I’ve seen some postings on gluten-free beers lately, but none seems to have covered all the bases I have found in my own taste explorations! So I thought I’d compile my learnings here in a concise, but descriptive list of the growing number of choices we gluten-free’ers have in the way of libations. All of the beers I list here I have tasted myself. There are a more out there, but I haven’t had the good fortune of having a sip yet. If you have found others, please add a note about them in the comments so we can all learn more!
Also be sure to listen to my recent radio interviews with representatives from Estrella Damm brewery in Spain (brewers of de-glutenized barley beer Daura), Omission (de-glutenized beer), as well as Colorado’s New Planet beer and Merchant du Vin importers of Green’s Gluten-Free beers from Belgium. We talk about testing of gluten levels, brewing methods and ingredients for gluten-free beers, demand, distribution and labeling, plus some other interesting beer facts! Download and listen to the podcasts anytime!
One of my articles for Living Without Magazine covered all the latest entrants to the gluten-free beer market, and also the issue of “de-glutenized” beers. Another of my articles covered sparkling wines, champagnes, sulfite-free wines, sakes and gluten-free beer in Living Without magazine’s Gluten-Free Holiday Guide 2010, and I’ll excerpt a bit from that article, expounding on it below with a bit more information as well.
Some of these beers are hard to find, others rather pricey, so you may not want to use them in my fish and chips recipe, but you’ll probably want to drink one with the fish and chips recipe! Use a more ubiquitous, cheaper beer like Redbridge for the batter, if you like, and wash it down with your new favorite ale, pilsner or lager!
Don’t be afraid to ask your local stores to carry any of these special brews – they are all distributed through national distributors, so they should be able to order for you. For a super-comprehensive list of gluten-free beers from around the world, you must check out this list from The Brewing Network! I sure would love to taste my way around the world with that list!
(Excerpted from my article, New Year’s Eve Party: Ring in 2011 with festive appetizers and drinks, Living Without’s Gluten-Free Holiday Guide):
Looking for Something of a Beer-Variety?
So many new options are available to those of us eating and drinking gluten-free, and that’s something to celebrate!
Estrella Damm’s Daura A straw-colored, gluten-free Eurolager from Spain, it is made with barley hops but nonetheless tests at less than 6 ppm gluten.
Prefer ales? Green’s Ales (Blonde; Amber and Dubbel Dark) are made in the true Belgian style and simply can’t be beat. Green’s just introduced a new beer to the US market: Dry-Hopped Lager. Perfect for a hot day, this refreshing, light beer boasts a Pinot Grigio-like grapefruit note, making it quite a unique brew.
Redbridge, Bard’s Tale and New Grist round out the easy drinking and geographically accessible gluten-free beers to consider for this holiday.
Note: Green’s and Estrella Damm were jointly awarded the winners of the Gluten-Free Beer Category at the 2010 Free From Food Awards and they both swept the category again in 2011. Green’s Amber also won The Vegetarian Times Reader’s Choice in Gluten-Free Beers in 2011 as well!
A few more to look for:
Hambleton Ales – hailing from Great Britain, this ale was actually one of the first gluten-free beers I ever tasted! They also have a pale lager and the brewery claims to be “the best selling British brewed gluten free beers in the world!” Hmm – worth a taste, I’d say!
St. Peter’s was also ”Commended” at the 2010 “Free From Food Awards,” so if you can get your hands on one, it’s worth tasting a winner! It boasts a “pilsner-style lager finish” which I found to taste a bit like caramel, but quite dry and light. And hey, the famous St. Peter’s oval bottle is worth buying on its own!
New York’s Ramapo Valley Brewery has a dedicated facility for their special gluten-free Honey beer, which is also kosher for Passover! This honey-hop wine is on the sweet side, but is refreshingly different, and may just suit your palate.
New Planet gluten-free beers out of Colorado are a pretty exciting addition to the spectrum. Their light-body ales (Tread Lightly Ale, Off the Grid and 3R Raspberry Ales) are made from fermented sorghum and corn, hops and yeast have a lot of folks clamoring to get ahold of them! I was lucky enough to get a taste when I was last in Denver – look for them to move into even more markets soon! (In my January, 2012 radio interview, General Manager and owner Pedro Gonzalez said that they are in distribution in 29 states, so look for them near you soon!)
One of the newest entrants to the gluten-free beer marketplace was officially released in Spring 2012. Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware is introducing its Tweason’ Ale: light-bodied, smooth, and sweet. The strawberry in the beer is unmistakable – somewhat akin to New Planet’s 3R Raspberry Ale. If you don’t like bitter beers, this one might really be for you. Sorghum-based with strawberries and buckwheat honey, it reminds one of mead. Certified Gluten-Free and brewed as a refreshing libation for late spring – early summer.
Another of the newest gluten-free craft brews is Omission Beer out of Oregon. This beer drinker’s beer will impress gluten and gluten-free taste testers alike, as it’s made from traditional beer ingredients, so it tastes like you would expect, without the odd aftertaste so common from gluten-free beers made from alternative grains. Their lager is refreshingly crisp and approachable; their American Pale Ale is a hoppy brew with caramel and floral notes so indicative of this style of beer.
Craft Brew’s CEO has celiac disease, so it was a personal mission for him to make a great gluten-free lager and ale. Like Estrella Damm Daura beer, Omission is a “de-glutenized beer” made with low protein barley. Omission has published rare details of its proprietary process to further explain how the barley (gluten) protein is removed in their brew. They also offer a unique way to check the gluten content of the very beer in your hand by entering the date code stamped on your bottle to view that batch’s R5 competitive ELISA test results.
Omission, Daura and another newly introduced de-glutenized barley beer — Brunehaut — are regulated by the TTB, not the FDA, because they are “true beers” made from barley (though they test to less than 5 or 6 ppm gluten, well under the proposed FDA guidelines of <20ppm gluten to be considered “gluten-free.”) The reason why this matters to you, the consumer, is that you will do a double-take at the store when you see these beers because no where on the labels is “gluten-free” to be found. The TTB will not allow any such “health claims” on beers. Thus, you must do your homework, because when you taste any of these three brands of beer, you will lose your faith that they are gluten-free. They are that good. (Read more in my Living Without article June/July 2012)
Brunehaut, as I mentioned, is the third of this de-glutenized trifeca of beers now available in the US. These Belgian ales (Blond and Amber) hail from Brunehaut brewery in Belgium, established in 1890. Both the Blond and the Amber drink like true Belgian beers – no funky aftertaste, just the right amount of bitter in the blond with a lovely head — all in all, quite pleasing to a beer drinker. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the beautiful color and head on these beers, but we drank them too fast. Now that I’m in love, I have to go find someone on the East Coast who carries them!
Another welcome addition to the gluten-free beers now available in the US is Harvester Brewing‘s lineup which includes a gluten-free IPA. Also a “Red” and a “Dark,” as well as seasonal brews like “Raspberry” (and I’ve heard rumors of a “Pumpkin Beer” this Fall!), these Oregonian beers draw much of their flavor from chestnuts. Some of their beers also use certified gluten-free oats and other (more unusual for beer) ingredients. Harvester claims to be America’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery — which is pretty cool — and is available outside of Oregon by ordering on-line through Lets Pour.
Whether or not drinking beer excites you, you should be thrilled that gluten-free beers are finally available for us to use as cooking ingredients! That’s right – beer bread, tempura, beer cake, and the always popular, beer-battered fish and chips! What would these be without beer? Not the same, I assure you! (For beer bread, tempura and beer cake recipes, check out my newest book, Free for All Cooking!)
As far as my preferences go, I use Green’s Blonde in my beer bread, tempura and beer batter recipes, Green’s Dubbel Dark in my chocolate cake, and prefer to drink the Green’s Amber, or any of the de-glutenized barley beers (Estrella Damm , Omission or Brunehaut) or New Planet Tread Lightly, depending on my mood and what foods it needs to complement!
Get your hands on a bottle or two and find your own favorites for drinking or for recipes.
* Note – if you’d like to compare calories, check this handy list from Fitsugar!