So, What’s The Deal With Gluten-Reduced Beer?
By Hannah Olbrich, Director of Possibilities
Pizza, pasta, and beer.
These are just three gastronomic delights one must often give up when avoiding gluten. Being in Boulder, Colorado - named one of the healthiest cities in the U.S. - the gluten-free diet is hardly a trend, it’s more of a way of life for a good number of Boulder-ites. While there are 10 restaurants in Boulder County that are entirely gluten free, you will be hard pressed to find a place that does not have a number of gluten free offerings.
About 1% of the population is diagnosed with Celiac disease, but a poll in 2015 claimed that 30% of U.S. adults are trying to cut down or avoid gluten altogether. The existence of non-Celiac gluten sensitivity is the subject of hot debate in the scientific community, but with these numbers you can’t deny the increasing demand for gluten free products.
Along with a love for the great outdoors and healthy living, Boulder-ites also have an appetite for craft beer. We have more breweries per capita- 13.3 breweries for every 100,000 people- than anywhere else in the States! But for those that are on a gluten-free diet, the options for craft beer are rather meager.
Gluten-free beers are certainly available. They are brewed with gluten free grains such as sorghum and buckwheat instead of wheat and barley. Unfortunately, these beers have a reputation for being a poor imitation of the original beverage, but with improving brewing methods, quality gluten-free beer can be found. However, they aren’t brewed with the core ingredients that make beer, well, beer. In the end, it’s just not the same! Thankfully, there is a way to produce a quality beer that is safe for people that are gluten sensitive to consume.
But what is gluten anyways?
If your first thought is, “Stuff that’s in wheat,” you aren’t too far off the mark. Gluten is the umbrella term for a group of proteins that are primarily found in (you named it) wheat, rye, and barley. For folks that have Celiac disease, these proteins trigger an immune response that wreak havoc in the body, primarily in the small intestines. The only treatment for Celiac disease is a strict gluten free diet, where all food and beverages must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten. So how can a grain-based beverage, such as beer, meet this requirement without losing its identity?
The answer is in the form of an enzyme called AN-PEP or Aspergillus niger Prolyl Endoprotease. It’s manufactured by White Labs under the name Clarity-Ferm and it was originally used to eliminate haze in beer. As it turns out, Clarity-Ferm has the added benefit of significantly reducing gluten in beer. The enzyme does this by essentially chopping up the gluten proteins, resulting in a beer that is safe to drink for people with Celiac. If used properly, these enzyme-treated beers test for less than 20 ppm gluten, which makes it essentially gluten-free. The best part about this enzyme is that it only targets the gluten proteins, so the beer’s flavor and aroma are not affected at all.
At Twisted Pine, we have a wide selection of beers labelled as gluten-reduced, not to be confused with gluten-free beer which cut out wheat and barley as the main ingredients. You may be wondering why we don’t label these beers “gluten-free”. The FDA deems that food and beverages that test under 20 ppm gluten are safe for those with Celiac disease to consume, but to be labelled as “gluten free,” said food or beverage cannot have wheat, barley, or rye as an ingredient. Instead, we have to label these beers as, “gluten-reduced,” or “crafted to remove gluten.”
Making use of Clarity-Ferm was a no-brainer for us at Twisted Pine Brewing. We want to craft quality beer that everyone can enjoy. Today, we have over 25 beers in our Ale House that are gluten-reduced and we’re planning on making our 30 beer lineup completely gluten-reduced in the near future!
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