Naturally Gluten Free Beer: a Closer Look


Gluten Free Beer. To a celiac, those refreshing words are almost never uttered in the same sentence. Except maybe, “I wish I had a gluten free beer!” Until around 2006, there was little to no chance this wish would come true. (For my full review of gluten free beer brands and tasting notes hop to my article on gluten free beers.)

It seems that as long as man has been farming cereal grains, we’ve been making beer from surplus grains like barley. In fact, archaeologists believe that beer was integral to the early formation of complex civilizations, founded on the importance of feasting ceremonies that brought groups together for political, social, trading and support reasons.

Throughout history, barley has been the primary brewing grain of choice, dating back to at least 3400 B.C.; in fact the oldest food quality regulation still used in the 21st century was based entirely on the limitation of ingredients used in the brewing of beer. This Bavarian law restricted beer makers to using only barley, hops and water – a tradition still upheld by the majority of German breweries and others around the world. Even in the United States, a “malt beverage” has been defined for regulatory purposes as being made from barley, water and hops, with or without other ingredients for flavor.

So for celiacs and others avoiding gluten-containing grains like barley, enjoying beer was a faint, happy memory until quite recently. Once breweries did get into the business of brewing beers for the gluten-free community, two types of non-traditional beers emerged: naturally gluten-free beers made from gluten-free grains and “gluten-reduced,” “low gluten,” or “crafted to remove gluten” beers made from barley and other gluten-containing grains.


In the U.S., this second kind of beer is not allowed to be labeled as “gluten-free”, although local state laws may differ when the beers do not cross state lines. This distinction is important because like other barley beers, these “gluten-reduced” beers remain under the regulatory umbrella of the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), while naturally gluten-free beers are within the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) labeling jurisdiction.

Since the FDA’s finalization of its gluten-free labeling standard in 2014, the TTB released this position statement on the labeling of gluten-reduced barley beers:

Consistent with the new FDA regulations, TTB will continue to consider “gluten-free” label claims for alcohol beverages that are made from gluten-containing grains to be misleading to consumers who are seeking to avoid the consumption of gluten for health reasons. However, products made from gluten-containing grains may be labeled with a statement that the product was “Processed,” “Treated,” or “Crafted” to remove gluten, if that claim is made together with a qualifying statement that warns the consumer that the gluten content of the product cannot be determined and that the product may contain gluten.

 Experts caution against celiacs and those with gluten sensitivity drinking these beers, since there is no scientifically accepted test to determine whether such fermented beverages are truly gluten free enough to be safe. Thus, while these beers cannot be labeled “gluten-free,” you may still find them erroneously shelved in the gluten-free beer section or on a gluten-free beer menu, so use caution. 

Nutritional Label on gluten free beer
Look for a nutritional label to identify a naturally gluten free beer. Nutritional labels indicate the beer is regulated by the FDA, not the TTB, and that the beer is not made with barley. You should also be able to find a full ingredient label.


If you are confused about which beers are naturally gluten-free and which are gluten-reduced, choose only beers with a nutrition label, since that indicates it is regulated by the FDA and therefore, does not contain barley. (For more information listen to the podcast interview with GFCO regarding their study).

Not all the beers in this display are naturally gluten free; some are gluten-removed and others are ordinary gluten-full beers. Look for a nutritional label on naturally gluten free beers as a good way to differentiate, as even beer stores may not know the difference.


Fortunately for all of us living without gluten, some brew masters have found amazingly creative ways to create safe beers we can all enjoy, and have embraced available gluten-free ingredients not as limitations, but as opportunities.

One such brewery is Holidaily Brewing Company in Golden, Colorado. (For many others, check out my gluten free beer Tasting Notes article linked here).

Naturally Gluten Free Beer differences




Naturally Gluten Free Beer vs Gluten Reduced Beer: A Closer Look - gfJules
Naturally Gluten Free Beer: a Closer Look
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Naturally Gluten Free Beer: a Closer Look
Gluten free beers have only recently become available; this article outlines the distinct differences between naturally gluten-free & gluten-reduced beers.

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  1. I’ve been waiting for this beer to come to PA. I have celiac and love beer. Unfortunately, it never even got here! How do you know it’s not going to sell, before you even tried to market it or get it available to people?! ????????????

    • I know, Patricia! They did a test market in Portland and Seattle only – so disappointing because it really was a great beer! 🙁

  2. Be interested to know how long they will persevere if it doesn’t hit their volume thresholds. They have a track record of innovating poorly and removing the brands when they don’t sell. Just a hunch but if you want it get it while you can. There won’t be enough volume here for them to sustain it.

    The craft guys do it for the love of beer – these guys do it to make a buck

    • Hi Tom, thanks for your comment. Not sure which brand you’re speaking of, specifically, but it’s sad to note that Dogfish Head recently discontinued their one gluten-free beer, T’weason Ale. For all of us gluten free folks who enjoy beer, I hope it’s not a trend!

      • Sorry – wasn’t referring to gluten free – just Molson Coors in general. If it doesn’t sell and sell lots (which is highly unlikely) it will disappear. They’re only doing this for commercial gain and they’ll abandon after year 1 (may be wrong – but their portfolio is littered with failed next big things

  3. Please distribute nationwide, Michigan has so many beer lovers and I personally need Gluten free. If the small micro brewers can I am sure Coors can find a way.

  4. Well it is nice of coors to sponsor the article on there GF beer yet it is only viable in Washington state . So tell coors when it is rolled out nation wide sponsor another article

    • Todd, I’m holding out hope that Coors Peak will be distributed nationwide SOON! Write in or post on their social media that you want it available in your area too. It couldn’t hurt! 🙂


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