Beer Lesson: A Sudsy Guide for the Gluten Intolerant

December 2013

Taking good beer away from a girl like me was like robbing Superman of his ability to fly. Maybe that's a little melodramatic, but still. When I was forced to give up the almighty gluten for good, it was a real bummer. 

Dining out is daunting enough for those with food allergies and intolerances; drinking adult beverages just adds to the complexity. Luckily, for the more than three million Americans who suffer from severe gluten intolerances such as Celiac disease (myself included), drinking good beer is becoming a possibility.

Don’t get me wrong: Most gluten-free beer recipes still need work (I'm saying this from experience), but more craft brewers are tapping into the gluten-sensitive market with new brews. This means that I, along with anyone else with gluten concerns, don't have to shy away from the sudsy stuff. Here’s a roundup of my top three nearly* gluten-free picks, and where to find them around town: 

1. NEW PLANET AMBER ALE, Boulder

New Planet is the only brewery in Colorado that’s dedicated to brewing FDA-approved gluten-free craft beer. My personal favorite is their Amber Ale. It’s a medium-body brew, which is a tad sweeter and heavier than New Planet’s Pale Ale. What little hoppiness exists is masked by the molasses-flavored malt, and it finishes with a surprising tinge of citrus.  

The Deets: Ingredients include sorghum, brown rice, molasses, tapioca maltodextrin, hops, and yeast—all of which are naturally gluten-free.

Where to find it: Lowry Beer GardenFalling Rock Taphouse, and Cap City Tavern 

2. GREEN'S ENDEAVOUR DUBBEL ALE, Stockport, United Kingdom

This rich mahogany beer has an aroma that reminds me of cherry cola—sweet like caramel, but tart like cherries. Sugary toffee notes are the first ones to hit, but sour fruitiness soon follows. At 7 percent ABV, this sweet, dark, malty dubbel comes with a hint of spice—a little bit like a warm mulled cider.

The Deets: Using water, barley malt, hops, and yeast, Green’s implements a patented process to remove all of the gluten from the brew before its bottled. According to European standards, this process makes it safe enough to be considered “gluten-free.” But according to FDA guidelines, it doesn’t quite make the cut.

Where to find it: Cheeky Monk and Mellow Mushroom

3. OMISSION PALE ALE, Portland, Oregon

When I cracked open my first Omission (pictured), I was in hop-heaven. It was the first time I’d sipped a gluten-free beer that tasted like “real beer.” The American Pale Ale is copper in color and has a distinct floral aroma. The bitter hops just barely outshine the sweet caramel malt, and at 5.8 percent ABV, the finish is crisp and dry. 

The Deets: Made from barley, hops, water, and yeast, Omission uses a proprietary process to remove all gluten during the brewing process. Because barley is one of the prohibited grains, according the FDA’s guidelines, Omission cannot legally be labeled as “gluten-free." 

Where to find it: West End Tap House and Wazee Supper Club 

*Buzz Kill: Not all gluten-removed brews meet the Food and Drug Administration's strict standards of less than 20 parts per million of gluten, but I can say from personal experience that these brews sat perfectly well with me and my stomach.