Taste-Testing Gluten-Free Beer

It's time to say goodbye to the traditional barley-made beer, and welcome the new era of gluten-free brews! With the growing awareness and diagnosis of Celiac disease and other health concerns, brewers are pushing the boundaries and discovering new alternatives for a great tasting beer, without the barley. So what does a beer without barley taste like? Let's explore the gluten-free beer world and find out for ourselves!

Beer Without Barley? All About Gluten-Free and Low-Gluten Beer

Whether you have a gluten allergy or dietary preference, beer is an often-avoided treat. But thanks to a growing awareness and diagnosis of allergies, gluten-free and low-gluten beers are becoming a delicious reality.

In this article, we’ll dive into what goes into these beers, how to recognize them, and how to determine which is the best beer for you. We’ll also answer the big question -- how do they taste?

What Is a Gluten-Free Beer?

Gluten-free beer is made without any barley, or with barley that has had the gluten removed. These beers are called gluten-free, meaning they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

In the United States, the FDS and TTB classify a beer as “gluten-free” only if the gluten content is below 20 parts per million.

What Is Low-Gluten Beer?

Low-gluten beer is not a gluten-free beer, but it has less gluten than regular beer. Low-gluten beer is made with a barley-based wort, but reduced gluten content, usually via a special brewing process.

Since the United States has no standard for “low-gluten” beer, it can be difficult to determine how much gluten is actually in the beer. Generally, though, these beers have between three and 20 parts per million of gluten.

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What Are the Differences Between Gluten-Free and Low-Gluten Beer?

The major difference between gluten-free beer and low-gluten beer is in the ingredients used in their production:

  • Gluten-free beer: Gluten-free beer is made with alternative grains like sorghum, millet, quinoa and buckwheat, as well as rice, corn, and potato starches. These beers cannot contain any barley, and must be free of any gluten.
  • Low-gluten beer: Low-gluten beer is made with barley-based worts, but is processed to reduce gluten content. These beers still contain gluten, but in lower amounts than traditional beers.

The second major difference between gluten-free and low-gluten beer is their gluten content:

  • Gluten-free beer: A beer is considered gluten-free if it contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
  • Low-gluten beer: Low-gluten beers have between three and 20 parts per million of gluten.

How Do I Know if a Beer Is Gluten-Free?

The easiest way to know if a beer is gluten-free is to look for the words “gluten-free” or “GF” on the label. If the beer does not mention that it is “gluten-free,” you should assume that it contains at least some gluten.

In addition, many breweries that make gluten-free beers offer lab tests of their products to prove their gluten-free status. But note that these tests only guarantee that the beer is gluten-free at the time of testing; it is still possible that the beer can become contaminated with gluten after production.

Is Gluten-Free Beer Dangerous for People with Celiac Disease?

The answer to this question depends on the individual. While most beer labeled “gluten-free”is safe for people with celiac disease, it's important to keep in mind that even very small amounts of gluten can be harmful to celiacs. To be safe, you should always read ingredient and place of manufacture labels on gluten-free beer packages to reduce your risk for contamination.

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It is also important to remember that some gluten-free beers are only brewed in facilities that also process barley; in these cases, the beers may become contaminated with gluten during production. If you are allergic to barley, you should exercise extra caution when choosing a gluten-free beer.


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