What does gluten have to do with beer?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, oats and barley. For those beer lovers with Celiac's disease (an intolerance to gluten), gluten has everything to do with beer.
But isn't barley one of the main ingredient of beer? And isn't wheat also a major ingredient of many popular brews? Yes. Yes they are.
But my fellow Glutards, fear not!
There are some great gluten-free beers out there, you just have to know where to look for it and what to look for.
Most major supermarkets have recently started carrying gluten-free beers. Specialty stores like Whole Foods, PCC and Trader Joe's have had them longer, and typically carry a larger selection.
One great gluten-free beer that seems to be popular amongst the gluten-intolerant crowd is Redbridge, from Anheuser-Busch (who brought you Budweiser.) The Redbridge is a moderately priced, readily available gluten-free beer. Like many gluten-free beers, it is crafted using sorghum corn syrup. I'd call Redbridge a a better than average beer, as far as beers go, but when it comes to having celiac's disease, this is one great gluten-free beer. Nothing spectacular, but I certainly wouldn't turn one down if you offered.
Sorghum corn syrup can be purchased in bulk for those of you who want to try your hand at home-brewing. You can find do-it-yourself gluten-free beer kits online and at craft-brewing stores.
But one beer tops my all-time favorites on my "Great Gluten-free Beer" list. Actually, it tops all of my beer lists. Bard's. A beer made by celiacs, for, well everyone, to be honest. Bard's has been my favorite beer long before I was diagnosed with celiac's disease. Bard's uses fresh, malted sorghum instead of sorghum syrup. I'm no brew-master, but I do love beer. And whatever Bard's has been doing is definitely working.
Many retailers, bars and restaurants across the country are beginning to serve gluten-free beer, both in bottles and on tap. All you have to do is ask if it is available. If the person serving you doesn't know if they have it, ask a manager. If they don't have it, ask if they would consider adding it to their selection and tell them why. Many people have no clue that there is such a huge population of people living with celiac's disease. And if you feel so inclined to inform them that it could be a good way to draw in some gluten-free folks, so be it. It certainly can't hurt to try.
As companies realize that they are missing out on a huge market-share, more and more will begin creating better alternatives for people with celiac's disease. As more people demand an increasing number of gluten-free products, we can only see the selection of gluten-free beer increase. Maybe someday micro-brewed, gluten-free beers will find their way out of the niche market and will be able to go up against their gluten-laden cousins.
We are already seeing big name brands carrying gluten-free beer. It is only a matter of time before more delicious, gluten-free beer finds its way into the mainstream marketplace near you.