Monday, August 17, 2009

Gluten-less Maximus

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau today handed off regulation to the FDA for approval of gluten-free beer to be regulated under gluten-free guidelines. Today, any US brewery can label its beer "gluten-free" without it actually being true (UK and Australian brewers must already meet strict guidelines). Though we have no proof any brewery is doing this, those with Celiac Disease have no way to know whether the gluten-free beer they buy is truly gluten-free. Those days are numbered!

I really hate to do this, but I'm going to link to an article in USA Today. Sigh.

"On Monday, FDA issued its Guidance for Industry covering these non-barley beers. And to the benefit of the one in 133 Americans who can't eat anything containing gluten, these beverages can now officially be labeled gluten-free once they've been tested and confirmed by FDA.

"For the longest time I couldn't put gluten-free on the label, because there wasn't a definition" under TTB regulations, says Russ Klisch, whose Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee makes a sorghum beer, New Grist."

Typically, gluten-free beers are made from sorghum which is a grass native to Africa. As you might guess, sorghum-based beers are popular there and have been brewed in Africa for centuries (one note, however - African sorghum beers typically include some malt as well, so are not gluten-free). Other ingredients might include millet, rice, kamut, buckwheat, or other grains & seeds lacking the gluten protein. It seems using these, however, results in a pretty thin beer with little mouthfeel. I suppose that's a small price to pay for beer that doesn't leave you in severe pain (hangovers not included!).

There are several common options on the shelves these days, though not all of them can be found in Kansas City. To name a few: Redbridge, New Grist, Bard's Tale, Greens, St Peter's, and a handful of others - and the list is growing. It even looks like Schlafly had one a while ago (tap only).

Earlier this year, a fellow beer-lover (whose father also homebrews) started on a gluten-free lifestyle. Unwilling to give up beer without a fight, she set out to find some gluten-free brews that would satisfy her love of beer. She's tried Redbridge so far and said it lacked depth of flavor. Two others by Greens wait in her fridge for a tasting after summer exams. I've only had one Celiac-friendly beer (Greens Endeavor) and it was quite a surprise - it tasted like rum & Coke. Yes, rum and Coke. Not impressive, but it was certainly more than drinkable.

The crowd favorites appear to be St Peter's G-Free and Sprecher's Shakparo. Though they get relatively low ratings (C+ on BA and under 3.0 out of 5 on Rate Beer), they score the highest among their peers. And, of course, I have never seen either one here in KC. I've been looking for G-Free for a while now (I've had this post in the works for about 2 months with the intention of trying it) but can't find it anywhere; I'm left to assume it's just not distributed here. You can try much of the Greens line at Waldo Pizza (while enjoying a gluten-free pie).

There are a few sites that highlight options for gluten free beer, including
There's hope for our gluten-intolerant friends and family after all. It'd be a shame for someone to have to give up beer unnecessarily. :)

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