What Is Gluten-Free Beer?
People who suffer from gluten and wheat sensitivities know all too well that the offending proteins can lurk in the most unlikely places—including their favorite beverages. While it's a little easier to find wines and spirits that fit the gluten-free bill, beer lovers are usually out of luck. TTraditionally brewed beer typically contains barley, wheat, and/or rye—all of which are gluten-rich grains. Thankfully, due to increased demand and the nation's wealth of talented brewers, there are more gluten-free beer options than ever, and they are every bit as tasty as "regular" craft beers.
Gluten-Free Beer, Two Ways
How do you make gluten-free beer? There are two ways to go about it. The first is to make the beer with non-traditional ingredients that are naturally gluten-free. Popular grains for gluten-free brewing are sorghum, buckwheat (which is not actually related to wheat!), millet, rice, amaranth, and gluten-free oats. The other way to make gluten-free beer is to add a special enzyme to traditionally brewed beer during the fermentation process. This enzyme breaks apart the gluten chains in the brew. However, there is still no scientifically validated way to measure gluten content, so these beers cannot technically be called gluten-free—they are "gluten-removed" and are required by law to put a disclaimer on the label that the beer may contain gluten. Depending on the degree of an individual's gluten sensitivity, gluten-removed beers may agree with them just fine, but they may cause problems. It's best to sip carefully and proceed with caution.
Our Favorite Gluten-Free Beers
If a truly gluten-free beer is what you're after, you'll be pleased to know wheat and barley have never crossed the threshold at Ghostfish, which comes from Seattle, Washington. It is a 100-percent dedicated gluten-free brewery, and the brewery's on-site restaurant is even completely gluten-free, too. Ghostfish makes a wide range of popular brews, including Grapefruit IPA, Vanishing Point Pale Ale, Shrouded Summit Belgian White Ale, Kick Step IPA, Meteor Shower Blonde Ale, and Peak Buster Double IPA, as well as a seasonal stout and a pumpkin ale. Ghostfish beers are available in many bars and retail stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. If you can't find any in your area, you can your preferred brews order online.
Surprisingly, there's only one dedicated gluten-free brewery in the beer-obsessed state of Colorado, and that's Holidaily, which is based in Golden. Their beers are currently only available within the state, but if that's not a great reason to take a vacation in the Rockies, we don't know what is! And if you're willing to travel for great gluten-free beer, by McMinnville, Oregon, and St. Paul, Minnesota on your bucket list. Evasion, which is only available in Oregon and Washington, is a totally gluten-free brewery specializing in IPAs and stouts. Burning Brothers Brewing, a dedicated gluten-free brewery, currently only sells their product in the North Star State. Their tap room has a huge selection of beers and has gluten-free food trucks.
Our Favorite Gluten-Removed Beers
Gluten-removed beer shouldn't be ignored, especially if your sensitivity is more minimal. Omission Brewing Co: One of the most widely available gluten-removed beers is from Omission Brewing Co., based in Portland, Oregon, makes a light beer, a lager, a pale ale, and an IPA. Although there is no single agreed-upon standard for measuring gluten within the scientific community, Omission does have every batch of beer tested in an independent lab using the best available yardstick, the R5 Competitive ELISA test. Each bottle of Omission beer is stamped with a batch number, which you can enter on their website to see the gluten content test results.
Tucked away in San Diego, California, is Duck Foot Brewing Company, a company entirely dedicated to making gluten-removed beers, specializing in IPAs and pale ales. Their beers are available throughout the greater San Diego area but can also be ordered online from CraftShack.com. There are also several major craft breweries with wide national distribution that have "gluten-reduced" offerings. Most noteworthy are the Delicious IPA from Stone Brewing and New Belgium Brewing Co.'s Glütiny, a pale ale.