If you've given up gluten for health reasons, you might think you have to avoid beer forever. When you give up gluten, you have to cut out traditional pasta, breads, cereals, and pizza, plus anything else that has the protein mix. It would make sense to put beer on that list because of the grain content. And when it comes to traditional beer, you would be right.
But now there are companies offering gluten-free beer for those who have to say no to traditional beer. And instead of being bland and disappointing copies of the real thing, like the poorly reviewed Redbridge and Bard's Tale, these beers are so good and full of flavor that you won't realize they are missing something.
From crisp golden ales to bitter IPAs, there is a delicious gluten-free or gluten-reduced beer out there for you. So the next time you want to have a drink with friends, try something from this list of the 11 best, most-recommended gluten-free beers on the market.
Gluten is a mixture of two proteins, and the substance is present in cereal grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten gives dough its elastic texture, and it helps it rise and keep its shape.
However, if you are part of the one percent of people who have celiac disease, you can't tolerate gluten because it triggers an immune response that will damage your small intestine's lining. In those with celiac disease, gluten interferes with food absorption and can lead to other problems like infertility, nerve damage, and osteoporosis. Even a small amount will cause symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, and headaches.
Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance, but there are also non-celiac conditions that cause gluten sensitivity. That means that gluten can cause the same symptoms, but there is no intestinal damage.
Brewers make traditional beer with barley, water, hops, and yeast -- that means that traditional beer is a no-no for those avoiding gluten. When brewers make gluten-free beer, they use cereals like rice, sorghum, corn, millet, or buckwheat to replace the barley.
The first attempts at gluten-free beer usually contained sorghum, a type of grass that can be malted and a staple of African beer. However, it is incredibly sweet and gives off an unpleasant astringent effect. While some breweries have been working on masking that effect, others have completely replaced sorghum with other flavor-enhancers to make the beer taste better.
Some brewers do use barley or rye, but they reduce the gluten levels to below 20 parts per million. Technically, that makes the beer gluten-free, and those brewers claim that their products will not harm anyone with a gluten intolerance.
Here are 11 of the best gluten-free beers on the market:
When Matt DelVecchio found out that he had celiac disease, he went from hardcore homebrewing to starting his own San Diego brewery specializing in gluten-reduced beer. Drink This Or The Bees Die is an ale that is 6.9 percent alcohol by volume and made from locally sourced orange blossom honey. The honey aroma and flavor are pleasing, and the beer has a nice, dry finish. The company gives a portion of sales to the Planet Bee Foundation.
This unique interpretation of a classic Belgian style comes from the Glutenberg Craft Brewery in Canada. The Blanche (White) is completely gluten-free because instead of using wheat, Glutenberg recreates a Belgian witbier with quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and amaranth, plus a citrus pop of orange peel.
Featuring a flavor of spiced grains with floral notes, Blanche is five percent alcohol by volume.
New Planet's founder, Pedro Gonzalez, launched his Colorado brewery when he found out that he had celiac disease in 2009. The brewery's gluten-free Blonde Ale has mild citrus notes and a crisp finish, and it is made with gluten-free oats, millet, and blue corn to lighten the body. It is 4.5 percent alcohol by volume.
Steadfast is a brewery based in Albany, New York, that is completely gluten-free. The brewery makes a handful of different beers, but it is most famous for its Oatmeal Cream Stout, the first gluten-free bottled stout in the United States.
It is opaque with a thick chocolate-brown head, and it smells like dark roast coffee and chocolate. The taste features full chocolate and coffee notes with a mild hop bitterness and a roasty finish.
Ghostfish loves to get adventurous with its gluten-free beers, and this bold and bitter Grapefruit IPA is something that will make you happy, especially if you love IPAs. This gluten-free beer made from buckwheat, millet, and brown rice earned the silver medal at the 2017 U.S. Open Beer Championship in the gluten-free beer category. It contains 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.
The brewers at Dogfish Head are famous for approaching beer brewing like mad scientists. They will put together ingredients that you would think are incompatible, and somehow, they turn them into a delicious beer.
With their Tweason'ale, they have combined strawberries and mild sorghum to get a sweet and sour flavor that is incredibly refreshing.
Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, got rid of the sorghum when making its Glutenator beer, instead opting for a combination of light-bodied millet, brown rice, sweet potato, and molasses. This gluten-free beer has a kick to it, with 6.8 percent alcohol by volume. Distribution had been limited to the West but recently expanded to the Great Lakes region, plus Kansas and Texas.
The Glutenator has a golden color with aromas of hops and sweet potatoes and a sorghum-free flavor.
This gluten-reduced beer is a hazy IPA that is also a juicy fruit bomb of flavor. It has a balance of sweetness and bitterness thanks to the Citra, Simcoe, and Ekuanot hops and contains 6.5 percent alcohol by volume. Co-owners Kristin and Ryan Scott brew this popular beer -- along with many other gluten-reduced styles -- thanks to Kristin's gluten sensitivity.
Using darkly roasted chestnuts and lentils, Ground Breaker Brewery's Dark Ale has a flavor profile that includes espresso, dark chocolate, dark fruits, and coffee. This inventive gluten-free ale comes from Portland, Oregon, and contains 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.
If calories and gluten are your concern, then try Omission Brewing's Ultimate Light Golden Ale. With only 99 calories and five carbs, this gluten-reduced option has a tropical aroma thanks to citrusy hops like Citra and Galaxy.
With 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, the Ultimate Light Golden Ale has such a clean finish that you won't be able to drink just one.
Known for its fine IPAs, Stone Brewing offers the gluten-reduced Delicious IPA, a citrus India pale ale that features Lemondrop and El Dorado hops with a flavor that will remind you of lemons mixed with watermelon Jolly Ranchers.
The Stone brewers say that Delicious, with its intensely citrusy yet bitter flavor, is unlike anything they have tasted in two decades of IPA experimentation. The beer contains 7.7 percent alcohol by volume.
If you are living a gluten-free life and have decided to try one of these beers, don't get discouraged if you can't find it in your local store next to the major beer brands. You might have to do a little searching at a liquor store with a good selection. And, if you can't find something on this list, visit your local brewery to see if it has a gluten-free option.