by Mark Dredge
Whether you are a Coeliac sufferer or just searching for something that fits better with a specific diet – you’ll have noticed there’s now an increasing range of gluten-free beers being brewed around the world.
Some of these use alternative grains to (the typical) barley – like rice, buckwheat and lentils – and others have found a way to ‘de-glutenise’ the beer, a process which involves brewing with a low-protein malted barley and then adding a special enzyme which breaks down the gluten. This process reduces the content to less than 20 parts-per-million, allowing it to qualify as ‘gluten free’ (though 20ppm still clearly contains a tiny amount of gluten, so Coeliacs should use their own judgment). It’s also worth noting that a number of beers naturally fall beneath this ppm amount, it’s only recently that the beers have been tested and talked about as such.
I tend to find that eating too much gluten in the form of bread or pasta leaves me feeling horribly bloated. This means I mostly eat a low-gluten diet (because I’m not cutting the beer out…). These gluten-free beers are a great addition to the taps and fridges, where it’s becoming more common to find really great brews made in this way – and crucially they just taste like regular beers, only they happen to be gluten-free.
Launching in 2004, Green’s Discovery was officially the first gluten-free beer in Britain. It’s made with millet, buckwheat, sorghum and brown rice, so is totally barley-free. It’s a deep amber beer, light-bodied with some dark fruit notes and a herbal, bitter finish. Green’s also makes an IPA and dry-hopped lager, plus they have a wide range of de-glutenised beers.
This award-winning Czech lager classically brewed with all-Czech ingredients (including Moravian malt, which goes through the de-glutenisation process) comes out with less than 5ppm of gluten. It retains a pleasing depth of biscuit flavour and has a refreshing lemony hop quality, making it great with a salad.
Belgian beer lovers can cheer thanks to Daas Blonde. It’s a sprightly, light beer that’s got a honey and spice character to it, a zesty freshness and a dry finish. It’s great with seafood, especially if it’s grilled with herbs and lemon. Daas also have an Ambré, a richer, fuller-bodied brew – both are de-glutenised.
Westerham Brewery, British Bulldog
Kent-based, Westerham is another brewery making a range of de-glutenised beers that come in below the 20ppm mark – they even post the certificates online as proof for each batch. British Bulldog is a proper English bitter, balanced with malt and hops, some tangy fruit and ever-so drinkable. Great with English cheeses.
This multi award-winning Spanish brew has all the qualities of a regular Estrella, only none of the gluten (it’s de-glutenised to under 3ppm). There’s some toasted grain flavour, a little sweetness and then a balanced bitterness which makes it very easy-drinking. Stick with the Spanish theme and have it with paella.
Mikkeller, American Dream Gluten Free
Danish superstar craft brewery Mikkeller has added a few de-glutenised beers to their range, giving hop-lovers the best fix on the market. American Dream sees their well-hopped lager now produced to be gluten-free, with its huge citrusy, resinous aroma, while Green Gold IPA has an even bigger hop hit.
Hop Back, Crop Circle
This is a lovely thirst-quenching English ale with a subtle citrusy finish, making it a great choice on a hot day. It’s de-glutenised but also contains some maize in the grain bill. Best enjoy with a barbeque or in a sunny beer garden.
Wold Top, Against the Grain
Against the Grain is appropriately named and also delightfully good, with a fresh, fruity hop profile and a clean, golden body. Scarborough Fair is their IPA and it’s bolder and bigger with more body and bitterness and a resinous hop flavour.
Ground Breaker, IPA No.5
Looking a little further afield, in Portland, Oregon, you can find America’s first dedicated gluten-free brewpub, where not a single cell of gluten goes near the beer or the kitchen. They have a whole range of interesting and unusual beers but their IPA No.5 is my favourite. Brewed with roast chestnuts, lentils and Belgian candi sugar, it’s very good, zesty from the hops then has an unusual kind of bitterness. The food is also good and includes pizzas and sandwiches.
Canadian brewery Glutenburg is another that goes for the alternative grain approach and their brews use quinoa, millet, buckwheat, corn and more. They have a decent range of very good beers, including a nutty, sweet Red Ale which is ideal with a good steak.