It’s apparent that gluten-free food and beverages are trending. As a result of people who have developed celiac disease, have a gluten intolerance or are following a paleo or grain-free diet, even big box stores like WalMart are carrying products for this audience.

Lately I’ve been consumed by the craft beer movement (speaking of trends); there are at least four breweries that have opened for business within 15 miles of my home, with a fifth due to open in June. I am not a fan of pilsners or the bland “lite” beers, so I can’t imagine developing a gluten issue and having to give up on flavorful beers such as IPAs and porters. Or so I thought….

Friends and colleagues of mine who are avoiding gluten have moved from beer to hard cider or other adult beverages (such as wine and vodka). But I received an e-newsletter the other day that focused on a brewery in Oregon that touts itself as the first craft brewery in the United States to create beers using traditional grains, but having the ability to remove gluten during the process. I figured it was worth looking into for more information (hey….at least I’ll have something else to talk about with my CrossFit friends).

Omission Beer, brewed in Portland by Widmer Bros. Brewing Company, uses a “proprietary process” to remove gluten. The owner of this company was diagnosed with celiac disease 15 years ago, then six years later his wife got the same diagnosis. What to do when your health condition conflicts with your company’s product line? You deal with it….and tap into resources to help you create something that not only people like you can enjoy, but that others will find palatable as well.

In the past, breweries have substituted gluten-free rice, millet, and sorghum for traditional grains—resulting in beer that was supposedly thinner-bodied and tasted….not right. Omission has figured out a way to remove almost all traces of gluten*— and still create good-tasting and award winning beers (although those with extreme sensitivities to gluten should probably steer clear). They brew a lager, pale ale and IPA, and their distribution seems to be across the U.S. in bars and grocery stores.

Grain-free trend is the catalyst for better beer options

In the past few years, better science, creativity and consumer demand have incentivized brewmasters to improve gluten-free beer. As such, more beers are becoming available in the marketplace. Here are some notable ones (in no particular order):

Bard’s, “The Original Sorghum Malt Beer” (their tagline), was founded by two craft beer lovers who developed celiac disease. The brewery is located in Minneapolis, MN, and distribution appears to be nationwide. They offer a medium-bodied American style lager.

RedBridge, brewed by Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, MO, is probably one of the most widely distributed gluten-free beers. While Anheuser-Busch claims RedBridge is rich, hearty and full-bodied, one review I read stated it tasted rather “plain” and without much character, was very light-bodied, pale in color, and had a watery feel in the mouth. Hmmmm….may not be the King of Gluten-free Beers…..

Glutenberg is brewed in Montreal, Québec Canada. Started by two entrepreneurs (one with celiac disease), they set off to try and brew the world’s best gluten-free beers….and ended up with a few that have become award-winners. They offer four beers: a blonde, American pale ale, red and an IPA. From what I’ve read the IPA is particularly good.

Ipswich Ale Brewery’s Celia Saison is a sorghum-based saison that has a spicy, citrusy taste. Curacao orange peels and Celia hops give this a crisp and hoppy finish. Initially brewed in Vermont, the original recipe has been passed on to the Ipswich Ale Brewery in Massachusetts. This is one beer I would really like to try, but is only available in Massachusetts, NY and CT (time for a road trip….).

Green’s incorporates millet, sorghum, rice and buckwheat in its gluten-free beer offerings. While brewed in Belgium, they are distributed via the United Kingdom. They have a full line of ales and lagers. Their Dry-Hopped Lager had great reviews, however, describing the it as crisp and citrusy. Available in the U.S. at various locations (I was able to find a few of them at Total Wine).

Estrella Damm Daura is brewed in Barcelona, Spain. They have a lager, which has won international awards, including the gluten-free category….despite being made with barley (like Omission, listed above, they deglutenize the beer—thus it is not 100% gluten-free and those with extreme celiac disease or gluten allergies should probably pass on this as well). It has a light body, pale gold color and slight carbonation. Sounds like an easy-drinking beverage when it’s hot out.

After all this talk of beer (and it is Friday afternoon) I am off to find something to quench my thirst.

* They cannot guarantee complete elimination of the protein, but enough to allow the gluten-free label. They also mark each batch with specific codes; consumers can go to their website, insert the bottle’s code and view the R5 Competitive ELISA for gluten content test results for that batch.

For more information on gluten-free alcoholic drinks, here are two resources:

Munchyy’s Gluten-free Alcohol Guide

Gluten-free Drinkers Facebook Group