Their battle cry might well be “Down with Reinheitsgebot!” – The German purity law of 1516, the oldest food regulation in the world designed to protect the consumer. By the 15th century, brewing had become a competitive industry in central Europe, one that held the promise of great financial gain for the most successful entrepreneurs. Cheaper ingredients were being used to brew beer, and in an effort to protect the health of the populace, the German Beer Purity Law decreed that beer could be brewed with only four ingredients: water, barley, yeast and hops.
Although this law is largely disregarded by modern American craft brewers, these basic ingredients remain as the foundation for beer recipes throughout the Western world. This creates a challenge for people with Celiac Disease who suffer damage to the intestines due to an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in various grains: barley, wheat, rye, spelt, oats, kamut and triticale. Over 2 million Americans are diagnosed with this disease, one that can lead to serious complications later in life if they ingest even small doses of gluten over the long-term. Unfortunately, beer-loving adults often “settle for” beers brewed with buckwheat or sorghum that are combined with lower concentrations of barley malts, as are the most common brewing practices.
The demands of beer-lovers with Celiac Disease are finally gaining the attention of craft brewers throughout the world. Most of these brewers have been researching the chemical and physical properties of Celiac Disease, and have formulated their products with 100% gluten-free ingredients and processes that ensure purity of product. They point out that some filtering processes used by brewing companies render gluten undetectable in “low-gluten” beer; however, unless a beer is totally gluten-free, there is no assurance that it is safe for Celiacs.
The most common substitutions for gluten-rich grains are: buckwheat and sorghum; rice, maize, corn, and sunflower; amaranth, flax, millet, quinoa, teff, wild rice, soybean, ragi, and rape. Sorghum and buckwheat are the most common ones used in Western gluten-free beer.
Sorghum is native to Northeast Africa, and followed the trade routes through India and China on its way to America. It is a vigorous grass that tolerates dry weather, and is commonly used as one of the ingredients in African beer. Buckwheat is an herb of the Buckwheat family Polygonaceae, and has origins in central and western China. Its small beechnuts are milled, which separates the edible groats from their hulls. These groats are then roasted and used as a grain product. Buckwheat blossoms have a high nectar content, and are often found in conjunction with beekeeping farms.
Guide to Gluten-Free Beers
Bard’s Tale Beer –USA brewers with current distribution in 42 states, including Iowa, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Vermont. The owners are Celiacs and beer lovers themselves who are dedicated to keeping the beer experience alive for those who are committed to a gluten-free lifestyle.
New France Beers– Canadian brewers with a commitment to ALL of their customers, they have dedicated three years to research and development of gluten-free beer centered on purity and taste. Contact information for Gluten-Free Beer: Cheers!
Bard's The Original Sorghum Malt Beer (formerly Dragon's Gold) – Bard’s Tale Beer, USA – Golden amber with light white head, with the aroma and taste characteristics of a satisfying, finely crafted wheat beer. This beer is crafted with pure water, malted sorghum, hops and yeast. This is Real Beer for Real People.
La Messagère – New France Beers, Canada – A crystalline pale ale with light effervescence and froth of lacing that lightly webs the surface. The aroma and flavor of golden honey, kissed with citrus and wisps of hops. Brewed from rice and buckwheat. 4.7% ABV
Green’s – United Kingdom Company dedicated to serving the growing community of people being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. New gluten-free products are being developed daily to serve this segment of the beer loving community.
Discovery Amber Ale – Green’s, United Kingdom – Hazy amber beer, like a glowing sunrise over the ocean, brewed in the European tradition with light, refreshing apple and hop bitterness. 6% ABV
Pioneer Lager – Green’s, United Kingdom – Golden amber lights with gentle cloudiness, flavors of dried apple and apricot, with an acidic finish. 5% ABV
Endeavour Double Dark Beer – Green’s, United Kingdom – Walnut brown, full-bodied, with flavors of roasted grain and dark fruit, akin to a cold fruit soup. Replaced Explorer Stout. 6% ABV
Trailblazer Lager - Green's, United Kingdom - 4.7% ABV in a low-carb, refreshing, crisp lager.
Herald Ale - Green's, United Kingdom - A traditional ale , a bit cidery and touched with tartness common in sorghum style beers. 4% ABV.
Pilgrim Cherry Beer - Green's, United Kingdom - Winter Seasonal available in early November, this 4.7% ale boasts a spicy cherry aroma and flavor, that awakens the zest in holiday fare.
Mission Amber Beer - refermentad in the bottle with flavos of sweet malt and apples. 6% ABV
Pathfinder Dubbel Dark - refermented in the bottle with aromas of dark fruit. On the palate, earthy, malty and fruity. 7% ABV
Quest Tripel Blonde - refermented in the bottle, this assertive lady has flavors of pear, melonand citrus that hide the high alcohol. 8.5% ABV
NOTE: Green's has three Gluten Free Belgian Beers distributed in the USA market through Merchant du Vin. The beers are: Discovery Amber Ale; Endeavour Dubbel Ale; and Quest Tripel.
For information about getting Green's Beers in the USA, contact Merchant du Vin at: http://www.merchantduvin.com
Mongozo Exotic Beers - Exotic Beers brewed in Belgium. Caution: Only one of the portfolio is made with Gluten Free ingredients, but may not be truly gluten free due to cross contamination.
Several Mongozo Beers were previously on the list of Gluten Free Beers, but have been removed due to confirmed information that they are not gluten free. These are: Mongozo Coconut, Mongozo Banana, Mongozo Mango, and Mongozo Palmnut.
Mongozo Quinua - Mongozo Beers, Netherlands - CAUTION! Although made with quinua, a bitter grain of Bolivia characteristically used to brew beers made in Africa and South America, there may be cross contamination due to processing. No testing of gluten levels is available.
The Alchemist Pub & Brewery - Only available on tap at the pub in Waterbury, Vermont, USA. As Award-winning gluten free brewers, The Alchemist has won Gold medals in both 2009 and 2010 at the Great American Beer Festival, along with a a bronze in 2009.
Celia Framboise - The Alchemist Pub & Brewery, Waterbury, Vermont, USA - Flavors of raspberry and pomegranate, delightfully immersed in Brett and a 7.1% ABV. Gold medal winner at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in the Gluten Free beer category.
Celia IPA - The Alchemist Pub & Brewery, Waterbury, Vermont, USA - Bronze medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival 2009, in the Gluten Free Beer category. Glistening and golden body with grapefruity nose and full flavor.
Celia Saison - Farmhouse Ale crafted with sorghum, orange peel, coriander and Amarillo hops. 5.4% ABV
Sprecher Brewing - Originally brewed for Milwaukee's African World Festival, Sprecher has now entered the Gluten Free Beer market.
Shakparo Ale - Sprecher Brewing, USA - Unfiltered and brewed of sorghum and millet, it is lightly refreshing with a fruity apple profile.
Mbege - Sprecher Brewing, USA - Brewed with sorghum and millet, bananas are added in this traditional Ale with roots in Eastern Africa.
Anheuser-Busch – Brewed at the Merrimack, New Hampshire facility, Redbridge is now available throughout the USA
Redbridge - Redbridge pours a deep honey gold, with a creamy, eggshell head that settles like a gauzy veil over the surface. Effervescent bubbles rise through the glass in a constant stream. Initial aromas are of light malt and a tempered, gentle nuttiness. Some florals rise in the nose. The tongue interprets flavors that echo as a softened pale ale, without the characteristic grassy, earthy flavors of more intense cultivars of sorghum. Cascade hops are not initially prominent in the foreground, but provide a lingering, bitter presence at the back end,
O’Brien Brewing – Ascot Vale, Victoria, Australia – Brewer John O’Brien was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 1998. A beer lover himself, he was soon to discover the absence of beer available for those with gluten intolerance. Not to be discouraged, he founded O’Brien Brewing, producer of the first gluten-free beer in Australia.
O’Brien Premium Lager – O’Brien Brewing, Australia – Sparkling Topaz amber, with white head and light lacing, touched with a distinct fruit aroma, smooth malty flavor and clean bitterness. 4.5% ABV
O’Brien Premium Light
O’Brien Brown Ale
O’Brien Pale Ale
Bi-Aglut – Brewed with pure water, buckwheat, hops, corn syrup and vitamin B1 by an Italian food products conglomerate.
Birra 76 Bi-Aglut – Italy – Golden color, foamy head, and fresh taste, totally lacking in gluten.
The production of Gluten Free Beers is constantly evolving, and many breweries craft this style, particularly on an occasional or seasonal basis. Dock Street Brewery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA crafts Sudan Grass Sorghum Beer; Schlafly Beer in St. Louis, Missouri, USA made a Gluten Free Beer in 2006-2007 from sorghum and corn (demand was low, so they only make it on an occasionl basis); C.B. & Potts in Broomfield, Colorado brews Don't Be a Gluten. Seek them out. Billabong Brewing of Perth, Western Australia has a strong portfolio of year-round Gluten Free Beers.
Your alternative to searching out these great gluten-free beers is to try your own hand at homebrewing. You will discover a hobby that is greatly fulfilling, while attracting lots of interest from your fellow beer-loving friends. The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian is a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the process, whether you are a novice brewer, or a seasoned master.
O'Brien Brewing http://www.gfbeer.com.au
Bard's Tale Beer http://www.bardsbeer.com
Ramapo Valley Brewery http://www.rvbrewery.com/
New France Beer http://www.lesbieresnouvellefrance.com/index.php?lg=en
Nick Stafford's Hambleton Ales http://www.hambletonales.co.uk/
Fine Ale Club http://www.ale4home.co.uk/fine_ale_club.htm
Heron Foods - Beer not available online. Available in Sainsburys Supermarkets in the Beer Section, not the "Free From" Section, and in Co-op Shops.
Mongozo Beers - Note: Mongozo Quinua is made with gluten free ingredients, but may have cross contamination. Use caution. http://www.mongozo.org/engels/main.php
The Alchemist Pub & Brewery http://www.alchemistbeer.com/
Lakefront Brewery http://www.newgrist.com/
Sprecher Brewery http://www.sprecherbrewery.com/index.php
Silly Yaks http://www.sillyyak.com.au/beer/faq.html
Dock Street Beer http://www.dockstreetbeer.com/
Billabong Brewing http://www.billabongbrewing.com.au/
For books on the Gluten Free lifestyle, view: Gluten Free Book List
Note: This article has been updated on 23 January, 2010
New France Beers– Canadian brewers with a commitment to ALL of their customers, they have dedicated three years to research and development of gluten-free beer centered on purity and taste.
Contact information for Gluten-Free Beer: