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Gluten-free and gluten-reduced beer: A functional dietitian’s review

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Today brings many culinary traditions, with beer being a central favorite.  Unfortunately, for those of us striving to maintain a gluten free diet, festive beer drinking may seem off limits.  Well I’m here to make your day!

With the incidence of celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity on the rise, the brewery industry is working to meet demand.  At the GABF (Great American Beer Festival), hosted every year in Denver, Colorado a category of “gluten free beers” was first entered into competition in 2007 with only 8 entries.

This past year, there were 20 beers entered into this category.  So, the amount of gluten-free beer options is growing (yay!), but there is an important distinction to keep in mind.

A true gluten-free beer is one produced using gluten-free grains like sorghum, rice, corn, and millet; fruit is often added to the mix.

There is another method of producing “gluten reduced” beer where barley grain is still used as a main ingredient, but an enzyme (Brewers Clarex, from Dutch company DSM) is added before fermentation and serves to help break the gluten protein into smaller peptide fragments that can be digested readily.


This enzyme is actually derived from Aspergillus niger, which is a species of black mold that tends to grow in-between layers of onions!  Using this enzyme will effectively reduce the gluten content of a beer below 20 ppm, without influencing the flavor, so naturally, this is the preferred option for many brewers and beer connoisseurs.

Labeling is a little tricky, and the science is still controversial.  Because they are barley based, gluten-reduced beers do not meet FDA standards to carry the certified gluten free label. However they do meet international gluten free standards of gluten protein < 20 ppb and can carry the designation “crafted to remove gluten”.

See the list below of some of the top gluten free beers on the market today

Finally, remember that the Vibrant Wellness Wheat Zoomer is the only test on the market that can help differentiate gluten sensitivity from wheat sensitivity. If your tests reveal only positive antibodies to the non-gluten wheat proteins, then many regular barley-based beers may be okay for you.


New Planet Brewery: Boulder, CO Blonde AlePale Ale


Raspberry Ale

Certified Gluten FreeBrewed from Sorghum and rice
Dogfish Head Brewery, Tweason’ale Certified Gluten FreeBrewed from sorghum, molasses, and pitted fruit
Anheuser Busch, Redbridge Certified Gluten FreeSorghum base
New Belgium Brewery: Fort Collins, CO Glutiny Pale AleGlutiny Golden Ale Gluten Reduced
Omission LagerPale Ale



Gluten Reduced
Stone Brewing, California Stone Delicious IPA Gluten Reduced
Harvester: Portland, OR Pale AleDark Ale


IPA No.5


Entire Brewery is Certified Gluten FreeBrewed from chestnuts, GF oats, and tapioca


–Cat Simmons, MS RD