Bar Tending & Beerspectives
by Matt Martinkovic
Brewsearch & Development -
Beer is liquid bread: grain, yeast and water. And most grains contain gluten, a structural
protein responsible for holding dough together as it rises—and for digestive problems in
some people. Fortunately for all of us, a number of gluten-free brews now available have
plenty to offer drinkers whether or not they otherwise eschew gluten.

Even before gluten became controversial, brewers stumbled on a way of eliminating it from
the equation. The addition of a naturally occurring enzyme called protease, they found, could
make certain fuller bodied brews clearer by breaking down proteins like gluten that can clump
together into a cloudy haze. The first gluten-free beers—technically called gluten-reduced—
were made this way. They tasted…not great. But what if you constructed a gluten-free beer
from the ground up—with different bricks—rather than removing pieces from a completed
whole?  It's an intriguing thought and a few brewers have tried it.

Notable among those that did is James Neumeister who started Ground Breaker Brewing in
Portland, Ore., with a list of every gluten-free ingredient he identified as fermentable—that is,
ingredients containing sugars that yeast can turn to alcohol, but none of those pesky
proteins. Some of these swaps turned out to be hits. Toasted lentils are versatile and
delicious stand-ins for grain; chestnuts, it turns out, are so similar to barley that some call
them a tree grain. Others flopped. Corn stalk beer was a hassle. A plain molasses beer,
Mr. Neumeister said, was “the most wretched thing I’ve tasted in my life.”

Some brewers use rice, others millet. Ground Breaker has tried date sugar, apple juice, even
squash. In Montreal, Canada, Brasseurs Sans Gluten brews with buckwheat, quinoa and
chestnuts. Sorghum is a popular choice because it’s often sold as a syrup, like molasses,
which makes brewing easier.

Built from so many different ingredients, do the beers taste different—from one another, and
from the grain-based beers we’re used to? Yes, and that’s the point. Instead of being defined
by what’s missing, these gluten-free beers embrace their nature. And that means unexpected,
though no less delicious flavors: the cidery tang of sweet potatoes, the charred-chocolate
crunch of roasted lentils, millet’s Grape Nutty sweetness.

Whether you’re a Paleo diet devotee, a celiac disease sufferer or just up for trying
something different, gluten-free beer can be a great alternative to wheat, barley, and rye-
based beers—if you approach the lighter brews with the right mindset.

And for the record For a beer to qualify being labeled as gluten-reduced, the producer
must test the end product with a result below 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.The U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that because they are made from ingredients
containing gluten (barley), they cannot be labeled as  “gluten-free.” Instead, packaging
for these products is labeled as “gluten-reduced” or “crafted to remove gluten.”

Here are a just few gluten free beers I'd recommend you try.  Most are distributed  
nationally:so you should be able to find themDogfish Head Tweason’ale, Green
Dubbel Dark Ale or Enterprise Lager, Stone Delicious IPA (reduced gluten), Redbridge,
New Belgium Glutiny, and Omission Lager.


Please continue to support my friends at
The  Northside Lounge
Nik's Wunderbar - Whitehouse Station NJ
Matt Martinkovic is not only a recognized beer authority but a well known ecological writer whose
work has appeared in the The American Midland Naturalist (University of Notre Dame) among other
industry publications.  He also has been an agricultural consultant on, of course, the growing of hops.
The Lowdown on Gluten Free Beers
To all my readers and friends, I want to thank you for all your support during my time at Nik's
Wunderbar and at the Northside Lounge.  I'm moving back to the enviromental/ecological field so
the next time you see me at a pub it will likely be on a stool next to you.  I'll continue to write my
column here on BeerNexus giving you my take on what's happening in the beer world with my
insights derived from many years in the industry.  Cheers!