Gluten Free Beer, Alcohol and Wine

Gluten free beer is relatively new in our world (cheers!), but many other alcohols and all wines are already gluten free, as well. There is still a lot of confusion surrounding “gluten removed” versus naturally gluten-free beers, and myths perpetuate about gluten in wine. Read on for the facts. (Also hear more on my podcast)

gluten-free-beer-lineup

Some Beers are Gluten Free; Wine is Gluten Free

While only certain beers are gluten free, all wine is gluten free. Trust me. Wine is made from grapes, which are very definitely free from gluten.

Now, some folks will say wheat paste is used to seal oak barrels, but even if you can find a winery still using this technique, it doesn’t touch the wine, and even if it did, any transfer of gluten to the wine would be miniscule (far less than the <20 parts per million {ppm} mandated by the FDA to label for gluten free).

Gluten is also not used in fining, or clarifying wine. Unfortunately for vegans, fining agents are typically egg whites or isinglass from fish, but neither contain gluten.

If you’d like to hear more details, have a listen to the podcast of my radio show, The Gluten Free Voice, where gluten in wine was the topic of conversation that episode.

Distilled Alcohol Is Gluten Free

What about distilled alcohol? Liquors like rum (made from sugar cane), tequila (made from the agave plant) and brandy (distilled wine) are not made with gluten, so they are safe.

Distilled grain alcohols including vodka, bourbon, whiskey, scotch, brandy, and gin ARE gluten free even though they are made with gluten containing grains. The distillation process actually removes the gluten from the end product, so unless the manufacturer adds gluten as a flavoring AFTER distillation, those liquors are indeed gluten free. (The same is true for all vinegars except malt vinegar, by the way.) Check with the manufacturer directly if you are concerned that gluten in flavoring may be added after distillation; many, like Frangelico, are proactively declaring on their websites that their formulas are gluten free.

Distilled alcohol choices made only from gluten free grains like corn or potato also exist, for those with wheat or barley allergy or those who wish to drink naturally gluten free liquor. Brands to look for include Tito’s® Handmade Vodka (made from corn; certified Gluten-Free); Stoli® Gluten Free Vodka (distilled from corn and buckwheat); Devotion® Vodka (made from corn; sugar free; non-GMO; certified Gluten-Free); Deep Eddy Vodka (corn); and Texas Vodka™ Enchanted Rock Vodka (corn).

Hard Ciders and Malt Beverages

Hard ciders are almost always gluten free, unless the manufacturer has added malt (made from barley). Malt beverages and wine coolers, on the other hand, are NOT gluten free. Malt is derived from barley which contains gluten, and these drinks are not distilled, so the gluten remains in the bottle.

Some malted beverages are claiming to be gluten-removed. Please use caution in choosing to try these types of beverages. They are made with gluten but claim to be processed to remove or break apart the gluten molecules. These manufacturer’s are not allowed to label themselves as gluten-free, but instead must say something like “crafted to remove gluten.”

This is a quote from Mike’s Hard Lemonade‘s FAQ page: “[W]e encourage you to consult with your doctor if you have extreme sensitivities since our product may contain gluten traces. mike’s [sic] is fermented from grains that contain gluten and crafted to remove gluten. The gluten content cannot be verified and this product may contain gluten.”spiked seltzer

Also check drink mixers (like Bloody Mary and margarita mixes) since they sometimes contain (barley) malt or other hydrolyzed wheat proteins as fillers.

Seltzers with a Kick

One of the newest libations on the gluten-free market is seltzer water with a kick. These bubbly beverages are so refreshing! Made from purified water and infused with natural fresh fruit flavors, these light alternatives to beer and wine contain 6% alcohol derived from fermentation of citrus and sugar. They are wonderful on their own to cool down on a hot summer day, or to use as mixers in any kind of libation. These beverages also come in bottles or cans.

For more information and to find where they are sold, go to SpikedSeltzer.

whiteclaw SeltzerAnother new entrant into this category is White Claw Hard Seltzer. This low calorie libation has no artificial ingredients; the alcohol comes from fermented cane sugar.

With 5% ABV and 110 calories, these three White Claw Hard Seltzer flavors are currently available in cans:  Natural Lime; Black Cherry; and Ruby Grapefruit. I find these to be sweeter than the SpikedSeltzer competition. That’s not a bad or good thing: if you like sweet, you’ll love these; choose SpikedSeltzer if you prefer a more subtle flavor.

gluten-free-beer-shelf

 

More About Gluten Free Beers

Beer used to never be gluten free. Luckily, many craft brewers and even big breweries like Anheuser-Busch (Redbridge) are now offering special gluten free beer. Most are brewed from alternative grains like sorghum and millet, so are naturally gluten free beers.

There is another category of beer that is called “gluten-removed;” these beers are made from barley in the traditional brewmaking style, and are not allowed to be labeled as “gluten-free” in the U.S., although local state laws may differ when the beers are not crossing state lines. Experts caution against celiacs and those with gluten sensitivity drinking these beers, since it’s unclear whether they are truly gluten free enough to be safe. While the manufacturers of these beers claim that they test to below 20ppm gluten, no scientifically validated testing yet exists which can adequately test beverages like fermented beers for gluten, so relying on ineffective testing for gluten results is inappropriate. In fact, the FDA’s FALCPA (Food Allergy Labeling Consumer Protection Act) Guidance documents specifically note that

“FDA is aware that sandwich ELISA methods [currently available testing] do not adequately detect gluten in fermented and hydrolyzed foods. Because scientifically valid methods currently are lacking that can do so, we intend to issue a proposed rule on this issue.”

Scroll down to the “Gluten Removed Beers” section to read more about how these beers are treated to reduce gluten and the controversy over whether they are actually safe for celiacs.

 

One of my articles for Living Without Magazine (now Gluten Free & More Magazine) covered all the latest entrants to the gluten-free beer market, and also the issue of “de-glutenized” or gluten-removed beers. Another of my articles covered sparkling wines, champagnes, sulfite-free wines, sakes and gluten-free beer in Living Without magazine’s Gluten-Free Holiday Guide 2010, and I excerpt a bit from that article below, with updated information on new beers.

Some of these gluten free beers are hard to find, others rather pricey, so you may not want to use them in my fish and chips recipe, but you’ll probably want to drink one with the fish and chips recipe!  Use a more ubiquitous, cheaper beer like Redbridge for the batter, if you like, and wash it down with your new favorite naturally gluten-free ale, pilsner or lager!

Don’t be afraid to ask your local stores to carry any of these special brews – many are distributed through national distributors, so they should be able to order for you.  For a super-comprehensive list of gluten free beers from around the world, you must check out this list from The Brewing Network! I sure would love to taste my way around the world with that list!

(Updated and excerpted from my article, New Year’s Eve Party: Ring in 2011 with festive appetizers and drinks, Living Without’s Gluten-Free Holiday Guide):

Naturally Gluten Free Beers

So many new options are available to those of us eating and drinking gluten-free, and that’s something to celebrate!

greens lager pour Prefer ales? Maybe a true lager? Green’s Beers (Blonde; Amber and Dubbel Dark Ales) are made in the true Belgian style and simply can’t be beat. Green’s just introduced a new beer to the US market: Dry-Hopped Lager. Perfect for a hot day, this refreshing, light beer boasts a Pinot Grigio-like grapefruit note, making it quite a unique brew.

Redbridge, Bard’s Tale and New Grist round out the easy drinking and geographically accessible gluten-free beers to consider.

Of these, I particularly enjoy New Grist, as you can see from the photo below.

new-grist-gluten-free-beer

holidaily_canHolidaily Brewing Company – Using locally sourced malted, naturally gluten free grains, and brewing in Colorado’s only dedicated gluten-free brewing facility, Holidaily raises the bar on truly gluten free beer.

This woman-owned company began as a way to bring great GF brews to those, like its founder Karen Hertz, must live an entirely gluten free lifestyle. Offering a selection of blondes, IPAs and stouts, there’s something for every beer lover with Holidaily.

Coors Peak 6 PackCoors Peak – 2015 saw the release of MillerCoors’ first gluten-free beer offering. Steering clear of sorghum, Coors instead replaced barley with brown rice, malted brown rice and protein from peas. A light, easy drinking pizza and beer kind of beer, it will remind you of a true American beer. No funky aftertaste; it is difficult to tell it is gluten-free in any way. In 2016, Peak introduced an easy-drinking Golden Lager as well.

**Unfortunately, as of fall 2016, Coors is no longer producing Coors Peak. To learn more, listen to the free podcast with Coors Peak on my radio show, the Gluten Free Voice.

Ghostfish BrewingGhostfish Brewing is one of the new naturally gluten free breweries I’m most excited about.

Their excitement over their gluten free offerings is infectious, and the blends they’ve created are so different from others I’ve tried.

Their Witbier is truly one of the best beers I’ve ever had.  Stout and several pale ale varieties are others of their collection. Brewed in Seattle in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

The Ghostfish homepage declares: “BARLEY HAS RULED THE BREWING WORLD LONG ENOUGH!” I’d have to agree! Now, where can I get this as a bumper sticker?

ground-breaker-beer

Ground Breaker is constantly changing its lineup, by season or ingredient. It’s always an adventure to taste test their latest brews.

groundbreaker photo

A tour with one of the founders of the Groundbreaker Brewery in Portland.

Another welcome addition to the naturally gluten-free beers now available in the US is Groundbreaker Brewing (formerly Harvester Brewing). Their growing lineup of certified gluten-free beers includes Ales, a Dubbel and several unique squash and other flavored beers. Also a “Red” and a “Dark,” as well as seasonal brews like “Raspberry” (they seasonally reduce fun flavors like “Pumpkin Beer”). Some of their beers also use other unique ingredients that set them apart in this market.

Groundbreaker claims to be America’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery — which is pretty cool. They have a pouring room/Gastropub and restaurant if you ever find yourself thirsty in Portland — I highly recommend it! Maybe one of the founders will give you a tour, too!

 

glutenberg gluten freeGlutenberg beers offer several award-winning choices in gluten free ales … and they come in a can!

100% gluten free, made with ingredients like chestnuts, buckwheat and millet, they are a refreshingly different kind of beer that some beer drinkers swear is the best.

Hambleton Ales – hailing from Great Britain, this ale was actually one of the first gluten-free beers I ever tasted! They also have a pale lager and the brewery claims to be “the best selling British brewed gluten free beers in the world!” Hmm – worth a taste, I’d say!

St. Peter’s was also “Commended” at the 2010 “Free From Food Awards,” so if you can get your hands on one, it’s worth tasting a winner! It boasts a “pilsner-style lager finish” which I found to taste a bit like caramel, but quite dry and light. And hey, the famous St. Peter’s oval bottle is worth buying on its own!

New York’s Ramapo Valley Brewery has a dedicated facility for their special gluten-free Honey beer, which is also kosher for Passover! This honey-hop wine is on the sweet side, but is refreshingly different, and may just suit your palate.

new-planet-4-packNew Planet gluten-free beers out of Colorado are a pretty exciting addition to the spectrum. Their light-body ales (Tread Lightly Ale, Off the Grid and 3R Raspberry Ales) are made from fermented sorghum and corn, hops and yeast have a lot of folks clamoring to get ahold of them! I was lucky enough to get a taste when I was last in Denver – look for them to move into even more markets soon! (In my January, 2012 Gluten Free Voice radio interview, General Manager and owner Pedro Gonzalez said that they are in distribution in 29 states; since then, they’ve greatly expanded so you should be able to find these great beers near you!) 

NOTE: as of fall, 2015, New Planet has introduced two new “gluten reduced” beers to its line-up, so use caution in selecting beers from this brewer to be sure you are choosing gluten-free choices if you have a medical need to live gluten free.

omission beerGluten-Reduced Beers

In Europe, these types of beers are regarded as “gluten-free,” but in the US, they are referred to as “gluten-reduced,” and by law, they cannot be called “gluten-free” because they are made with gluten-containing barley. Current testing methods are not able to accurately detect hydrolyzed and fermented gluten proteins, so many are cautious about trying these beers, and experts do not recommend this category of beverages for those with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity.

This class of beer is regulated in the US by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), not the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), because they are “true beers” made from barley (using current testing methods, these beers test to less than 5 or 6 ppm gluten, well under the FDA guidelines of <20ppm gluten to be considered “gluten-free,” but there is no accepted test for fermented and hydrolyzed products like beer — in other words, scientists are not sure that the testing is accurate for these products.) Therefore, nowhere on the label is “gluten-free” allowed to be advertised, but you may find them erroneously shelved in the gluten free beer section or on a gluten free beer menu. Take this opportunity to educate your bartender or local beer vendor on the differences.

Like the malted beverages described above, these manufacturers are instead only permitted to make certain statements about the fact that their beer is processed/treated/crafted to remove gluten, along with certain qualifying statements indicating that the gluten content is uncertain. (Read more in my Living Without article June/July 2012)

Here’s an example of one such “de-glutenized” or “gluten-removed” beer which is not adhering to the regulations. They clearly assert that their beer has no gluten (less than 5 ppm) because it was treated with enzymes. However, since there is no acceptable test for gluten remaining in such beers after enzymes, any such assertion is unqualified.

Duck Foot Beer is falsely asserting that its beer is made gluten free and safe for celiacs because it is treated with enzymes. This is not a claim permitted by the TTB for gluten-reduced beers.

Duck Foot Beer falsely asserts that its beer is safe for celiacs because it’s treated with enzymes. This is not a claim permitted by the TTB for gluten-reduced beers.

daura gluten reduced beer

Estrella Damm’s Daura  A straw-colored, gluten-reduced Eurolager from Spain, is made with barley and hops.

Not recommended for those with celiac disease or a medical condition requiring a gluten free diet.

Another gluten-reduced beer is Omission Beer out of Oregon. It’s made from traditional beer ingredients. Currently offering lager and American Pale Ale. (Learn more on my Gluten Free Voice Radio Show podcast).

Like Estrella Damm Daura beer, Omission is a “de-glutenized beer” made with low protein barley. Omission has published details of its proprietary process to further explain how they believe the barley (gluten) protein is removed in their brew. They also offer a way to check the gluten content of every beer by entering the date code stamped on the bottle to view that batch’s R5 competitive ELISA test results (again, experts do not believe that this testing is accurate on fermented beverages).

Not recommended for those with celiac disease or a medical condition requiring a gluten free diet.

brunehaut gluten reduced beer

Brunehaut is another gluten reduced beer, made in the style of a true Belgian brew. These Belgian ales (Blond and Amber) hail from Brunehaut brewery in Belgium, established in 1890.

Not recommended for those with celiac disease or a medical condition requiring a gluten free diet.

Baking With Gluten Free Beer

Whether or not drinking beer excites you, you should be thrilled that gluten-free beers are finally available for us to use as cooking ingredients! That’s right – beer bread, tempura, beer cake, and the always popular, beer-battered fish and chips! What would these be without beer? Not the same, I assure you! (Explore my recipe site for beer bread, tempura, beer cake, salted caramel cupcakes, soft pretzels made with beer, and hamburger beer bread buns recipes, or check out my newest book, Free for All Cooking!)

fox may 2015 favorite cake

The dark chocolate beer cake I made for Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s birthday was made with Green’s Dark beer.

 

Also be sure to listen to my free podcast with Coors Peak on my radio show, the Gluten Free Voice. As well as episodes including interviews of representatives from Estrella Damm brewery in Spain (brewers of “de-glutenized” barley beer Daura), Omission (“de-glutenized” beer), and Colorado’s New Planet beer and Merchant du Vin importers of Green’s Gluten-Free beers from Belgium. We talk about testing of gluten levels, brewing methods and ingredients for gluten-free beers, demand, distribution and labeling, plus some other interesting beer facts! Download and listen to the podcasts anytime!

Get your hands on a bottle or two and find your own favorites for drinking or for recipes.

Cheers!