Germany, Belgium and England. In 2019, the brewery expanded its operations to a second location. In addition to the original taproom on Bryant Street in SoMa, Black Hammer beers are also served at Wilkommen, a German-style beer garden on Market Street in the Castro, along with excellent beer-drinking food such as sausages, schnitzel, burgers and pretzels, prepared in collaboration with Rosamunde Sausage Grill.

In 2017, Black Hammer began removing gluten from the majority of its beers using a common brewing enzyme. While its beers, which include less than 3 parts per million of gluten, could be labeled as gluten-free according to Food and Drug Administration standards for food, it refers to its brews as “gluten-removed” to comply with the standards of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates beer.

The beers I sampled on a recent visit to Wilkommen were all gluten-reduced and very clean and neutral in character. While I thought the brews were all slightly muted in their flavor profiles and light in body, that may have been partially the result of the styles I chose. Regardless, these are definitely well-made and flavorful craft beers – had I not known, I would not have assumed these brews were gluten-removed.

Black Hammer brews

• Nectar of Life Kolsch (5.3% alcohol by volume, 24 International Bitterness Units), a brilliant straw color with a fluffy white head, features an aroma of spicy, herbal noble hops, with just a hint of malt. On the palate, light crackery malt flavor combines with mild herbal hop bitterness. With a light body and medium carbonation, this refreshing brew ends with a crisp, dry, slightly bitter finish that emphasizes the hop character.

• Bright copper-orange in color with a dense white head, Perseverance Red Ale (6.2% ABV, 33 IBU) highlights delicate toasted, biscuity malt character and minimal hops on the nose. With a mild flavor including some toasty malt notes and neutral hop bitterness, this brew is crisp and enjoyable. The light body and medium carbonation accentuate the clean, dry finish with persistent, crisp hop bitterness.

• With a sparkling clear golden color and a moussy white head, Hopportunistic Pale Ale (5.6% ABV, 48 IBU) showcases the classic aroma and flavor characteristics of American Pale Ales. Citrusy grapefruit rind and light pine notes are present in both the aroma and the flavor, with clean, neutral malt taking a backseat to the moderate bitterness. The light body and medium carbonation lead into a crisp, prickly finish that underscores the bitterness of piney hops.

• Star Shine Trappist Singel (4.8% ABV, 25 IBU) pours a bright golden color with a low white head. Light fruity Belgian yeast esters dominate the aroma, with hints of pear, and delicate herbal hops and light malt are also present. Light in body and with moderate carbonation, Star Shine’s flavor profile is very similar to the aroma, with a mild hop bitterness, and the complex, dry finish smoothly integrates the characteristics of yeast, hops and malt without any one overwhelming the others.

Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.