Even though the majority of grains used in brewing beer contain gluten, including wheat and barley, it is entirely possible to brew gluten free beer at home. Doing so involves taking advantage of grains that do not contain gluten, which include millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, corn and sorghum. However, brewing gluten free beer is a bit more challenging than traditional brewing and takes additional work.
The challenge of brewing gluten free beer comes from the fact that it is not as common, meaning that there are not as many resources available. Malted variants of gluten free grains are not often available commercially, meaning that brewers need to malt their own grains in order to make the beer. This process is no different than malting normal grain and is not labor intensive.
Gluten free beer does make use of the same equipment that is used to brew regular, which means that it is relatively easy for a brewer to move onto making gluten free beer if they choose to with the correct ingredients.
Additionally, most gluten free grains produce malts with low diastatic power, as the grains themselves are huskless. This needs to be taken into account in the recipe used for brewing.
Gluten Free Beers
Personally, I've only tried one gluten free beer. It was obviously a different flavor from regular beer, and in my opinion, not as good. It's hard to discern if I was expecting to come to that conclusion because the whole “gluten free” fad kind of annoys me, or if it really was not as good. So there is a bit of subjectivity in that conclusion. *Note, I realize that some people physically cannot eat gluten and have no issues with it, I just dislike the whole Dr. Oz Paleo-Diet fad people.
Men's Fitness has a nice list of Gluten Free Beers, but as an online marketer, it's obvious that this post was written by someone writing content just to fill the magazine. They are just gluten free beers that exist, not necessarily ones that you “have to try”.
Red Bridge is one that I see a lot, as is O Mission. Fox Tail is another I found, and I'm sure there will be more to come in the future. I highly doubt the sorghum-beer fad will last long, though after the bubble pops, we will hopefully be left with a few winners that stand the test of time, and give beer enjoyment to those that truly cannot digest the real thing.
Gluten Free Ingredients
The grains used in brewing are not the only compounds that normally contain gluten, and gluten free brewing involves making sure that there is no gluten contained in any of the other brewing components also. It is also important to carefully read the information on ingredients, as sometimes it is not immediately obvious whether a given ingredient is actually gluten free, such as oats, which are sometimes crop rotated with wheat.
In addition to grains, the most significant ingredient to consider in relation to gluten content is yeast. Many yeast strains are gluten free, such as all the Danstar and Saflager dry yeast strains, but other types of yeast may not be gluten free.
However, it is possible to make yeast gluten free by using a series of dilutions to reduce the amount of gluten in yeast to levels where it is undetectable. Alternatively, a more complex approach of isolation and inoculation can be used to grow yeast without gluten. Unless you are looking for a specific strain of yeast, it is probably easier just to pick a yeast strain that is gluten free to start off with.
No selection is necessary when it comes to hops, as no hops contain gluten. However, because of the differences between gluten free and traditional beer, sometimes hops will have unexpected reactions, particularly if the brewer is experimenting rather than following a recipe.
Finally, some different results will be observed during the brewing process of gluten free beer due to the different ingredients. One example of this is that using Sorghum as a grain produces a large amount of trub which must be dealt with.
While there are much fewer recipes available for gluten free brewing there are still a considerable number of recipes and this number continues to grow, making it easier for people to brew gluten free beers at home. Of course homebrew stores have begun to carry gluten free brewing products!
photo credit bouldair