If brewed according to the German Purity Law, beer consists of four ingredients: barley malt, hops, yeast and water. Beer production stands and falls with the processing of grain. But what does that mean for people who suffer from gluten intolerance (celiac disease)? Do you have to do without the tasty barley juice? Or is beer gluten-free?
First off the bad news: beer contains gluten. And now for the good: Thanks Gambrinus, brewers have taken on this problem. The market now also offers gluten-free beer, which can be drunk without risk and brings the pleasure of beer back to people with celiac disease. Here I try to inform you about everything you need to know about gluten-free beer in case of gluten intolerance.
What is gluten?
Gluten, also known as glue protein, occurs in many cereals. It is a mixture of proteins that occurs when the cereal seedling comes into contact with water. The grain then forms the characteristic adhesive structure that you may have observed while preparing a dough. Thus, in conjunction with liquid forms an elastic, rubbery and sticky mass. But not all cereals make up gluten. In overview you will find out exactly which gluten forms and which not:
|Cereals with gluten||Gluten-free cereals||Gluten-free pseudo cereals|
People with gluten intolerance are hypersensitive to the components of gluten. Celiac disease has both classic allergy and autoimmune disease characteristics. After eating gluten-containing foods, the small intestine mucosa becomes inflamed and many symptoms follow. Nausea, vomiting, anemia, loss of appetite or other inflammations are just a few examples.
Statistically speaking, one percent of the world’s population suffers from gluten intolerance. According to a 2016 Forsa survey, a person under one hundred in Germany is also affected by celiac disease. However, the proportion of people who believe that they are intolerant is around 9 percent.
Where does the often wrong self-assessment come from?
Frequently, symptoms such as vomiting and discomfort are misinterpreted and falsely attributed to gluten intolerance. In addition, other candidate allergens such as fructose or lactose are less frequently considered, as gluten intolerance has become a popular explanation for many symptoms in recent years.
Since research is still not sure what effect gluten has on the body, more and more frequently unaffected people avoid eating gluten-containing foods.
What is gluten-free beer?
Gluten-free beer is suitable for all people who suffer from celiac disease because it does not contain the allergy-causing substance. Gluten-free beer is also a real alternative for people who deliberately avoid gluten. But how much gluten is actually in our beer?
Overview: Gluten content of beer
The German Research Center for Food Chemistry (DFA) has examined the gluten content of numerous foods in a collaborative project with the Competence Center for Nutrition (KErn) and published the results in 2015. How high is the gluten content of beer, you will find out here:
|Beer variety||Gluten content in mg / kg|
|Alcohol Free Beer||32|
Wheat beer has the highest gluten content according to the results, and is many times higher than other beers. It is interesting that the result for Pilsener beer is very low. According to an EU directive, beers are considered gluten-free if they contain less than 20 mg / kg of gluten. At 12 mg / kg, this type of beer is therefore in the tolerable range. However, since even the smallest amounts of gluten in people with pronounced celiac disease can trigger symptoms, the consumption is still rather discouraged. For people who do not respond so strongly to gluten, a Pils may be suitable to enjoy the barley juice without any discomfort. For everyone else it says: Rather go back to special gluten-free beers.
Production of gluten-free beers
We know that gluten forms in the seedlings of some cereals when mixed with water. For brewers of gluten-free beer, this means they either use other grains in beer production, or they use a way to remove the gluten from the beer later.
Beers that do not contain the gluten present in some grains or only in very small amounts are called gluten-free. A beer that is completely free of gluten must be made with gluten-free cereals. People with a gluten intolerance can drink these types of beer without hesitation and do not have to forego the pleasure of a good beer.
For the production of beer without gluten, two brewing processes have prevailed in the past ten to fifteen years: beer brewing with gluten-free cereals and classic beer production with the subsequent withdrawal of the gluten.
Brewing beer with gluten-free cereals
To make beer gluten-free, breweries like to go back to gluten-free cereals such as rice, millet or buckwheat. In this process, the malt is therefore not made of barley, which indeed contains gluten, but from the above varieties. Also malt mixtures from different cereals are possible. The brewing process then proceeds as usual. Since there is no gluten in the hops, this raw material can also be safely used here. Only when adding the yeast, it is again to be attentive, as there are also gluten-containing yeasts.
Drinks based on rice, corn or millet have been around for centuries and can be described as beer-like, such as Japanese sake (based on rice) or South American chicha (based on corn). Beer brewers claim that their gluten-free beers taste as close as possible to the original. To do this, they add flavors, sugar or honey to create the original beer taste. Although this procedure does not comply with the German Purity Law, celiac sufferers play it safe with such gluten-free beers, since they are brewed from gluten-free cereals from the outset.
Enzymatically degrade gluten
The second process for the production of gluten-free beer is used following a traditional brewing process. The beer is produced in the traditional way and according to German purity law. The gluten from the barley is degraded during the brewing process with the aid of enzymes, so that the finished beer ends up with only minimal traces of gluten. Even after the brewing process, the gluten can still be broken down. If the values are below 20 mg / kg, beers prepared in this way are considered gluten-free. The production of gluten-free wheat beer is also possible.
But caution is advised here: Some celiac disease patients are already reacting to the smallest amounts of gluten. You should then rather opt for beers from other crops.
Another innovation is the use of gluten-containing cereals that have been bred through numerous crossings so that they hardly contain gluten. Thus, the beer pioneer is made with an Australian barley variety, which has only negligible amounts of gluten.
From pils to non-alcoholic: gluten-free beers
In the meantime, some breweries have specialized in the niche product gluten-free beer. Even large breweries are expanding their range more and more. Therefore, people with a gluten intolerance today can fall back on a large selection of different beers in order to enjoy the “cool blonde”. Whether pils, wheat, IPA or dark beer – the selection of gluten-free beers is great. Alcohol-free beers without gluten can also be found in the assortment of some breweries. Who suffers from celiac disease, so does not have to give up beer, but has a large selection. Here everyone will find a suitable beer.
And what about the taste?
The taste is probably the most important quality feature of a beer. If a beer does not cause the taste buds on the tongue to explode, it can have the most beautiful color and the highest foam crown, it will not convince.
Do gluten-free beers taste good with the gluten-containing originals? The large selection of different producers and beers has led to gluten-free beers getting better in recent years. While consumers often initially complained of thread and watery tastes, the breweries have greatly improved the quality of the beers over time. In the meantime, there are gluten-free beers on the market, which are not only difficult to differentiate from conventional beers in terms of taste, but are also convincing in terms of color and the head of foam. It’s worth trying out!
Buy gluten-free beer
Celiac sufferers often find it difficult to get gluten-free foods on the market. Although the large supermarket chains have steadily expanded their product range in recent years, diversity is far from being so great in all areas. So to find and buy gluten-free beer, you usually have to search a bit or look out for special online shops.
In the trade
Who wants to buy gluten-free beer in the trade, has to investigate a little. Large chains now have a small selection of gluten-free beers on offer in selected stores, such as the pioneer or gluten-free Neumarkter Lammsbräu. However, the varieties are not yet available in the supermarkets and beverage markets.
You have more success in local health food stores and health food stores. You can usually buy a small selection of gluten-free beers easily there. But here, too, the diversity of varieties is rather limited. You can also order gluten-free beers from smaller breweries online. There is a lot to discover.
How much do gluten-free beers cost?
If you want to enjoy a gluten-free “cool blond”, you have to dig deep into your pocket. Buyers of gluten-free beer, depending on the manufacturer and the type of beer, have to pay two to four times as much as with classic beer.
There are two reasons for this: Firstly, the demand for gluten-free beer is not very high, as the number of people suffering from celiac disease is quite small; on the other hand, the production is more expensive and requires more effort than conventional beer. Due to the relatively small sales market, the quantities that are produced are relatively manageable.
The 10 best gluten-free beers worldwide
Not only in Germany, especially overseas, the supply of gluten-free beers has grown strongly in recent years. But our direct neighbors have also produced some award-winning beer brands without gluten, which are definitely worth a taste test.
Name of the beer: Brunehaut Triple
Brewery: Brunehaut Brewery (Belgium)
Alcohol content: 8.8% by volume
Awarded: World’s Best Beer Award 2017 Glutenfree
Name of the beer: Grisette Organic Blonde Gluten Free
Brewery: St. Feuillien (Belgium)
Alcohol content: 5.5% by volume
Beers: Light Lager
Awarded: World’s Best Beer Award 2016 Glutenfree
Name of the beer: Top Hat
Brewery: Snowman Brewing Company (Canada)
Alcohol content: 4.7% by volume
Beers: Amber Ale
Award: World’s Best Beer Award 2015 Gluten-free
Name of the beer: Mongozo
Brewery: Brewery Huyghe (Belgium)
Alcohol content: 5.0% by volume
Award: World’s Best Beer Award 2014 Gluten-free
Name of the beer: Organic White Light Gluten Free
Brewery: Die Weisse (Austria)
Alcohol content: 5.2% by volume
Type of beer: Wheat Beer
Award: Best Gluten-Free Wheat Beer In The World 2016
Name of the beer: Glutenberg IPA
Brewery: Glutenberg Brewery (Canada)
Alcohol content: 6% by volume
Beers: Indian Pale Ale
Award: World Beer Cup 2016 Gluten-free
Name of the beer: Green’s Enterprise Dry-Hopped Lager
Brewery: Proefbrouwerij Brewery (Belgium)
Alcohol content: 4.1% by volume
Beers: Light Lager
Award: World Beer Cup 2014 Gluten-free
Name of the beer: Neumarkter Lammsbräu Gluten Free Alcohol Free
Brewery: Brewery Lammsbräu (Germany)
Alcohol content: <0.5% by volume
Award: Eat Healthy Awards 2016 Soft Drinks
Name of the beer: Ambar
Brewery: Brewery La Zaragozana (Spain)
Alcohol content: 5% by volume
Beers: Light Lager
Award: Spain’s Most Popular Gluten-free Beer
Name of the beer: Celia
Brewery: Brewery Žatec (Czech Republic)
Alcohol content: 4.5% by volume (light storage); 5.7% by volume (dark)
Beers: Light Lager; Dark
Award: Popular Gluten-free Beer From The Czech Republic
Do you need more help with the decision? Check out the website of Wheat-Free.org! Here you will find numerous breweries from the USA, Canada and other countries, which have a whole range of different gluten-free beers in their assortment.
Nutrition facts: Gluten-free beer vs. classic beer
Compared to other beers, the average caloric content of gluten-free beer is only marginally higher. So you do not have to worry about gluten-free beer being a bigger calorie bomb than normal. The following overview shows how many calories gluten-free beer contains compared to various beers.
|Beer Variety||Average Calories per 100 ml in kcal|
Here you can exchange ideas
If you are suffering from a gluten intolerance, the informal exchange with others can be very helpful. Even with our favorite topic “beer” you will certainly get useful information from other stakeholders. Which gluten-free beer do you buy? How does it taste? And where do you buy gluten-free beer best? Forums on the Internet are therefore an ideal way to get in touch with like-minded people.
Other websites also provide extensive information about gluten-free foods and gluten-free beer.