Five Legit Gluten-Free Beer Options for Discerning Beer Snobs

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Photo by Misha Grosvenor
In social settings, having celiac disease is kind of like being Edward Snowden -- your options are limited (not to mention crappy), and no one knows what the hell to do with you. Telling your host at a party or your coworkers during happy hour that you can't drink beer usually elicits two things -- confusion followed by steady stream of pity in the form of multiple rounds of hard cider and half-priced well drinks.

It's not the worst problem to have, but let's face it: You're not getting any younger, and those hangovers aren't getting any shorter or less punishing.

In the past, there were only a few gluten-free beer options available, some of which were decent and some, whose name rhymes with Red Bridge, tastes like the urine sample of a capacious man who has eaten his weight in asparagus. Today, thanks to a few inventive brewers, there are several new gluten-free and gluten-removed beer options to get you back into the game.

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In a 2009 study published in the Gastroenterology journal, scientists estimated that nearly 1 percent of the population in the United States is affected by celiac disease. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, it causes an immune reaction in their small intestine that, over time, results in the inflammation of the small intestine, making it difficult to absorb nutrients and, more important, beer.

To receive a true "gluten-free" designation by the Food and Drug Administration, many breweries opt to use alternative grains such as sorghum and rice. Recently, a growing number of brewers have chosen to produce their beer using traditional grains like barley and then remove the gluten later, a practice that has effectively yielded two results -- a better-tasting pint and confusion among consumers about the difference between a product labeled "gluten-removed" versus "gluten-free."

According to the FDA, beer made from barley that has removed the gluten and contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of the protein can use the designation "gluten-removed" or "crafted to remove gluten" on its packaging. Gluten-removed beers remove the protein using a special enzyme that can be derived from either animals, plants, or by using a special plastic that is later filtered out of the beer. Many of these gluten-removed beers have less than 5 ppm of gluten, however; there can still be traces of the protein that may trigger a reaction in people who are more sensitive.

Whether you opt for the gluten-removed or gluten-free, here are five new tasty beer options to try.


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