Friday, June 26, 2009

Good Beer, Gluten-Free

Summertime means warm weather, BBQs, and a great time to enjoy cold brews. Most people who cannot process gluten, however, are challenged to find beers that don’t contain barley, wheat, rye, spelt, oats, kamut, or triticale—all common in modern American and international brews. Some of the substitutions for gluten-rich grains including buckwhat, sorghum, rice, maize, corn and sunflower, amaranth, flax, millet, quinoa, teff, wild rice, soybean, ragi and rape.
Sorghum, perhaps the most popular grain for GF beers, is native to Northeast Africa. It came to America via trade routes that passed through India and China. It is especially tolerant of dry weather; this makes it a great grain for use in African beers (see Sprecher’s Shakparo and Mbege beers, below).

Buckwheat, also used often in GF beer production, has origins in central and western China. It is considered an herb of the buckwheat family polygonaceae. Once its beechnuts are milled, and the groats are separated from their hulls, the groats are roasted and used as a grain product.

In the age of the ever-popular microbrewery, celiacs and others who are gluten-sensitive are finding more and better options for gluten-free beer every year. What’s more, beer lovers everywhere are finding unique flavors in these alternative-grain beverages.


Bard’s Tale Beer Company
Bard’s Gold, Dragon’s Gold
On Bard’s website (, the owners of the Bard’s Tale Beer Company write: “We made it our mission to give beer back to the over two million people who are intolerant to gluten.” Celiacs themselves, the owners have worked hard to do just that. With an interactive website that allows you to input your zip code to find the nearest Bard’s dealer, you can also order the beer online and have it shipped to you if it’s not offered locally. Hailed as the first craft-brewed gluten-free beer, it’s certainly worth a try.

Bard’s Gold has a malty, sweet aroma, an American lager-like taste with caramel and brown sugar notes, and a tart finish. It is medium-bodied.

Bard’s Dragon’s Gold has a fruity aroma, a tangy, hoppy taste and a floral finish. It is medium-bodied.

Ramapo Valley Brewery
Honey Beer
Located in New York’s Rockland County, Ramapo Valley’s award-winning Honey Beer is both gluten-free and Kosher for Passover (in fact, Ramapo Valley is the only Kosher brewery in the United States). As the Honey Beer is brewed in its own brew house, there is no chance of cross-contamination. Ramapo Valley has distributors across the tri-state region. For more info email

Ramapo Valley’s Honey Beer: The main fermentable is amber honey. Molasses is used for flavor, nutrients and color. Bright golden in color, the taste naturally has notes of honey and hop. Noble hops add a touch of bitterness to balance the honey sweetness. (

carries a mead- and wine-like aroma, a taste of honey and light molasses, with minimal hop flavor. It is a slightly dry, light-to-medium-bodied beverage.

Anheuser-Busch worked directly with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to develop Redbridge Beer. A full-bodied “lager” with a moderately hopped taste made from sorghum, Redbridge is widely available across the United States but can also be purchased online from

Anheuser-Busch’s Redbridge: A rich, full-bodied lager brewed from sorghum for a well-balanced, moderately hopped taste. (

Lakefront Brewery
New Grist
Brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, New Grist beer is Lakefront Brewery’s offering to the gluten-free lifestyle. An easy-drinking “session ale,” the sorghum, hops, water, rice, and GF yeast that go into this beer are grown on molasses.

New Grist is the first beer brewed without malted barley or gluten-rich products to be authorized by the United States Government. Every batch of New Grist brewed at Lakefront is tested for gluten prior to fermentation. (

Sprecher Brewing Company
Shakparo, Mbege
These gluten-free offerings from Secher originated as creations for Milwaukee’s African World Festival. With these two unique fire-brewed African-style ales, Sprecher has entered the gluten-free beer market.

Sprecher’s Shakparo (fire-brewed African-style ale): An unfiltered, light, crisp ale with a cider or fruit profile and a dry vinous aftertaste, it is best characterized as an easy-drinking or session beer perfect for summer gatherings. This beer pairs nicely with lighter fare such as sandwiches, salads, chicken, fish, and spicier foods. (

Sprecher’s Mbege: Bananas are the main ingredient in mbege style beers popular in Eastern Africa. In keeping with tradition, this is brewed with real bananas and presented unfiltered. Light hints of banana remain present in the aroma and flavor of this unique offering. (