Is beer gluten-free? Sadly, the short answer is “no”. Most traditional beers stocked in the fridge at your favorite grocer are not gluten-free.
Why isn’t beer gluten-free?
Beer is made with four base ingredients - grains (or malt), hops, yeast and water. Doesn’t sound too dicey…or does it? Let’s take a closer look. Traditionally, beer is made with malted barley, yeast, hops, and sometimes wheat or rye. If this isn’t your first (gluten-free) rodeo, you’ve probably already spotted a few red flags - namely malt, wheat, rye and barley which all contain gluten. The presence of these grains means that traditional beer is NOT gluten-free.
Are hops gluten-free?
Hops are gluten-free. Many people erroneously assume that hops are a grain but they’re actually a flower. They add bitterness, flavor and aroma to your favorite brew.
Is yeast gluten-free?
Most yeasts are actually gluten-free. The exception, however, is brewer’s yeast - the yeast used to make beer. Brewer’s yeast is a by-product of the brewing process, which means it has come into contact with barley, rye or wheat so unless otherwise noted, it’s reasonable to assume that brewer’s yeast is not gluten-free.
Is malt gluten-free?
Malt is derived from barley, which means that it contains gluten. If you’re avoiding gluten, you should definitely avoid products that include the word “malt” on the label. Sometimes, you’ll see “malted yeast” or “malted barley”, but don’t fall for that either. When you see the words “malt” or “malted” on the ingredient list, assume that the product contains gluten.
What is gluten-free beer?
Gluten-free beer is made with gluten-free grains, like sorghum, buckwheat, corn, rice, quinoa, amaranth and millet. Similar to wheat in flavor and widely used to make beer in Africa, sorghum is the most popular grain used in gluten-free beer.
How is gluten-free beer made?
Gluten-free beer is brewed exclusively with gluten-free grains like buckwheat, sorghum, corn and rice and other gluten-free ingredients. The brewing process itself remains the same as other beers.
What is the difference between gluten-free beer and dedicated gluten-free beer?
Dedicated gluten-free beer is made with dedicated gluten-free equipment, eliminating the risk of any cross-contamination. Most gluten-free beers are NOT made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.
What is gluten-removed beer?
Gluten-removed beer is made from traditional grains like wheat and barley. The brewing process is identical to traditional beer and does not require dedicated gluten-free equipment. After brewing however, the beer is treated with an enzyme that breaks down proteins, making the gluten undetectable on an ELISA test and (theoretically) undetectable by the human body. Gluten-free beer is tested to ensure that it contains less than 20 ppm of gluten before it can be marketed as gluten-removed beer. The enzymes used to “remove” the gluten do not affect the taste - meaning that gluten-removed beer is basically indistinguishable from its traditional counterparts. Translation: It’s really fucking delicious. Sounds too good to be true? Well….if you have Celiac Disease or are highly sensitive to gluten, it kind of is.
Is gluten-removed beer safe for Celiacs?
While gluten-removed beer is tested to ensure it contains less than 20ppm of gluten, which meets the FDA guidelines, it isn't always enough for folks highly sensitive to gluten or those with Celiac Disease.
As we mentioned earlier, brewers use the ELISA test to detect the presence of gluten. However, some gluten-free advocates argue that this particular test is inaccurate when used on fermented products like beer.Additionally, a 2019 study led by the University of Chicago concluded that a percentage of Celiacs do experience an immune reaction to gluten-removed beers.
Our recommendation: If you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or are highly sensitive to gluten, stick to gluten-free beers!
What major beers are gluten-free?
Despite rumors to the contrary, Michelob Ultra, Corona, and other light beers are NOT gluten-free. Even though they’re all very light beers (they’re barely beer if we’re being honest here), they are all made with wheat and barley. However, independent testing has confirmed that Michelob Ultra contains less than 20ppm of gluten, so if you’re able to tolerate gluten-removed beers, Michelob Ultra is unlikely to cause a negative reaction*.
*That being said, does anyone actually only drink one Michelob Ultra? You almost need to down the entire six pack to feel any sort of buzz. No judgement, just anecdotal evidence from personal experience. Proceed at your own risk.
The Best Gluten-Free Beers to Try
Dedicated Gluten-Free Beer
- Holidaily, a female-owned Colorado brewery, offers a complete line-up of dedicated gluten-free beers using (gluten-free) heirloom grains. We’re big fans of their Favorite Blonde Ale.
- Glutenberg’s dedicated gluten-free beer is arguably one of Canada’s best exports (second only to Ryan Reynolds, obviously). Start with their Pale Ale - and keep an eye out for seasonal offerings like the grapefruit and lime-laced Raddler.
- Ghostfish Brewing offers an impressive assortment of dedicated gluten-free beers - from bubbly blondes to chocolate stouts (and everything imaginable in between). If you’re near the PNW, check out their gluten-free brewpub!
- New Grist Beer, one of our Founder’s favorite gluten-free beers, is made by Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. New Grist is a lager-style beer made with sorghum, hops, gluten-free yeast grown on molasses, and rice.
- New Planet makes several Gluten Free Beers, and we're fans of Blonde Ale made from millet, gluten-free oats, blue corn, cane sugar & hops - it's smooth & easy-drinking, with no crazy sorghum aftertaste. Go ahead and hand Blong Ale to a non-GF beer drinker - they’ll think it's just good beer. Also look for The Pale Ale - it pairs beautifully with big and spicy foods.
- Dog Fish Head Tweason'ale - The brewers at Dog Fish admit that plenty of breweries have managed to craft a good, run-of-the-mill gluten-free beer. They set out to create something “interesting” so they concocted a sorghum-based beer with notes of strawberry and buckwheat honey. Mission accomplished.
- Redbridge is one of the most widely distributed gluten-free beers, and is readily available at many local stores and restaurants. Manufactured by Anheuser-Busch, Inc., the company that produces Budweiser, it’s a light amber beer with a slightly sweet taste.
Reiterating our point here: gluten-removed beer is tested to ensure it contains less than 20ppm of gluten. White this meets the FDA guidelines IT ISN’T ALWAYS LOW ENOUGH for highly sensitive people or those with Celiac Disease - who we recommend choose gluten-free beer. If you’re avoiding gluten for another reason, try one of these gluten-removed beers:
- Estrella Damm Daura is a Mediterranean-style Pilsner made from barley. Gluten levels are reported to be below 6ppm, less than one-third the international standard for gluten-free certification. Estrella Damm Daura has won a Gold Medal at the World Beer Championships, a Gold Medal at the International Beer Challenge and the World’s Best Gluten-free Lager Award at the World Beer Awards.
- Stone Delicious IPA is (in our humble opinion) one of the best IPAs out there. If bold, hoppy beers are your jam, then this citrus-forward gem is worth a taste.
- Omission: The folks at Omission have been creating gluten-reduced craft beers for over a decade. Don't sleep on their Golden Ale.
Looking for more of our favorite gluten-free brews? Check out our gluten-free beer list!
Gluten-Free Alternatives to Beer:
Is tequila gluten-free?
If beer isn’t your drink of choice, there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives to beer. Wondering if your favorite drinks are gluten-free? Here’s the scoop.
Photo courtesy of New Planet.