Great Gluten-Free Beers
Joshua M. Bernstein
At its most basic, beer is composed of four core ingredients. Equipped with water, hops, yeast, and barley, brewers can send beer into thousands of flavorful directions. For many people, however, beer is not a pleasure but a source of pain. The culprit is gluten, which is several different proteins found in cereal grains such as rye, spelt, and barley. Most people easily digest gluten. But for millions of American suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, ingesting gluten causes wrenching stomach pain and cramping.
Brewers, however, do not want to deny anyone the pleasure of a cold beer. To create beers suited for celiacs, as well as people suffering from gluten sensitivities and dietary restrictions, ingenious brewers have begun experimenting with alternative grains and grasses such as sorghum, buckwheat, rice, and millet. The result is gluten-free brews as flavorful as anything found in the craft-beer aisle.
Here are 12 of our favorite gluten-free beers (updated as of July 21, 2014). You won’t know what you’re missing.
Ipswich Ale Brewery: Celia Saison
After John Kimmich’s wife, Jennifer, was diagnosed with celiac disease, the Vermont brewer (from Alchemist) decided to make her a flavorful craft beer. For this Belgian-inspired saison, John relied on sorghum syrup, Curaçao orange peel, and Celia hops to create a crisp, tart beer drinker with a peppery and citrusy profile. (Note: Though brand rights were sold to Massachusetts’s Ipswich, the recipe remains unchanged.)
Green’s Gluten Free Beers: Enterprise Dry-Hopped Lager
Brewed in Belgium, Green’s relies on millet, sorghum, rice, and buckwheat to concoct its line. While the caramel-y Discovery Amber Ale, rich and toffee-tinged Endeavour Dubbel Ale, and fruity and potent Quest Gluten-Free Tripel Ale are all wonderful, the latest release is a revelation: Crisp, refreshing, and fabulously floral, Enterprise Dry-Hopped Lager is perfect from afternoon to last call.
Sprecher Brewing Co.: Shakparo Ale
Sprecher first created this West African-style ale as a one-off for Milwaukee’s African World Festival. The sorghum-and-millet concoction (they’re common ingredients in sub-Saharan Africa, where wheat and barley are rare) was so popular that the Wisconsin brewery made Shakparo a regular. The pleasingly tangy refresher somewhat recalls apple cider.
Estrella Damm: Daura
Unlike most gluten-free beers, Spain’s Daura is made with barley malt. The brewery uses a proprietary technique to remove gluten from barley malt (the amount of gluten is below the allowable threshold), meaning Daura taste close to the real thing. The light, bubbly beer gently smells of sweet toasted grains, with a bit of bitterness on the back end.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales: Tweason’ale
In lieu of barley, the Delaware brewers turned to sorghum syrup to fuel this fruit-forward gluten-free offering that’s flavored with strawberries and sweetened with a bit of buckwheat honey. Tweason’ale is by turns sweet and tart, and it’ll ably slay thirst on a sunny afternoon.
Omission Beer: Lager
What’s left out of Omission? Well, the beer is made from low-protein barley treated with an enzyme that breaks down gluten and proteins. While Omission beers are below the established cutoff line for gluten-free products, they can’t be labeled as such. Nonetheless, the pale ale is a hoppy pleasure, the IPA is smooth and piney, and the crisp lager is made with Citra hops for a touch of tropical complexity. (Keep an eye out for San Diego’s forthcoming Duck Foot, which also makes gluten-removed beer.)