Ask any number of regular beer drinkers about a gluten free beer and you may see a reenactment of the old Keystone Light marketing gimmick: Bitter Beer Face. A beer that is purposely without the protein gluten which is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale – basic staples of the suds. Most beers are brewed with malted barley or wheat and therefore contain gluten.
Gluten-free products have become a very serious topic though and in an effort to protect gluten-free consumers from false labeling and advertising, the US Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) issued TTB Ruling 2012-21 on May 24, 2012. This ruling establishes clear guidelines for the regulation of the labeling and advertising of distilled spirits, wine, and malt beverages. It reads, in part, as follows:
The new TTB ruling reads:
- “The TTB will allow use of the statement ‘processed or treated or crafted to remove gluten’, together with a qualifying statement to inform consumers that the product was made from a grain that contains gluten.”
- “The statement must stipulate that ‘there is currently no valid test to verify the gluten content of the fermented product’, and ‘That the finished product may contain gluten’.”
- “The TTB believes that the qualifying statement is necessary to avoid misleading consumers about the gluten content of these products because of the serious health consequences associated with the consumption of gluten by individuals with celiac disease.”
- The term “gluten-free” is considered misleading when used in the labeling and advertising of alcohol beverages to describe an alcohol beverage product that is made with any amount of wheat, barley, rye, or a crossbred hybrid of these grains, or any ingredient derived from these grains.
THE TASTE TEST
All of that means nothing though if the beer is of “pour” [sic] taste and consistency. So allow us to give you a crash course on what we consider to be the top 3 gluten-free brews (and perhaps easiest to purchase) and let your taste buds choose for you!
Glutenberg American Pale Ale. Brewed in Quebec and distributed all over the United States this 100% gluten free beer contains citrus and caramel notes with a mild bitter finish. Available in bottle and can although the can will certainly give you that whole “crunchy granola, hipster without the PBR tall boy” vibe.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales Tweason’ale. Made with the same quality that Dogfish Head has become known for this experimental brew in action (so says the company themselves) Tweason’ale uses sorghum syrup instead of barley. Flavored with strawberries and buckwheat honey, it is sweet and sour but doesn’t leave any aftertaste.
New Planet Pale Ale(s). Based in Colorado, New Planet makes authentic, gluten-free beers that use sorghum and come in a variety of flavors/styles including: raspberry ale, pale ale, and a light ale called ‘tread lightly’.