The Difference between Gluten Reduced and Gluten-Free Beers

There’s a lot of confusion about safe alcoholic beverages for those following a gluten-free diet. Are gluten-reduced and gluten-free beers safe?

Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages consumed. But beer is not a safe alcoholic beverage for those following a gluten-free diet because it is the fermentation of (predominantly) gluten-containing grains.

What's the difference between gluten-reduced and gluten free beers?
What’s the difference between gluten-reduced and gluten-free beers?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Barley is the most common grain used to make commercially available beer.

This is heartbreaking news if you’re on a gluten-free diet. Every grocery store, restaurants, and social gathering has a commercially available beer that isn’t safe on a gluten-free diet.

What’s the alternative to beer for those on a gluten-free diet?

Manufacturers are interested in making safe alcoholic beverages for those on a gluten-free diet. The options currently available are Gluten Reduced and Gluten-Free Beers. However, these two products are not created equally.

What’s the Difference between Gluten Reduced and Gluten-Free Beers?

[The examples provided in this article are not sponsored.]
gluten free beer
Gluten Reduced versus Gluten-Free Beers
CD = Celiac Disease
NCGS = Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten Reduced Beers

Gluten Reduced Beer is made with gluten-containing ingredients—barley, wheat, or rye. Its production is similar to that of commercially available beer with the exception that the gluten content of the beer is reduced.

How is it the gluten content reduced?

There are two different techniques available to reduce the gluten content of the beer.

  1. Precipitation of Protein:
    • The gluten proteins in the liquid beer can be precipitated by using tannins, silica gel, or PVPP to form a solid.
    • The precipitated gluten proteins—form a solid—that can be removed by filtration.
  2. Enzymatic Treatments:
    • The gluten proteins in the beer are broken down by the addition of an enzyme (proply endopeptidase) during the fermentation process or to the final product.

Gluten Reduced Beer manufacturers can use either one of these methods but to be able to label their product as “gluten reduced” they need to ensure that the final product has less than 20 ppm of gluten.

Why less than 20 ppm of gluten?

Research indicates that less than 20 ppm of gluten is safe for most individuals with Celiac Disease. The Gluten-Free Food Labeling Law in the U.S. states that all foods labeled as gluten-free must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.

Why can’t Gluten Reduced Beer be labeled as Gluten-Free?

The Gluten-Free Food Labeling Law in the U.S. prevents claiming that foods made with gluten-containing ingredients are gluten-free. Gluten Reduced Beers are made with gluten-containing ingredients—barley, wheat, or rye.

Crafted to Remove Gluten. Alcoholic beverages are regulated in the U.S. by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau. Alcoholic beverages made from gluten-containing grains that are processed, treated, or crafted to remove gluten must be stated on the label.

  • Label Must Contain Both:
    • “ Processed or Treated or Crafted to Remove Gluten”
    • “Product fermented from grains containing gluten and crafted to remove gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”

Is Gluten Reduced Beer safe for those on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Gluten Reduced Beers are not a safe option for those with Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity because there isn’t effective protocols in place to determine the gluten content of gluten-reduced beers.

Examples of Gluten Reduced Beer:

Gluten-Free Beers

They are made with gluten-free grains or other alternatives:

  • Gluten-Free Cereals: rice, corn, millet, sorghum
  • Gluten-Free Pseudocereals: quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth
  • Other Alternatives: fermentable sugars, yeast extract, or non-cereal protein

These beers are the only safe beers for those with Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity because they are made with ingredients that do not contain gluten. Manufacturers must follow the Gluten-Free Food Labeling Law in the U.S. to ensure that the final product contains less than 20 ppm of gluten.

Examples of Gluten-Free Beer Brands:

Find out the Top 8 Gluten-Free Beers people enjoy!

Summary:

  • Gluten Reduced Beers are not a safe option for those with Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.
  • Gluten-Free Beers is the only safe option for those with Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.

What’s your favorite Gluten-Free Beer?

Let me know below in the comments!

References:

  1. Hager, Anna-Sophie, et al. “Gluten Free Beer – A Review.” Trends in Food Science & Technology, vol. 36, no. 1, 2014, pp. 44–54., doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2014.01.001.

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