How is beer made?
Traditionally, beer is made with malt, hops, yeast and water. From this mix, it is the malt that contains gluten, which is found in cereal grains like barley and wheat. In small quantities, the gluten from these cereal grains can trigger an autoimmune response in people who suffer from Celiac Disease- an autoimmune disease which means the body cannot tolerate even small quantities of gluten.
Gluten-free standards vary from country to country- In Britain only food and drink containing 20ppm (parts per million) or less can be labelled as gluten free.
It’s hard to imagine that the term ‘gluten- free’ barely existed 10 years ago, yet the increasing number of gluten-free products are testament to how many people are diagnosed with Celiac disease each year.
To address the increasing number of diagnoses in the UK, a growing number of breweries have now started to cater for those people who are intolerant of their usual beers, and the range of beer available just keeps on growing, which is great news since no-one wants to stop drinking beer! (maybe that’s just us?).
So how is gluten- free beer made?
The face of beer is changing, so how do brewers replace what is essentially a mix of mostly gluten?
Because gluten is in the malt, the malt gets replaced by cereals such as millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat and corn, all of which are said to not trigger any autoimmune responses. Alternatively, some brewers brew with barley or rye and reduce the level of gluten to below 20ppm meaning that their usual varieties of beer can be slightly altered.
For this reason, some beers are labelled as ‘gluten-reduced’ rather than ‘gluten free’, which gives people the option to choose which beer they feel their body can handle.
So, when you are on the search for gluten-free beers, remember that there are 2 types- 'Gluten- free' (below 20ppm) and beer labelled ‘Gluten reduced’ which is essentially a manipulated version of the beer. Either way, the breweries are working hard so that taste isn’t compromised!