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An Intro to Gluten-Free Beers

An Intro to Gluten-Free Beers

Gluten-free beers have become increasingly popular, and fortunately, even more readily available in recent years. While more people are seeking out beer without gluten and more breweries are satisfying demand, there is still some confusion around this relatively new drink to the market.

There are many reasons why people would want gluten-free beers. One in 100 people worldwide has celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that leads to damage in the small intestine when gluten is ingested. People also have gluten sensitivities or intolerances. Others simply feel better without gluten.

When it comes to beer, there are three categories to consider. Dedicated gluten-free beer is made with gluten-free ingredients (such as millet, chestnuts and buckwheat) in a facility that only produces gluten-free beer. Other gluten-free beers are made with gluten-free ingredients but in facilities that also process non-gluten-free ingredients, meaning there is a risk of cross-contamination.

“Gluten-reduced beer is brewed with gluten-containing ingredients like barley or wheat,” explains Karen Hertz, owner of dedicated gluten-free brewery Holidaily Brewing Co. in Golden, Colorado. “The brewer then adds an enzyme that breaks the gluten into smaller pieces. This leaves the smaller pieces of gluten remaining in your beer, which can be unsafe for sensitive consumers.”

As such, gluten-reduced beer can cause reactions to consumers with celiac disease or severe gluten intolerances since it is made with barley, which contains gluten.

In short: Those needing to go gluten-free should always confirm their beer is totally gluten-free and safe to drink.

Gipple says many people come into her Golden, Colorado taproom to have a beer for the first time since adopting a gluten-free diet. “They haven’t been able to enjoy the taproom experience in a long time – maybe ever – and their appreciation and enjoyment is so evident,” she says.

Both owners at Bierly Brewing in McMinnville, Oregon have celiac disease. Amelia Bierly has had it her whole life, and JP Bierly was diagnosed about 10 years ago when, as they point out, gluten-free beer was nonexistent. “It’s been amazing to see the market grow since then,” the Bierlys add.

Doug Foster, Founder of Aurochs Brewing Co. in Emsworth, Pennsylvania wants to include those who are gluten-free. “We want to bring everyone back to the table to enjoy those moments in life that just call for a beer,” says Foster.

One of the most difficult things about using gluten-free ingredients while brewing, especially whole grains, is the lack of data and analysis on grains or any of the other alternative fermentables like that of barley, according to Ben Acord, Head Brewer at Evasion Brewing in McMinnville, Oregon.

“There is very little, if any, data on how quinoa, millet, buckwheat, lentils or rice react when then they are malted or used in fermentation,” Acord says. “So, it is that unknown you have to deal with that is a huge challenge.” Acord also points out that the difference in grain sizes when milling and mashing and the grain’s lack of naturally available sugars make it hard to get a fermentable beer.

“The quality of many of today's gluten-free beers in the market rivals beers made with gluten. A lot of credit goes to a handful of malt houses that produce high-quality, gluten-free malt,” says Brian Thiel, Co-Owner and Managing Member of Ghostfish Brewing Co. in Seattle, Washington.


16 Gluten-Free Beer Options

10-09 by Rolling Mill Brewing Co.

10-09
Rolling Mill Brewing Co.
Middletown, Ohio

10-09 is a medium-bodied German-style Pilsner. The name reflects the co-founders’ wedding anniversary – October 2009. Josh and Megan Laubach decided to open Rolling Mill Brewing Company when Josh was diagnosed with celiac disease. | ABV: 4.9% | IBUs: 38


Aurochs Session IPA

Aurochs Session IPA
Aurochs Brewing Co.
Emsworth, Pennsylvania

The Session IPA at Aurochs is hop-driven with citrus, pine and grapefruit flavors. Unlike a traditional IPA, it’s brewed with millet and quinoa. | ABV: 4.5% | IBUs: 47


Favorite Blonde Ale by Holidaily Brewing Co.

Favorite Blonde Ale
Holidaily Brewing Co.
Golden, Colorado

“Favorite Blonde has a light malty aroma, subtle hints of lemon and notes of fruity hops,” says Holidaily owner Karen Hertz.


Baker Street Porter by Bierly Brewing

Baker Street Porter
Bierly Brewing
McMinnville, Oregon

This rich, chocolaty beer is brewed with sorghum, malted millet, malted rice, hops, cacao nibs, yeast and water. | ABV: 7.9% | IBUs: 32


Yamhill Punch Wild Ale by Evasion Brewing

Yamhill Punch Wild Ale
Evasion Brewing
McMinnville, Oregon

This is one of Head Brewer Ben Acord’s favorite beer to make. “The beers I have fun with are the ones that I get carried away on and try to make something totally unique,” he says. This funky brew is aged in wine barrels and layered with different kinds of local fruits at different times throughout the brewing process.


Roasted Coffee Strong Ale by Burning Brothers Brewing

Roasted Coffee Strong Ale
Burning Brothers Brewing
St. Paul, Minnesota

“We believe the only way to brew great gluten-free beer is to make it in a dedicated gluten-free facility,” says Burning Brothers Brewing on their website. For their coffee strong ale, they start with a single-hopped strong ale and then blend it with cold brewed coffee. | ABV: 7.5% | IBUs: 26


Olallie by Ground Breaker Brewing

Olallie
Ground Breaker Brewing
Portland, Oregon

Olallie is brewed with blackberries and rose hips and then finished with copious amounts of Crystal hops for a classic Northwest aroma. Olallie is made light and dry with only a hint of bitterness. | ABV: 4.5% |  IBUs: 30 


Starlight White: White Ale by Moonshrimp Brewing

Starlight White: White Ale
Moonshrimp Brewing
Portland, Oregon

Not only is Moonshrimp producing gluten-free beer, but all the beer is vegan, too. This means no gelatin or isinglass to clarify the beer, and using verified beet sugar instead of cane sugar. This refreshing beer is brewed with millet, vegan beet sugar, hops, orange peel, whole coriander and yeast. | ABV: 5.5% | IBUs: 20


Rustic Badger Farmhouse Ale by Alt Brew

Rustic Badger Farmhouse Ale
Alt Brew
Madison, Wisconsin

The Rustic Badger is one of Alt Brew’s flagship beers. It’s brewed with a Belgian yeast strain and two types of hops. | ABV: 6.6% | IBUs: 35


Not a Quad by Eckert Malting & Brewing

Not a Quad
Eckert Malting & Brewing
Chico, California

Not a Quad is a Belgian-style rice beer that’s live and unfiltered. It’s made with premium grade California rice, water, hops and yeast.


Astronaut Cookies Oatmeal Stout by New Era: Fine Fermentation

Astronaut Cookies Oatmeal Stout
New Era: Fine Fermentation
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dark roasted rice and chocolate millet malts along with a healthy amount of toasted oats make this beer taste like a dark chocolate chip cookie that was freshly dipped into the Milky Way. | ABV: 5.0% | IBUs: 33


Solstice Blonde by Cold Crash Brewing Co.

Solstice Blonde
Cold Crash Brewing Co.
Seattle, Washington

Solstice Blonde, named after the actual seasonal change from spring to summer, would serve dedicated gluten-free drinkers well with its quenching qualities and smooth drinkability.


Event Horizon Blonde by Divine Science Brewing

Event Horizon Blonde
Divine Science Brewing
Southern California

This blonde ale uses a blend of millet, rice and organic maize. to create a truly balanced and highly drinkable experience. Besides being low in alcohol at 4 percent ABV, it’s also only 120 calories per can.


Bohemian Pilsner by Bellfield Brewery

Bohemian Pilsner
Bellfield Brewery
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Bellfield Brewery was the U.K.’s first craft brewery dedicated to gluten-free beer. This beer is a classic Czech pilsner style, featuring Saaz, which is a noble hop. It’s pale with gentle floral tones. | ABV: 4.5%


Glutenberg Red by Glutenberg

Glutenberg Red
Glutenberg
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

World Cup winner Glutenberg Red is brewed from two types of chestnuts that each require its own specific roasting method.


New Grist by Lakefront Brewery

New Grist
Lakefront Brewery
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This gluten-free range of brews from a popular Milwaukee hot spot range from a pilsner-style brew to a lime-infused gose -- all brewed without gluten.