Gluten-Free Beer

If you’re gluten intolerant – or worse, celiac – and you like beer, not being able to have a cold brew is one of the worst requirements of your condition. As regular readers of this blog are aware, my wife Michelle is gluten intolerant. She also likes a good beer now and then, so going GF has been tough on her for this reason, among many others.

Well, there is good news for all you GF drinkers out there. There are some quality GF beers available for your drinking pleasure. Some of them are not what most people consider “real” beer, as they are made with sorghum or molasses or rice, but several of them are serviceable when you have a beer craving, and one or two of them are good enough to keep around as your regular “everyday” beer.

Michelle and I sampled 8 different beers from 6 different breweries. Full disclosure: there wasn’t much science (e.g. any science) behind our choices. I chose these beers because they were the GF beers available at my local beer store.  There are other GF beers out there, but given that I could not purchase them without an exhaustive search, I kept it to what you see below.

As we sampled, one beer (actually, two, but they were from the same brewery) rose to the top of the list. Another beer finished a close third. There were others that fell into the category of “I would drink it if it were all I could find”, and still others that we literally poured down the sink rather than finish. We have each listed our thoughts below.

Worth buying, even if you’re not GF…

O’Mission – O’Mission (www.omissionbeer.com) is an American craft beer focused on brewing great GF beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley. When the beers are ready to be placed in the fermentation tanks, a special enzyme is added which breaks apart the gluten protein chains. The beers are then packaged in a closed environment to prevent any cross contamination. Disclaimer: given that O’Mission beer is brewed with barley and the gluten is removed later, those who are highly sensitive to gluten should proceed with caution. We’re not saying it will affect you, and we’re not saying it won’t. Either way, we don’t want you yelling at us.

O’Mission Pale Ale
John – Tastes like real beer, because it is real beer. Nice hops, as you would expect from a pale ale. Balanced with a clean finish. My favorite of all the GF Beers.
Michelle – Rich, deep honey color, balanced flavor.

O’Mission Lager
John – Tastes very much like “regular” beer. Reminiscent of a light European lager or even a pilsner. Good flavor and quite refreshing. A VERY close second to the Pale Ale.
Michelle – This tastes more like a regular beer than any of the others. If you didn’t tell me it was GF, I would never know. My favorite of all he GF beers.

Estrella Damm – Estrella Damm (www.estrelladamm.com) is a 140-year old brewery that makes what they call Mediterranean Lager using local ingredients. They have a tightly-controlled process, and they make a fine beer. Like O’Mission, Damm brews their GF beer in the traditional manner, and then they remove the gluten. Their process results in beer that has less than 6 ppm (parts per million) gluten, which is all that’s required to be labeled “gluten free”. As before, if 6 ppm gluten affects you – or may affect you – drink with caution.

Estrella Damm Daura – Gluten Free Lager
John – Nice lager feel and flavor. Very much a European lager. Refreshing and thirst-quenching. I put this beer in solid 3rd place right after the beers from O’Mission.
Michelle – Light, not heavy. Good beer flavor.

If this is all you can find…

Redbridge – Redbridge (www.redbridgebeer.com) is a product of beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch. It is brewed without the use of any barley, using sorghum instead.

Redbridge Gluten Free Lager
John – Slightly sweet and hoppy. Good overall beer flavor, especially considering it is made with sorghum.
Michelle – Light body, good summer beer.

New Planet – New Planet (www.newplanetbeer.com) is based in Boulder, CO and makes both GF beers and beers “crafted to remove gluten”. For purposes of this review, only two GF beers were reviewed. There are two reasons for this. One, when I first purchased all the beers for this review, I didn’t realize they made beers “crafted to remove gluten”; and two, I don’t like Raspberry beers or any flavored beers at all, so I stuck with their GF Pale Ale and GF Brown Ale. As time allows, I promise to try their other offerings and add to this review.

New Planet Pale Ale
John – Good pale ale. Just the right amount of hops. Highly fizzy…too much so on the finish. Better than Redbridge, but nowhere near as good as O’Mission or Daura.
Michelle – Summer beer. Light with a citrus feel.

New Planet Brown Ale
John – Decent beer flavor. Nutty and hoppy. As I continue to drink it, the sorghum comes through. This is not a good thing.
Michelle – Terrible (makes a face). Kind of nutty and dry.

Don’t waste your time…

Bard’s – Bard’s (www.bardsbeer.com) claim to fame is being the first gluten-free sorghum beer. They are also the only beer to be made with 100% malted sorghum. Apparently, this is a good thing. Like many of the others, Bard’s is brewed by celiacs who just wanted to have a cold beer.

Bard’s Sorghum Malt Beer
John – Like New Grist, this is a sorghum-based beer. It’s better, and we didn’t dump it, but to me at least, it doesn’t taste much like real beer.
Michelle – I like this better than New Grist, but it still doesn’t taste like beer. Has a fruity taste. Would be good in the summer.

New Grist – New Grist (www.newgrist.com) is brewed by Lakefront Brewery and is made with sorghum. It was the very first beer to be certified GF by the US government.

New Grist Pilsner Style Beer
John – This does not taste like beer. It was my least favorite. I poured it down the drain.
Michelle – Not good. Almost has a citrus taste. Dumped it.

Summary

In our opinion, the beers “crafted to remove gluten” are the best. They taste more like real beer because they ARE real beer. As mentioned above, however, if you are celiac, proceed with caution. These beers need only be less than 6 ppm gluten to be called GF. This may be a problem for you if you’re highly sensitive to gluten. If you can handle them, however, you may not realize you’re drinking GF beer.

In that category, O’Mission is the clear winner. Both the Pale Ale and the Lager exceeded expectations. It should also be mentioned that since I first purchased the beers for this review, O’Mission has released an IPA. I’ve tried it, and it’s fantastic.

Of the beers that are made without gluten, our favorite was the beer from New Planet. Based on the taste and quality of their GF beers, I’m anxious to try their “crafted to remove gluten” beers. I’m sure they will be excellent, as well.

Feel free to post your comments and opinions. We would love to know what you think.

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