With St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, March 17th, many people with celiac disease will be asking themselves this question: To drink or not to drink? If you follow a strict gluten-free diet, you’re certainly aware that most beer products contain grains like barley and wheat. Thankfully, celiacs can have a beer this St. Paddy’s Day — or any other day for that matter — while staying diet compliant. The trick is to look for celiac-safe, gluten-free beers. Here’s everything you need to know.
What Are Celiac-Safe Gluten-Free Beers?
True gluten-free beers use grains that are naturally free from gluten, such as brown rice. That means there isn’t any gluten present in the beer at any point during the fermentation process. Gluten-free beers are generally safe for those with celiac disease, and there are plenty of great-tasting beverages for you to try.
Please note, gluten-free beers are not the same as gluten-removed or gluten-reduced beers.
Let me explain. Gluten-removed beers are beers fermented with gluten-containing grains that undergo a process where enzymes break down gluten into tiny fragments. These tiny fragments may still trigger an immune response in people who drink them. Learn more
Currently, we don’t have validated tests to measure the amount of hydrolyzed gluten peptides in fermented foods (Beer). This means we’re unable to accurately determine the amount of gluten in these products.
This is why in the USA, both the FDA (which regulates beer labeling) and TTB (which regulates distilled alcohol labeling) agree we are unable to claim gluten-removed or gluten-reduced products in fact, don’t contain gluten due to the lack of validated testing, and thus are considered unsafe until validated testing occurs.
Bottom-line: Gluten removed and reduced beers are not considered celiac-safe. Choose beers that are made entirely with gluten-free ingredients if you have celiac. However, if you have gluten intolerance, these beers may be tolerable depending on your sensitivity.
What Are the Best Gluten-Free Beers?
Here are some celiac-friendly beers you can enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day without worrying about how your stomach will react. Cheers!
If you’re looking for a true gluten-free beer, try Bard’s, which never uses any wheat, rye, oats, or barley during production. All products must pass numerous lab tests before being independently verified by a third party. Because gluten is never present in the first place, gluten is never removed. The result? A truly gluten-free beer with a rich and refreshing taste, medium body, and low bitterness. You can find this stuff in beer aisles across the U.S. and Canada.
Glutenberg is a beer brand brought to you by two celiacs living in Canada. There are several varieties to choose from — all of which come from a gluten-free brewery. “Blonde,” a hoppy beer, is one of the most popular. It has floral hops and a citrusy taste with a hint of bitterness that balances the sweetness of its two main ingredients: millet and corn.
B.C. Brewery’s true gluten-free beers are another great choice if you want to indulge this St. Patrick’s Day. The beverages come from a brewery in Hunt Valley, Maryland, with 100% gluten-free equipment. No barley. No wheat. Try the Ceal Team Pale Ale, with its amber-colored medium body, caramel notes, and fruity taste.
New Grist’s gluten-free brewery makes Pilsner from a mix of rice and sorghum, meaning there isn’t any gluten present at any time during production. Each batch of beer is tested for gluten before being labeled and shipped. With its pale-gold color and light body, New Grist recommends serving Pilsner with a gluten-free meal like grilled chicken, brown rice, and quinoa-stuffed peppers.
If you’re a fan of Spanish beers, you might want to treat yourself to a bottle of Estrella Galicia. Unlike the other beverages listed above, wheat was once present in this beer and then removed during production, making Estrella Galicia a gluten-removed product (which is not considered celiac-safe in the USA). This beer has floral and herbal flavors and a hoppy, bitter taste.
Do you have a favorite celiac-friendly, gluten-free beer not listed here? Let me know in the comments below.
I hope this guide has cleared up the confusion between gluten-free and gluten-removed beverages and made you aware of the many options you can enjoy with celiac disease. Whatever brand you choose, drink responsibly! Happy St. Patrick’s Day.