We all know that keeping to a gluten-free diet is difficult. Gluten is an umbrella term used to describe a mixture of individual proteins found in many grains.Gluten is in just about everything, lurking in things you’d never expect. So you’re reading labels at the grocery store and checking with waiters at restaurants, but what about when picking out a drink to go with your meal? Let’s take a trip down the alcohol aisle.
Traditional beer, brewed from wheat, barley or rye, is obviously out of the question. Not being able to drink beer is one of things two of my newly gluten-free friends have had the hardest time getting over. Gaining attention and popularity is gluten-free beer, often made using buckwheat (a summer annual with rather coarse, branched stems and large, broadly arrow-shaped leaves) or sorghum (a species of grass and harvest-able seeds). Other substitutes, include rice, maize, corn, flax, millet, quinoa and soybean.
Some beers are certified gluten-free, while others are just labeled as such. Gluten-free can mean many things depending on who you ask. For instance, in the United Kingdom gluten-free beer is any beer that has less than 20 parts per million of gluten. In Australia, gluten-free beer earns that label only when there is no traceable amounts of gluten. In the U.S., low gluten is a widely used term. Many brewers reason that the small amount of barley that they use is changed into harmless amino acids in the brewing stage and is therefore safe to consume. Always check with the manufacturer if you’re unsure. Check out this guide to gluten-free beers. Here is another list for comparison.
Hard alcohol is any type of alcohol that is distilled rather than fermented (beer, wine and cider). Spirits are distilled beverages that contain no added sugar. The distillation process removes gluten proteins from most kinds of hard alcohol, making it an option for those that need to drink gluten-free. However, you may want to stick with more well-known brands. When companies use cheaper ways to process alcohol, the finished product may not be distilled completely, or properly, and may contain trace amounts of gluten. (Explanation from this site.)
Most unflavored, “pure” hard liquors/spirits are gluten-free. This list of gluten-free hard alcohol was put together from www.triumphdining.com/blog/gluten-free-alcohol.
- Fruit brandy
- Grand Marnier
- Southern Comfort
- Triple Sec
- Vodka (Check out Nude Vodka, made in Oregon. Couldn’t help but mention this one!)
This website further breaks down types and brands. Again, contact the manufacturer of a specific beverage when in doubt.
All wine and champagne is naturally gluten-free because both are made from grapes. A word of caution though, there is talk that some wine is contaminated with a flour/water paste used to seal the barrels the wine is aged in. It’s controversial, but if you’re concerned or especially sensitive to gluten, it’s probably best to order something else. Also, be aware that wine coolers are not gluten-free since they contain barley malt. All in all, wine (in a bottle or a box) is a pretty safe bet. Many people with Celiac’s endorse wine as a gluten-free option, but to each his/her own.
While losing the ability to enjoy beer may get some gluten-free people down, there are many other options to satisfy that urge for a drink. Try not to focus on what you can’t have, and instead focus on what you can have. A positive attitude will go a long way! Bottoms up!