Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gluten-Free Beers

About 99.9999999 with a line over it % of all beers are made with some form of wheat, barley, etc. In other words, they are made from plants that have gluten. I am one of the lucky many that can tolerate gluten. But for the rest of you who want to enjoy a good beer but just can't because, well, you've got Celiac's disease and it would kill you to drink a beer, you are now in luck! Although they are not very common, gluten-free beers are being brewed these days from products such as sorghum, rice and the like. Granted, Japanese sake - that most famous and delicious of rice wines, is technically a beer based on how it's brewed, there are very, very few of these beers.

Okay, technically no grain is gluten-free. But most of the people who need to worry about gluten are those with Celiac's - gluten sensitivity. As notes, most grains have gluten that is toxic to them. Despite what some sources say, that does include any and all beers brewed from wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. Strangely enough, the gluten found in corn, sorghum and rice doesn't really bother Celiac patients. And despite some claims from light beer manufacturers (like, ick, Bud Light), the only truly safe route is zero tolerance of any wheat/rye/barley/oat/etc.-based beer product (as suggested by Bella Online).

But the few options are limited. I recently went to the Wine Source and got a few of the sorghum-based beers they had available. One, New Grist Beer, was recommended by someone there. Brewed only from sorghum and rice, New Grist, made by Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee, is, according to their website:

...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.
I hate to say it, but I wasn't wow'd by this beer. It had an odd chemically taste that I just couldn't get past, so I ended up dumping it down the drain. I was worried for a bit that all non-gluten beers were like this. So when I grabbed the Redbridge - a sorghum-only beer - off the shelf I had low expectations. Redbridge is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, which is now a Belgian company as we know. I hate to admit, but Redbridge was actually not bad. It was a slightly weak lager, but certainly drinkable. I was able to finish the whole bottle without gagging.

Hopefully I won't end up developing a gluten allergy, so my beer options won't be so limited. But if I do, I know of at least one beer that I could stomach.


Molly said...

two good friends of mine are allergic to gluten, but to my knowledge, they've never had a problem with beer. sausage, yes, but not beer.