A fair amount of people in this country eat and drink gluten-free by necessity — the 1 in 105 people who have celiac disease, for instance, or the estimated 1 in 10 people who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity — and many more do so by choice. But even before an awareness of gluten intolerances
was cool hit the medical mainstream, the prescient craft beer industry started producing gluten-free beer. Instead of glutinous malts, they used millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat, tapioca, or special enzymes that denature the gluten proteins that trigger celiac’s autoimmune response.
But when you tinker with malt, one of the four main ingredients in beer (water, hops, malt, yeast) and the one that activates the autoimmune response in those with celiac disease, does the resulting product still taste like beer? And if so, how does it hold up against more traditional counterparts? To find out, we put ten gluten-free beers to a blind taste test. Our conclusion? A select few are good enough for anyone — celiac and non-celiac alike — to enjoy on a regular basis. Others give the category a bad name. They’re ranked below, 10th being the worst, 1st being the best, based on the average scores of our three reviewers.
[Ed. Note: According to a ruling made by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on February 11, 2014, brewers that use enzymes to denature gluten proteins — Omission, Two Brothers, Brunehaut — cannot legally call their beer “gluten-free,” even if it contains gluten levels of less than 20 parts per million (ppm). While many of those with celiac disease drink beers under 20ppm without a problem, the autoimmune response activates at different levels for different people, and these beers are more likely to trigger a response than others. If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor before drinking “gluten-free” beer.]