Common Grains & Nuts for Brewing Gluten-Free Beer

Common Grains & Nuts for Brewing Gluten-Free Beer

Although gluten-free beer is becoming more available for the Celiac, many beer lovers who need to avoid barley, wheat, oats, rye, spelt, kamut and triticale have turned to homebrewing. This list may be used as a guide for selecting grains and nuts for brewing gluten-free beer:

Amaranth Grain – genus: Amaranthus / family: Amaranthaceae
Common names: Amaranth, Pigweeds, Cockscomb, Bachelor’s Button

Over 60 varieties of short-lived, coarse herbs, indigenous to Africa and tropical America, have been cultivated as leaf vegetables, cereals and ornamental plants. The grain varieties are used in Asia, particularly the Himalaya regions, and the Americas. Ancient, pre-Columbian Aztecs and Mexican peoples brewed a ritualistic drink with amaranth grain.

Buckwheat - genus: Fagopyrum / family: Polygonaceae
Common names: Buckwheat, Beech Wheat

Buckwheat is an herb of the Buckwheat family Polygonaceae, and is a short-season crop that does well in poor, acidic, but well-drained soil. Buckwheat pollen has been identified in Japan as early as 4000 BC, but domestication of the plant as a crop is believed to have occurred around 6000 BC in Southwest Asia, Tibet, and 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 are high in nectar content, and are often found in conjunction with beekeeping farms.

Chestnuts – genus: Castania / family: Fagaceae
Common names: Chestnuts, Chinkapins, American Chestnut, Asian Sweet Chestnut, Japanese Chestnut, Chinese Chestnut, Henry’s Chestnut, Seguin’s Chestnut

The origins of Chestnut trees have been traced to southwestern and eastern Asia, southern Europe and North America. The nut is encased in an outer green husk, which is removed before commercial distribution. The nut may be eaten, raw, roasted or candied - as in the French marrons glacés, or used as chestnut flour in baking, or as chestnut chips for the brewing of beer.

Corn – genus: Zea / family: Poaceae
Common names: Corn, Maize, Mealies

First domesticated in MesoAmerica, corn was introduced to the cultures of North America, the Caribbean, South America, China and Europe in the late 1400’s. Hybridization resulted in stronger cultivars with higher yields. Uses include feed, forage, silage, and grain for livestock. It is also made into corn syrup as a sweetener, prepared as hominy and cornmeal; served as a vegetable; fermented into beer and bourbon whiskey; and used as a biomass fuel source.

Flax – genus: Linum / family: Linaceae
Common names: Common Flax, Linseed, Flaxseed
Archaeological and anthropological clues target the origins of flax to be in the Near East and possibly India. The plant has a diverse use profile: fabric, dye, fishing nets, medicines, soap, oils, cattle feed, and as a nutritional food product. Seeds are edible – either brown or yellow - with brown seed used primarily for cattle feed, as a paint additive, or in the making of fiber. A new variety of yellow seed, the Omega, has been developed by the North Dakota State University research project. This is primarily a food source, high in Omega-3 fatty acids, with a nutty, buttery flavor. A thick seed coat allows protection of the inner seed for many years; upon removal of the seed, the omega-3 fatty acids oxidize quickly, and may become rancid unless used immediately, refrigerated, or frozen.

Honey – A viscous, hygroscopic, sweet liquid produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowering plants.
Common varieties: Orange Blossom, Tupelo, Buckwheat, Clover, Blackberry, Blueberry, Tasmanian Leatherwood, Acacia, Redgum, Stringybark, Sourwood, Wild Thyme, Lavender, Manuka, Viper’s Bugloss, Honeydew, Ratatree Honey, Nodding Thistle, Tawari, Rewarewa, Kamahi

Commonly, honey is used as an ingredient in cooking and baking, or as a sweetener on breads and in beverages. It has uses in folk medicine, and natural preservative characteristics. Meads are fermented beverages made from honey, and may be categorized as beer or wine. The ancients of the Near East used honey as an embalming ointment in the burial customs of their royal subjects.

Maize – see Corn

Millet – genus: Eleusine / family: Poaceae
Common names: African millet, Ragi, finger millet

Indigenous to Africa, millet was introduced to India 4000 years ago. Grown as a cereal grain in Africa and Asia, it is adaptable to higher elevations, particularly in the Himalaya, at altitudes as high as 7500 feet. Millet is commonly made into a fermentable drink in Africa, and is often combined with sorghum.

Quinoa – genus: Chenopodium / family: Amaranthaceae
Common names: Quinoa, Goosefoot, Quechua, gmara, Chibchan, Quinua, Mapudungun, Jopa, Chisaya Mama, Suba, Pasca

Native to the Andean region of South America, Quinoa was used by Pre-Columbian civilizations as an important crop, second only to potatoes. The Incas used it in sacred rituals. High in nutritional value, it is easy to prepare, has a light, fluffy texture and nutty flavor. A bitter, unpalatable, outer coating of saponins protects the crop from being consumed by birds and other predators; however, this coating must be removed before cooking by a double soak and rinse, although commercially processed quinoa is usually pre-rinsed.

Quinoa is high in nutritional content, and is being studied by NASA as a possible crop in the Controlled Ecological Life Support System in extended manned spaceflights.

Rape Seed – genus: Brassica / family: Brassicaceae
Common Names: Rape, Oilseed Rape, Rapa, Rapa Seed, Canola

This family of plants is a member of the mustard or cabbage family, with Rape primarily developed for its seeds. It has been cultivated for animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption, and biodiesel. Leading producers are the European Union, Canada, United States of America, Australia, China, and India.

Rapeseed has a high nectar content from which honeybees produce a light-colored honey with peppery undertones. This honey granulates quickly and must be extracted immediately upon formation, often blended with other, more viscous, varieties of honey.
Caution is advised when using Rapeseed for brewing. Although not clearly documented, there have been reports of adverse reactions among sufferers of asthma and hay fever due to the introduction of rapeseed to their diets.

Rice – genus: Oryza / family: Poaceae
Common names: Rice, Oryza Sativa

Native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Africa, rice is a food crop of major importance throughout the world. High in nutritional value, it is used for food, and in many forms as fermentable drinks.

Sorghum – genus: Sorghum / family: Poaceae
Common names: Sorghum Bicolor, Durra, Egyptian Millet, Guinea Corn, Guinea Millet, Kaffircorn, Jowar, Juwar, Milo, Feterita, Sorgos, Shallu and Sudan Grass

Sorghum has origins in 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.

Soybean – genus: Glycine / family: Fabaceae
Common names: Soybean, Soyabean

Archaeo-anthroplogists believe the use of the soybean legume as a food crop in eastern Asia originated long before the development of recorded history. It spread as a major crop throughout China, Korea and Japan. Introduced into Europe in the early 1700’s, it quickly spread to colonial America by 1765 to be used as a hay product.

A hard outer hull that is water resistant protects the germ. If the seed cover is cracked, it will not germinate.

Sunflower – genus: Helianthus / family: Asteraceae
Common names: Sunflower

Indigenous to the Americas, agronomists/anthropologists believe Sunflower was domesticated approximately 1000 BC. The true seeds are found in the flower head, encased in an inedible hull, and are commonly eaten as a snack in the USA, Europe and China and used as livestock feed. Sunflower oils are used in cooking, as a carrier liquid, and for biodiesel.

Teff – genus: Eragrostis / family: Poaceae
Common names: Teff, Tef, lovegrass, annual bunch grass, taffi, mil éthiopien, Ttheff, Tteff, Thaff, Tcheff, Thaft, Tcheff, Eragrain [trade name by Dutch farmers]

Teff origins trace back between 4000 and 1000 years to Ethiopia in Northeastern Africa. It has an attractive nutrition profile, with excellent amino acids, and high levels of calcium and other nutrients. Iron from teff enjoys high absorption by the body. It is highly recommended for gluten free brewing purposes.

Wild Rice – genus: Zizania / family: Poaceae
Common names: Northern Wild Rice, Wild Rice, Texas Wild Rice, Manchurian Wild Rice

Wild Rice is native to North America. The Texas Wild Rice variety is currently in danger of extinction, and the Manchurian Wild Rice species, while being a rarity in the untamed wilderness, is difficult to control and domesticate.

Wild Rice grows in paddies, and created a challenge at harvest time for Native Americans in early America. Typically, they would canoe into a stand of plants, bend and force the seed heads into the canoe, then thrash at the seed heads to gather enough rice for use in sacred, ritualistic ceremonies, particularly within the culture of the Ojibwa tribe.

Used primarily as a dried whole grain, Wild Rice is high in nutritional content, the amino acid lysine, and dietary fiber. It is also considered a valuable grain in a gluten free diet.


For books on the Gluten Free lifestyle, view: Gluten Free Book List

You Should Also Read:
Celiacs Guide to Gluten Free Beer
No Barley - Gluten Free Beer of Lakefront Brewery
Redbridge - Made from Sorghum - A Celiac's Delight

Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map

Content copyright © 2023 by Carolyn Smagalski. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Carolyn Smagalski. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Carolyn Smagalski for details.