Ask the Beer Fox - Is Straub's Beer Gluten Free ?
Question: Do you know anything about Straub's beer? It is alleged to be gluten-free but I haven't been able to verify that. Please advise. Thank you.
Beer Fox Answer: Although Straub's Beer is made with all natural ingredients and mountain fresh water, it is not gluten-free beer. Straub's Beer is made using flaked corn and barley, and also uses liquid yeast. All grains have gluten in them, but the glutens that are in corn, rice, sorghum and buckwheat are safe for Celiacs. Products made exclusively with these "safe grains," in environments that are not associated with gluten-rich grains or airborne dust, are considered "gluten free."
The gluten proteins found in barley, wheat, oats, rye, spelt, kamut and triticale are within the same family, but differ in composition. Lab tests that detect one specific type of gluten protein - gliadin in wheat beer, for example - do not detect other types, such as hordein, a gluten protein found in barley-based beer. The lack of an accurate test does not mean that the beer is free of gluten. Inaccurate interpretation of such tests can have devastating effects on the Coeliac (Celiac) who moves ahead to drink beer that he/she believes is safe.
Further research indicates that there is no proof that the conversion of grain proteins into amino acids during the brewing process renders them harmless to the Celiac. Despite the boiling process, the proteins that affect the Celiac may retain the code by readily refolding into an active conformation that instructs the body to destroy or atrophy the villi of the small intestines.
Additionally, many yeasts used in brewing contain gluten due to the base upon which they are grown. Dry yeasts grown on beet sugar or cane sugar are a safer choice for the Celiac.
It is unfortunate that a true understanding of Coeliac Disease eludes the general public. Many manufacturers of commercially mass-produced beer rationalize that their product cannot cause damage to Celiacs because the chief ingredient is rice or corn, with smaller amounts of barley, wheat, or other grains added. They also are aware that amino acids are broken down in the brewing process, and may conclude, without any understanding of the pathology of Celiac Disease, that it is a “safe” beverage.
Commercial beer chemists will advise Celiacs to consult with their doctor first. Although their doctor may have superior knowledge of Celiac Disease, he/she may have no understanding of the ‘brewing process’ or the ingredients used in brewing. It may be hard to imagine, but doctors are human, and their advice may be influenced by the inaccurate opinion of the referring chemist at the brewery who does not have all the facts about gluten peptides and destructive intestinal T-cells.
In addition, grains generate high levels of airborne dust. If barley is introduced into beer in even small amounts, there are a significant amount of cells that become airborne. These gluten-rich cells can settle into the processed beer, rendering it unhealthy for the person who requires a gluten-free diet.
The unique characteristic about Celiac Disease is that treatment is controlled by diet alone. It requires that the person suffering from the disease make major changes in dietary habits for life. The Celiac Sprue Association recommends zero tolerance, so drinking beer with even low levels of gluten is not recommended for most individuals.
There is a growing list of gluten free beer entering the market for those who have abstained from their beloved beverage for an extended period, but wish to get back to living life with a reasonable amount of relaxation and satisfaction. The First International Gluten Free Beer Festival in Chesterfield, UK kicks-off on Friday, February 3rd, 2006, introducing beer-lovers and the brewing community to the fresh and exciting facet of gluten-free beer. The festival is part of the Chesterfield CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Festival, “Wessex to Essex,” at The Winding Wheel on Holywell Street.
Note: Photo of Dr. Steve Ford - Courtesy of the Derbyshire Times, United Kingdom.
Over sixteen gluten-free beers from around the world will be presented in the gluten-free segment of the festival. In addition, a tasting panel will be evaluating the beer, with the results posted at www.glutenfreebeerfestival.com after the event. The site will maintain a list of beers, reviews, articles, contacts and information as a resource for Celiacs in search of information about beer and spirits.
Dr. Steve Ford and Nick Wheat have organized the gluten-free portion of the Chesterfield Festival, and recommend that you purchase your tickets for the festival in advance to avoid the disappointment of a "sold-out" session. Details are at the Chesterfield Beer Festival website. This is a new niche market, with limited availability of the newer beers under development. These limited prototypes will be available at the Saturday lunch session only on February 4th. Gluten-Free Beer is an hybrid style that deserves recognition within the brewing industry. With expansion of Gluten-Free Beer brands into the mainstream, the Celiac could, once again, enjoy a beer with friends at his/her local tavern or brewpub.
For books on the Gluten Free lifestyle, view: Gluten Free Book List
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