Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can't eat wheat? No problem - Gluten Free Beer

Little known to most, there is a decent sized problem of gluten intolerance that is widespread. Not only is there just a gluten intolerance but an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease. To break it down, people with celiacs have reactions to gluten protein found in wheat and other proteins found in barley, rye, etc. These reactions cause a variety of problems in the digestive system that are no fun at all. Many people go years and years without knowing about their issue which can lead to a very down trodden life. If you would like to learn more here are a few links, I am no doctor nor do I have the disorder so I don't want to go on like I know much.



So how does this have anything to do with beer? Well if you didn't know, the majority of beer is made with some type of malted cereal grain. Whether it be barley, wheat, or rye they all contain the proteins that are intolerable to celiacs sufferers.

I know beer drinkers that have found out they suffer from this and it really can't be that fun to hear "You cannot drink beer for the rest of your life." I know I would probably spat off swear after swear then fall to the floor into the fetal position and cry like a baby for hours.

In the not so distant past a savior became apparent for all of the gluten intolerant beer drinkers. Sorghum, a little known but important cereal crop, is said to be the third most important grain crop in the US. Sorghum can be made into a syrup which in turn gives brewers something they can brew with that has none of the proteins that our beer intolerant friends can't have. For more information find sorghum's wiki page here.

Since this is a relatively new brewing practice not many breweries are producing gluten free beer nor is it perfected as brewing with barley has been over thousands of years. There are a few viable options out there that I would like to share with the beer drinking community as a whole.

The three I am going to list are the most readily available at your local liquor superstore. You may even be able to find at least one of these at your smaller neighborhood store and if they don't carry it, ask, and tell them why it would be beneficial for them to carry them.

Redbridge beer doesn’t need to make promises to stand out from the crowd; its very essence sets it apart. Redbridge is made without wheat or barley, so the approximately 3.2 million consumers who are unable to drink beer made with barley due to Celiac Disease or because they follow a wheat-free or gluten-free diet can once again enjoy a great tasting beer. Redbridge is a rich, full-bodied lager brewed from sorghum for a well-balanced, moderately hopped taste. 

I wouldn't usually rep a Anheuser Busch product but I have to say this is a pretty good tasting beer for the gluten intolerant. I also list this because it will probably be the easiest to find at liquor stores, restaurants, sporting events, etc because of the massive distribution channel that AB holds.   


Style: American Lager

Ingredients: Sorghum, yeast, hops and water—contains no wheat, barley, rye or oats and is naturally gluten-free

Sorghum is a genus of numerous species of grasses, some of which are raised for grain that can be used in the production of beer. Sorghum has been used in making beer for centuries in other parts of the world and is naturally gluten-free.

Taste: Rich and refreshing

Body: Medium

Bitterness: Low (20.5 IBUs)

Aroma: Floral

Color: Amber (SRM 11)

Alcohol Content: 3.8% ABW / 4.6% ABV

Calories: 155 calories per 12-oz serving

Carbohydrates: 14.2 carbohydrates per 12-oz serving

Hops: Imported Hallertauer Magnum, Imported Tettnanger Tettnang

Malt: Proprietary malted sorghum

Yeast: German Lager Yeast (Strain #3470)

Serving Temperature: 39º- 45ºF

This is probably my least favorite of the three, although I give them points for having the first sorghum beer, I think it is too molasses like. Give it a try though as your taste my be different than mine. 

New Grist is the first beer brewed without malted barley or any gluten-containing products to be recognized as beer by the U.S. Government. Each batch brewed at Lakefront’s Milwaukee headquarters is tested for gluten prior to fermentation, before being bottled and shipped. The beer is now available for distribution nationwide in six packs of 12-ounce bottles.

New Grist is brewed from sorghum, hops, water, rice and gluten-free yeast grown on molasses. These ingredients are carefully combined to form a crisp and refreshing "session ale" sure to be popular among those with Celiac Disease, but really brewed for anyone with an appreciation for great tasting, handmade beer.

Well they claim to have made the first beer without malted barley just as Bard's tale has said. Well I don't really care who was the first. New Grist is my absolute favorite of the three. It is very light and refreshing and they do a good job at making it taste most like an actual malted barley beer. I have read other reviews where people have just ripped it, and I don't get it. Yea it may not have the flavor of an Imperial Stout but they did a great job of making something flavorful for the gluten intolerant crowd and I commend them for it. 

So if you have celiacs or just want to join the gluten free lifestyle you CAN still drink beer. Although just gaining ground, there are a good amount of resources out there for you. Here are some links that you may find helpful:

(list of beers)

(recipe for homebrewers)

(another list of GF beers)

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