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One day, you’re drinking beer with the rest of your friends. Next, you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. When you end up diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, missing out on something you love because you can’t eat or drink gluten can be devastating. And you can’t help but wonder, “Is beer gluten free? Is there still hope?”
Why yes, yes there is hope. But first, we’re going to answer the most poignant question: Does beer contain gluten? If so, is there low gluten beer or gluten free beer available?
Let’s find out.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the name given to proteins that are naturally found in grains like barley, wheat, rye, and various grain crossbreeds. In order for something to be defined as “gluten free,” it cannot contain any of those grains or ingredients that are derived from those grains. For example, the meat substitute seitan is not gluten free because it is made directly of gluten.
What Ingredients Make Up Beer?
Beer is generally made with water, yeast, hops, and barley—which has gluten. Other common forms of grain are wheat and rye, all of which contain gluten. The yeast is used to digest any sugar from starches and produce alcohol. Most beers are composed of 90 percent water, with hops added for bitterness and aroma.
Breweries will also include other grains, flavorings, sugars, and finings to make their beer unique. Some of these additives may contain gluten.
So you can assume that most traditional beer is not gluten free since one of the main ingredients—grain—almost always contains gluten.
How Much Gluten is in Beer?
In order to be considered a gluten free item, most countries require a food or beverage to have less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten in a serving. That happens to be the lowest detectable amount when using an analytical tool. This is considered an acceptable amount, since most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods that have such a tiny amount of gluten.
Many beers that are brewed conventionally will contain more than 20 ppm of gluten. However, the exact amounts in the beer depend on the ingredients and brewing process.
Here is the average amount of gluten in the common types of beer:
- Ale: 3,120 ppm
- Lager: 63 ppm
- Stout: 361 ppm
- Wheat beer: 25,920 ppm
This clearly means that regular beer is not good for those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
Does Low Gluten Beer Exist? What About Gluten Free Beer?
Now that you’re probably disheartened from finding out that most beers are crafted with some kind of grain that contains gluten, let’s give you some good news. Many breweries, particularly craft breweries, are whipping up some stellar examples of low gluten and gluten free beer. Huzzah!
Rather than using the common grains for making sweet, sweet malt, gluten free beer utilizes grains that don’t contain the protein. This opens up brewers and drinkers to a variety of grains, including rice, millet, corn, sorghum, and buckwheat. Other breweries have found a way to brew low gluten beer using either barley or rye. They strip the gluten from the grain, so the final product has less than 20 ppm.
That said, it is best to look for beers made from gluten free sources of grain, since there is no guarantee that the low gluten beers made from rye or barley won’t affect you. There is also no reliable way to measure how much gluten those kinds of beers contain.
Which Mass Market Beers Are Gluten Free?
When you want to go out with your family and friends and are craving a beer, is your old go-to still going to hit the spot? Or do you need to watch out for gluten in mass produced beers? We’ve got the answers.
Is Coors Light Gluten Free?
Yes, Coors Light is considered gluten free (even though it’s not labeled as such), because it only has 10 ppm of gluten per 12 oz can or bottle. You can also enjoy Coors Banquet beer, as the company goes above and beyond during the dilution process to remove the presence of gluten from the brew. Coors Peak is another example of gluten free beer.
Is Miller Light Gluten Free?
No, Miller Light contains gluten. It is made with barley malt and comes in at a very high positive for gluten when based on 20 ppm. In other words, it has far more than the FDA approved amount to be gluten free.
Is Michelob Ultra Gluten Free?
No, Michelob Ultra isn’t gluten free. When tested for gluten, the beer gave a “high positive” at 20 ppm, meaning that it usually contains far more than 20 ppm of gluten. Those with celiac disease or cannot tolerate a lot of gluten should avoid Michelob Ultra. Sadly, Michelob doesn’t create any gluten free beer.
The 6 Best Gluten Free Beers of 2021
Shopping around for a decent gluten free beer can feel like a challenge. There are options out there, but how do you know if the beer is going to taste good? Is the facility reputable? Are beers produced with gluten made in the same place? And if so, how do you know the beer isn’t contaminated? All of these are important questions to ask yourself.
Obviously, you’re going to want beer that comes from a dedicated brewery that has procedures or facilities that eliminate any chance of gluten getting in the beer.
Now for our best gluten free beer recommendations:
When you’re a fan of hefeweizen or witbiers, going gluten free can seem like a nightmare. After all, making a wheat beer without the main ingredient sounds like science fiction. But lucky for you, Ghostfish Brewery has discovered a way to make a delicious Belgian witbier by blending malted rice, buckwheat, and millet together with juniper berries, orange zest, coriander, and Belgian yeast. It’s full-bodied and will leave you wanting more.
Ghostfish also serves up some amazing pale ales and Imperial IPAs alongside this witbier. At the brewpub in Washington, you can find gluten free bar snacks and entrees too. Be sure to check out their website to see which seasonal or limited edition beers they have for sale.
There’s a fascinating and inspiring story behind Holidaily Brewing Co. The brew master, Karen Hertz, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and melanoma. For treatment purposes, she needed to drop foods that contain gluten. She was devastated that she would have to give up beer, so she mastered the art of brewing it gluten free and later opened up her dedicated gluten free brewery.
The Boombastic Hazy IPA is just one of the many amazing beers that Holiday Brewing Co. whips up throughout the year. It has the perfect profile of juice and tang. And with 7% ABV, you’re definitely going to be feeling this one!
Made in Montreal, Canada, this is one beer that you’re going to want to try. First and foremost, it’s a sour beer, which has been growing in popularity. Secondly, Glutenberg has put out a gose that is astoundingly well-rounded despite lacking the traditional ingredients. You’re going to love how the tart lemons mix with the punch of sea salt on the tongue. At 4.5% ABV, you can enjoy a couple bottles of gose with dinner and feel no remorse.
Ground Breaker is aptly named, because they’re replacing the typical gluten free offerings with something a bit strange. Roasted chestnuts and lentils make up the bulk of this beer. Dark ale is rich, nutty, and one of the year-round offerings found at this Portland, Oregon brewery. If you like the dark ale, but sure to try out the Squash Ale or Fresh Hop, which is brewed with tapioca. Oh, and did we mention that the brewery is dedicated gluten free?
Throughout the years, Stone has come up with some eyebrow-raising beers and took some awards along the way. Therefore, it’s a big deal that Stone has decided to come out with a gluten free IPA that is as delicious as the name claims. Even if you don’t need to go gluten free, you’re going to want to give this IPA a try. It’s a bold flavor heaped atop a malty foundation and speckled with tropical hops. Drink up.
After having been purchased by Anheuser-Busch, Omission beers have expanded to Italy and Australia and can be found in the US and Canada. It’s no longer considered craft beer, but that doesn’t matter. The company offers gluten free lagers, pale ales, and IPAs that are easy to find in many regions and also taste good. You’ll notice that the lager has a crisp, clean flavor that is well-balanced. Omission lager is an excellent choice.
Ah, yes, the German pilsner. It’s hardly a surprise that the Germans would not only craft an organic pilsner but also work out how to make it gluten free. The Neumarkter Lammsbrau Pure Lager comes out clean, because it doesn’t have sorghum or millet in the ingredients. Instead, you get a hint of toasted malt along with the full profile of a traditional pilsner. Awesome.
As you can see, going gluten free doesn’t mean giving up a beverage that you love. In fact, more and more craft breweries are taking up the challenge and coming up with some pretty satisfying results. Even mass producers like Coors are hopping aboard. From gluten free Hazy IPAs to more traditionally brewed pilsners and ales, leaving gluten behind is easier than ever.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes and no. You can drink beer if it’s of the gluten free variety. If you plan on sipping on wheat beer if you’re gluten intolerant, you’re going to feel the effects almost as instantly as you would eating a slice of wheat bread. Be on the look out for beers that are labeled as gluten free, since that means they will contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, which is the FDA-approved safe amount.
That depends on the type of beer we’re talking about. Some beers, like wheat beer, are very high in gluten, while many lagers are around 63 ppm. You will have to search for beers that are low in gluten (gluten reduced) or gluten free if you want to be certain that the beer in question is safe to drink.
The average slice of wheat bread contains about 4.8 grams of gluten, which is slightly less than 5,000 mg of gluten. Regular processed white bread can contain around 12,400 mg or 124,000 ppm of gluten, but the usual slice runs around 3,515 mg (35,150 ppm) of gluten. Gluten free bread, on the other hand, will contain less than 20 ppm.
There are several brands of gluten free beer brewed in Canada, including Glutenberg (available in Eastern Canada), Heathen’s Brewing (Western Canada), Helix Biere Sans Gluten, The Exchange Brewery, Whistler Brewing Co., and Microbrasserie Nouvelle France. Some gluten free beers brewed elsewhere in the world are also available in Canada, such as CELIA Lager from the Czech Republic.
That depends on the kind of beer we’re talking about. Beer is traditionally made with barley, wheat, or rye, all of which contain gluten. If you have celiac disease and you drink a wheat beer, it’s going to be bad for you. However, there are brands of low gluten beer and also gluten free beer that you can find throughout the world. If you purchase gluten free beer, then no, beer is not bad for those with celiac disease.
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When you get into the thick of it, there really isn’t any difference between craft vs draft. Since any beer, be it domestic or craft or something from a microbrewery can all be put on tap, thereby making it a draft beer.
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