Why Is Gluten-free Beer So Popular?

Gluten-free and reduced-gluten beers are much more common and growing in popularity.

Traditional beers—Budweiser, Coors, Corona, Heineken, and the list goes on—are traditionally made by brewing and fermenting malted barley and sometimes wheat. However, those grains contain gluten, so they're not an option for anyone on a gluten-free diet.

But beer doesn't have to be off the drink menu altogether for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or intolerance, or a wheat allergy.

How Is Gluten-Free Beer Made?

The brewing and fermenting process are the same as regular beer, but different grains are used for gluten-free beer. Millet, buckwheat, sorghum, rice, and corn can all be used because they don't contain gluten.

There's a spectrum of low gluten- or gluten-free beers, and it's essential to know the difference between the terms you'll see on labels. 

"Beers labeled gluten-free cannot be made from wheat, rye, or barley," Rachel Begun, RD, culinary nutritionist and gluten-free lifestyle expert in Los Angeles, told Health

For a brand to label its beer "gluten-free", it must meet the criteria established by the Food and Drug Administration, which is no more than 20 parts per million of gluten in one serving.

"Beers labeled 'crafted to remove gluten' means the starting ingredients may contain wheat," explained Begun. 

Breweries reportedly use an enzyme to break down the gluten protein in beer, and these brews are not allowed to be called "gluten-free." According to Begun, they're also unsafe for anyone with a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity.

There are also low- or reduced-gluten beers, making matters even murkier. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of removing the gluten has yet to be scientifically validated, and the amount of gluten remaining can be variable from batch to batch.

Why Is Gluten-Free Beer So Popular?

As more people are diagnosed with gluten conditions, the demand for gluten-free food and beverages increases. People with celiac disease, wheat allergy, or other gluten conditions are interested in gluten-free beer because regular brews are no longer an option. 

And for people who choose a gluten-free diet for non-medical reasons or like to try new and different beer varieties, it provides opportunities for them, too.

Is Gluten-Free Beer Healthier Than Other Brews?

For people with gluten-related conditions or wheat allergies, gluten-free beer is healthier than regular beer. You must avoid gluten (or wheat) to prevent symptoms and maintain good health. 

For the rest of us, there aren't specific health benefits to drinking gluten-free beer because the calories, alcohol, and carbohydrates are typically similar to regular beer.

That being said, we're helping to take the guesswork out of label reading and rounded up some examples of genuinely gluten-free beers. 

New Planet

New Planet is a Boulder, Colo.-based brewery that began simply as the founder's quest to make gluten-free craft beer. This beer is distributed in numerous states but not nationally. 

The brand makes two varieties: Blonde ale and pale ale. The gluten-free pale ale—bold, hoppy, and citrusy—has won the most awards.

Steadfast Beer Co.

This brewery is 100% dedicated to producing only gluten-free craft beer (not gluten-removed or gluten-reduced). It appears that Steadfast Beer Co. only distributes to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Still, they also connect you with online retailers who will ship straight to your door.

Their Oatmeal Cream Stout is touted as the first bottled gluten-free stout in America. Steadfast also offers pale ale, IPA, and blonde ale. 

Glutenberg

Although Glutenberg, a dedicated gluten-free brewery, is based in Canada, its product is distributed in most states in the United States. They sell eight brews—one of which is non-alcoholic. Extra points for satisfying gluten-free non-drinkers! 

Their IPA stands out from the pack thanks to all of its awards, but unlike most other gluten-free brewers, Glutenberg makes a Gose. Its lime- and lemon-sour profile with a pinch of sea salt won over judges at the 2019 Canadian Brewing Awards.

Ground Breaker Brewing

Ground Breaker Brewing, an all-gluten-free brewery, offers four beers all the time—the Olallie Ale, IPA No. 5, Dark Ale, and Pale Ale—and rolls out seasonal brews too. The Olallie Ale is the highest-ranked of the brand's year-round beers on BeerAdvocate.com. Brewed with blackberries and rose hips, it's light and dry with just a hint of bitterness. 

Based in Portland, Oregon, this brewer's products are available throughout the United States and Canada.

Redbridge

Redbridge, a rich, full-bodied lager, is made from sorghum (no wheat or barley). It's the most widely available of the beers on this list, and that's likely because industry giant Anheuser-Busch owns the company.

Aurochs Brewing Co.

The founders of Pennsylvania-based brewery Aurochs Brewing Co. are both medically required to follow a gluten-free diet. One went gluten-free in his mid-20s after he'd already developed a taste for craft beer. So, he and a friend teamed up to create a great-tasting gluten-free version. 

The brand's regular lineup includes ales, sours, and porters. And the Aurochs Hazy IPA won first place in the gluten-free beer category at the Great American Beer Festival in 2020.

Their brews are available to pick up at the brewery in Emsworth, Pa., and they ship to several places in the United States.

A Quick Review

Gluten-free beer offers tasty alternatives for people avoiding gluten for health reasons. But as with all alcoholic beverages, moderation is essential. 

The Department of Agriculture recommends that adults choose not to drink alcohol or limit intake to two drinks per day for men and one drink or less per day for women.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration. Questions and answers on the gluten-free food labeling final rule.

  2. Fiedler KL, Cao W, Zhang L, et al. Detection of gluten in a pilot-scale barley-based beer produced with and without a prolyl endopeptidase enzymeFood Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2019;36(8):1151-1162. doi:10.1080/19440049.2019.1616830

  3. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

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