Gluten Free vs. Gluten Reduced: Here’s The Deal
Gluten Free Beer Vs. Gluten Reduced Beer
What’s the difference?
As you peruse the colorful shelves of your local market’s gluten free beer/cider section, you may notice that some bottles bare the fine print label “gluten reduced”. If you are someone who abstains from gluten for serious health reasons, you may want to consider the implications of these subtle words.
Beer that is 100% gluten free is brewed with 100% gluten free ingredients. However, the classification, as defined by the Food and Drug Administration, is also extended to:
an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten (www.fda.org)
This means that products that were created from gluten ingredients can later have it removed to below 20 parts per million, and still be considered gluten free. In reality, these products are gluten reduced, not gluten free. So, how do you remove gluten from beer? It’s done by adding an enzyme in the brewing process called Brewers Clarex™. You can read all about it in this article: The Gluten-Eating Enzyme That Makes Gluten Free Beer.
The Taste You Know
There’s a reason that some of the best tasting GF beers on the market are actually gluten reduced. They are much more similar to the taste we are used to because they are brewed from regular beer ingredients such as wheat, barley, and rye. Lucky for us, when the gluten is removed, the taste remains. However, for someone who reacts to even the slightest amount of gluten, it may be unwise to drink these types of beers. Those with intense forms of Celiac Disease will always be safest consuming a beer which was brewed from gluten alternatives such as millet, corn, or rice.
In my own experience,
I can tolerate 1 gluten reduced beer before the effects of the gluten are felt, but if I were to drink even one a day regularly, I would feel the consistent lull of contamination. Actually…I no longer drink gluten reduced beers. Here’s why. My gluten free home brewing experience would argue that brewing 100% gluten free isn’t as hard or as scary as it might sound. Some of the best GF beers I’ve ever had have been the ones brewed as a shot-in-the-dark experiment in my very own kitchen. If I had the time to stock my fridge that way all the time…I would.
The Gluten Free Market Continues To Evolve
Luckily, the market has changed a lot since I first created this blog. Gluten free breweries are popping up all over the place and the distribution situation is slowly (and painfully) improving. I don’t drink gluten reduced beer anymore because I don’t have to. Lately I’ve chosen to support the breweries that got our backs in the gluten free department–by using 100% gluten free ingredients in their beer.
Industry leaders (such as Ground Breaker, Ghostfish, Burning Borthers, Moonshrimp, etc…) have clearly proven to us that gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean taste-free or body-free. This used to feel like the case…but not anymore.
Listen To Your Body, Trust Your Instincts
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to define your own standards for your gluten free beer consumption. If you are simply sensitive to large quantities of gluten, perhaps gluten reduced is a fine option for you. However if you’re like me, you’re going to be making a much safer bet by choosing truly gluten free. Not all gluten sensitivity symptoms are obvious. You could be doing damage internally even if you think you’re getting away with it from the outside.
MY advice: Educate yourself about the product and always listen to your body when testing gluten reduced beverages.