On the Rise: Gluten-Free, Gluten-Reduced and Organic Beers

By: Sarah Jaquay

Several years ago my neighbor, who has celiac disease and maintains a gluten-free diet, told me one of her children tested positive for gluten sensitivity: “I guess no pizza and beer for him in college.” I mourned with her as I conjured fond memories of heading to the pizza parlor for tinny-tasting lager and huge slices of cheesy pepperoni pie – a welcome respite from the bland “mystery meat” we shuffled around our plates at the dorm. But thanks to rising demand for organic, gluten-free and gluten-reduced beers, I’m not so worried today about his missing such campus fu

First, some background: Gluten consists of proteins brought together when flour and water are mixed to make dough and other processed foods. Celiac is an autoimmune condition in which the small intestine is damaged by gluten. While no-gluten is the rule for about one percent of the US population who have celiac disease, another one-third of American adults avoid gluten for lifestyle reasons. Brewers have taken note: are there delicious beers for these populations? The answer’s a resounding yes. Here’s a small sampling from each category:

Mill Street Brewery in Toronto started making its Original Organic Lager in 2002. Considered Ontario’s first all-natural certified organic beer, it made its Ohio debut in 2014. Straw-colored, it’s crisp and refreshing with a hint of hoppy bitterness. Mill Street’s US Regional Sales Manager Jonathan Cole says the brewery started making an organic beer because, “we set out to make the best, crisp-tasting lager we could.”

New Belgium Brewing recently joined “the mutiny against gluten” with two gluten-reduced selections – Glütiny Golden Ale and Glütiny Pale Ale. These ales are made with barley malts (which contain gluten) but a “disrupter enzyme” reduces the protein to less than 10 parts per million (ppm) – below the FDA’s guideline of 20ppm. Glütiny Golden Ale has floral aromas with subtle grapefruit and herb flavors. It starts sweet and ends crisp. Glütiny Pale Ale has a hefty dose of Equinox hops that brings out tropical and stone fruits complemented by toasted malt flavors. It has a juicy mouthfeel with a crisp finish. New Belgium started their Glütiny program because it was discontented with existing non-barley based beers. (To be truly gluten-free, beer must be brewed with rice, corn or sorghum.)

Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee makes two gluten-free beers: New Grist and New Grist Ginger brewed with sorghum, rice, hops, water and yeast. New Grist pours a brilliant gold with a bubbly head and fruity aromas. Hints of green apple cut through the sorghum’s maltiness and make this Pilsner style extremely quaffable. New Grist Ginger bursts with ginger and herbal aromas. It tastes like fresh chopped ginger with enough spicy bitterness to keep it from going down like fermented ginger ale. Gluten-free pizza topped with Gouda cheese and carmelized onions would be an ideal pairing.

My neighbor’s son is 10. By the time he’s legal, the universe of gluten-free and reduced beers may be larger than ever. For more choices, see http://thebeerdiaries.tv/beer-guide/gluten-free-guide/.

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