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A Word on Gluten and Beer

Celiac.com 07/12/2004 - There have been numerous claims that traditional barley-based beers are gluten free or that all beers are gluten free. Unfortunately, the area is very grey and substantiated on technicalities. The purpose of this post is to eliminate the confusion about gluten as it relates to beer.

Gluten is an umbrella term used to describe a mixture of individual proteins found in many grains. Celiac disease (celiac sprue or gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity) is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the ingestion of some of these glutens. People with classic celiac disease are intolerant to the gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and a couple other lesser known grains. All these grains have a relative of the gluten protein. Interestingly, corn, rice and sorghum also have gluten proteins but are not toxic to celiacs. Herein lies one of the fundamental problems; the use of the term gluten intolerance to cover only certain gluten containing grains is confusing for consumers and food manufacturers alike. Unfortunately, it seems that the inertia for using celiac disease and gluten intolerance as synonyms is unstoppable. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of both consumers and manufacturers to make sure the terms being discussed are defined and understood.

As this relates to beer, there is a gluten protein found in barley. This protein is known as hordein. Wheat gluten is known as gliadin. Rye gluten is known as secalin. Presently, assay tests (or lab tests) are only commercially available for the testing of gliadin. We are unaware of any tests for hordein or any manufacturer that presently tests for hordein (Note: If you know of anyone that does in fact test specifically for hordein, please let us know). Therefore the idea that a barley based beer can be considered gluten free based upon the lack of testing is very difficult to fathom. It should be understood that a company using an assay test for gliadin to test for hordein will not return accurate results.

There has been widespread speculation that the brewing process eliminates these hordein proteins making all beers gluten-free. Although commercial assay tests for hordein are not available there is conclusive evidence that the brewing process does not degrade hordein to non-toxic levels. A research study in Australia on improving beer haze shows that hordein is still present in beer after the brewing process (http://www.regional.org.au/au/abts/1999/sheehan.htm). Therefore, claims that hordein or gluten is destroyed in the brewing process is unsubstantiated and clearly, based upon the Australian research, is highly questionable.

Based upon the continuous claims by beer companies that beers are gluten free, it is clear that the issue is misunderstood and, as always, it is up to the consumer to educate them on the facts. Hopefully, the information provided here will give consumers and manufacturers alike the ability to discuss these gluten issues intelligently and effectively.

About the author: Kevin Seplowitz is the President and Co-founder of the Bards Tale Research Company, LLC and organization that researches the correlations between nutrition, diet, and autoimmune disorders. Bards Tale Research owns and operates Bards Tale Beer Company, LLC (www.bardsbeer.com) a company that develops commercial gluten-free beers. Mr. Seplowitz is a diagnosed Celiac.

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39 Responses:

 
Rita Martino
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said this on
29 Feb 2008 7:27:45 PM PST
Have found the Red Bridge beer from sorghum goes down good with gluten-free pizza!

 
andy davis
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said this on
13 May 2009 4:41:14 AM PST
As a man who this week is going on the wagon regarding all beers I have been looking for an excuse, any excuse, to legitimize my reasoning for drinking ales and as such
therefore this article tells me that it is not wise...thanks.

 
Valerie
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said this on
01 Oct 2010 10:28:09 AM PST
I drank two beers a couple of weekends ago and was sick for a day and a half. I'm 100% certain I consumed nothing else with gluten, but for whatever reason it didn't occur to me that beer would be a problem. I so rarely drink at all that I guess I just didn't think about it. I will definitely think about it next time...that's the sickest I have ever been after a gluten misstep.

 
Dan
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said this on
01 Jun 2011 5:42:49 PM PST
Valerie, it may have been the yeast in the beer not the gluten. Yeast can cause reactions that are similar to gluten

 
Manny
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said this on
06 Jun 2012 7:28:02 AM PST
Dan, most beers don't have any traces of yeast because beer is pasteurized/filtered before carbonation. It's another story if Valerie was drinking a bottle fermented ale.

 
Giusi
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said this on
09 Jun 2011 9:24:39 PM PST
When I found out I was intolerant to gluten I also stopped drinking beer, which always gave me bloating, even if I was not a hard drinker (only one small bottle at night). So even if I haven't done an analysis I am sure that I am intolerant to beer, probably to yeast, if not barley.

 
Dan C
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said this on
24 Oct 2011 10:20:35 PM PST
So...you noted that gliadin was tested - it would be helpful if your article explained the results of the gliadin testing.

 
Yan Sever
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said this on
25 Nov 2011 10:02:21 PM PST
Though I am a celiac, I do not have any immediate reaction to consuming gluten. I love beer, but I am not sure about its contribution to my health problems.

 
Kate
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said this on
17 Jul 2012 6:57:28 PM PST
Yan,
I could have said the same thing two weeks ago before I landed in the hospital with diverticulitis and a fever of 103.5 F. Diverticula don't develop overnight. The problem with gluten is, IF you have an intolerance to gluten, you may be unknowingly damaging your intestinal track. I have known for years that I have gluten sensitivity and cheated from time to time (taking communion, eating half a slice of rye toast) with little more than upper gastrointestinal gas. But the night before my major distress I visited my home town and ate stromboli. Not one bite, or two, but the whole splendid, poisonous stromboli. I will never cheat again. Never never. Not beer, not malt, not communion wafer. And in my case, I think I'm sensitive to gluten-free oatmeal so no more McCann's.

 
Phil K.
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said this on
20 Sep 2015 9:30:32 PM PST
Just a thought but as several of our parishioners have food allergies we have been making a gluten, egg and other stuff free communion bread. That might be something to take up with the church leadership OR bring your own and give it to your Priest/Pastor/Minister with an explanation about why you need it. GF crackers would work also but we have decided to serve everyone GF bread for communion.

 
paul
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said this on
25 Oct 2011 1:53:53 AM PST
I tried the Hambleton Ales Gluten free real ale on the weekend. It claims to be gluten free and carries the official mark. However within half of the bottle drank I suffered allergic reactions. I usually drink cider and wine no problems. I suffered the same symptoms from this ale that I used to suffer prior to going gluten free.

I read somewhere since that the regular GF tests carried out for food/drinks are for wheat gluten and indeed ale contains malted barley. I understand that there is not a test developed yet to establish the presence of barley gluten. It would appear this is what may of triggered my reaction. Will we ever understand all this?
In future if food shows ingredients of wheat barley or rye I will steer clear regardless of GF claims.

 
k.byrne
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said this on
04 Feb 2012 2:46:00 PM PST
I have Just started, I am trying to find my way, This very helpful.

 
Kaia
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said this on
24 Nov 2013 4:38:27 PM PST
Same here, what a minefield!

 
Kbeer
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said this on
29 Feb 2012 5:59:18 PM PST
I have a strong gluten allergy. When I used to eat pasta, noodles, flour dumplings, I would get a terrible reaction. 6 months gluten free, I feel like im 16 again!

In the case of beer, I do not have any reactions. However, which darker beers or cloudier ales (which I do not drink anymore), I had reactions.

I now only drink clear lagers (Becks, Kokanee, etc) and I have no problems so far.

If anyone has any information regarding gluten in beer, or if they have a undeniable gluten reaction to drinking beer please let me know.

As of now, I'm weening my self off beer and drinking wine.... but nothing beats wings and beer!

 
Chip
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said this on
07 Mar 2012 4:09:42 PM PST
I too am starting my cassein free probably gluten free quest. Bud Light is my beer and so I called Bud and they said "yes" Bud Light is not gluten free because of the barley malt. Red Bridge was their suggestion.

 
gguess
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said this on
22 Jul 2012 9:30:02 AM PST
Home brewing gluten-free beer is a great solution. I also love beer and got back into home brewing just to make a gluten-free beer to my tastes. Be sure to see Homebrewtalk for great suggestions. Clarity Ferm can crack the gluten related proteins in barley-only beers, but there is debate as to its completeness for celiacs. One test with it seemed to solve the issue for me, but another test batch it did not.

Browning a couple of grains at home is used to favor the beer since a straight sorghum-malt beer tastes a bit odd. A couple of standard beer drinkers like my brew, which of course I do as well. However, a chance to try a full barley beer is a real joy.

BTW: Bard's beer is a decent GF beer similar to some types of Adams beer. Both of which are too bitter for my tastes. Commercial craft beers seem to prefer bitter hops over aromatic hops. Home brewing solves this issue since I can dry hop the beer for great aroma and no bitterness.

 
Anonymous User
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said this on
31 Jul 2012 6:21:37 PM PST
It's nice to hear some details and some facts!

 
Chuck
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said this on
13 Oct 2012 10:29:13 PM PST
I am gluten intolerant and my favorite gluten free beer is Red Bridge. I had a few seizures before discovering the gluten issue and have been seizure free ever since.

 
Keren
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said this on
05 Jan 2014 4:40:34 PM PST
Chuck. I am interested to know what you mean by "seizures" I have recently started having non epileptic seizures (although they can look like epileptic fits). I'm also having terrible trouble with my bowels which lead me to this site. I'm looking into reducing wheat from diet. Thanks.

 
S.Geraci
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said this on
07 Dec 2012 5:12:38 PM PST
Thanks for this information.

 
confused
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said this on
05 Jan 2013 10:27:39 PM PST
I get a migraine when I eat anything with a significant amount of wheat in it, like pasta or a sandwich. I can eat small amounts but I get an uncomfortable "histaminey" reaction and after several days of eating small amounts I get the migraine. But I can drink real beer (the darker the better) a couple times a week, or even two in one day, and I don't get the same reaction. The mass produced crap lite beer crap makes me ill though. Anybody know what my problem is? (I don't.)

 
Karol
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said this on
18 Jan 2014 1:25:39 PM PST
Hey,
Did you find out what's going on? I observed the same thing! I can drink only dark beers (the cheaper, the better). Porters are bad, light beers are bad. Some unpasteurized are OK. Mass produced beers are all bad.
I get a heavy headache after even half of it. But it's weird - only the left side of my head is in a huge pain. Have you ever observed such a thing? It can start even at the end of drinking "wrong" beer.

 
Kathleen
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said this on
06 Oct 2014 1:43:03 PM PST
I get headaches only on the right side when I'm around perfumes or other aromatic chemicals. New car smell is the worst. I instantly feel like I've been hit on the right side of my head with a sledgehammer. Gluten, on the other hand, causes all my joints to ache. So far, it hasn't happened when I drink beer, though it happens every time I eat wheat, so maybe I'm ONLY sensitive to the wheat, not barley gluten. Maybe I should try eating some barley soup, which I used to love, but haven't had in 10 years.

 
Mike Getzlaf
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said this on
27 May 2013 4:27:43 PM PST
"People with classic celiac disease are intolerant to the gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and a couple other lesser known grains."
Might be good to know of the "couple other lesser known grains." I guess you don't.

 
Gideon

said this on
27 Apr 2014 10:21:18 AM PST
1. Triticale - a hybrid of wheat and rye.
2. Khorasan (Kamut) - an ancient type of wheat.

 
Brian
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said this on
03 Sep 2013 1:26:08 PM PST
I also would have liked to see something about the Gliadin. That is my main concern.

 
Mike
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said this on
24 Nov 2013 1:03:13 PM PST
There are so many sorghum based beers to choose from (at least in Phoenix) that it isn't worth it for me to suffer normal beer. Plus, vodka is completely gluten free.

 
Sheri
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said this on
26 Nov 2013 8:27:10 PM PST
Not all vodka is gluten free. Sometimes once the vodka has been distilled some companies add mash back into the product for flavor and thus adding glutens back into the product. I would do some research on that if I were you.

 
admin
( Author)
said this on
04 Dec 2013 10:35:57 AM PST
This is a common myth, but they would never do this after distillation as it would not be clear. The quality of vodka is determined by how many times and its method of distillation.

 
Rafael
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said this on
02 Apr 2014 10:46:43 AM PST
In regards to testing for celiac through other types of gluten rather than just gliadin: you may want to check Cyrex Labs. I think they will test blood sensitivity to most grain glutens via the following test:
Array 4 – Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity
Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity

 
Faye peden
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said this on
04 May 2014 1:03:26 PM PST
Thank you so much. I had been told the fermenting process destroys the gluten. I believed that until this afternoon.

 
Romo
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said this on
09 Feb 2015 4:34:41 PM PST
After two trips to Japan, a country that has mostly rice products, then coming home to wheat country, I started suspecting a gluten problem. Since I was 16 I have had a problem with acne. I am in my 60's now, still with this problem. In Japan the problem went away. 2 years ago I started a gluten free diet and have had little problem with acne. HAS ANYONE ELSE had this type of gluten sensitivity? Some people think I'm crazy, (ie. doctors).

 
Krisztian
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said this on
22 Feb 2015 1:42:45 AM PST
It can cause numerous problems including skin problems i.e., psoriasis.

 
newtonoglutes
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said this on
15 Apr 2015 8:35:44 PM PST
i have had a pilonidal cyst, I currently have a sebaceous cyst that I have to drain every 2 weeks (on my own because doctors are expensive), and I have had a persistent problem with a disorder that I was recently diagnosed with called "hydrodenitis supporativa". It's a cluster of boils with tunnels connecting them together and the last flare up was so bad I was on the verge of going to the emergency room ( if you knew me, you'd know that is not something id do unless it was really serious. I haven't even had a physical in ten years). I've had the hydrodeinitis supporativa for about 8 years. it doesn't heal. It just gets worse. I've tried multiple things to get rid of it, the best treatment I've found is tea tree oil. I'm just now coming around to eliminating gluten and I'm going to see how it goes. I'm really hoping that's what it is.

 
Victor

said this on
14 Aug 2015 4:21:11 PM PST
In Ontario, Canada for gluten free beers you can try New Grist, Messenger & so on. I am going to try Red Bridge today; seems to be a favorite of a few people in this chain.
Gluten free diet is certainly known to be of benefit in childhood seizures which are poorly controlled by medications.

 
Pc16
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said this on
30 Jan 2016 6:10:29 PM PST
I tested non celiac but "showed signs of gluten intolerance." So, I went GF and all the IBS, brain fog, and dizzy symptoms went away. I've always been a beer drinker, and after a few months, tried Guinness again with no ill effects. If I can handle hordein, am I specifically gliadin intolerant? I can't drink miller lite or gf liqueurs anymore, but for some reason, Guinness is just fine. Very cool, but also confusing. Any thoughts?

 
Kent
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said this on
08 Feb 2016 11:24:05 AM PST
I have not been tested, but have gone mostly gluten free after talking with my doctor. I have experienced several issues when eating gluten containing foods. Most beers so far cause me no problems. Except IPA's . I have had Coors Light, Labatt Blue Light, Guiness, Corona, etc., with no issues. But Devil's Hole IPA from a local micro brewery, hurt me and in general IPA's seem to give me a variety of issues.

 
TiffanyM
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said this on
17 Feb 2016 9:18:27 PM PST
I just found this thread, and I'm seeing a serious conflict of interest in the article. Since the author owns and operates a company that brews gluten free beer, of course he would tell us that conventional beers aren't safe. That means more potential cash for him.

Maybe that's not the case, but it's something to consider. I'm celiac, and I find that I have to sample beers and liquors carefully and one at a time to see if I react, as there isn't a clear cut answer at this time (as far as I can tell).

 
Joe Carris
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said this on
28 May 2016 2:01:40 PM PST
What about GMOs? I started having problems with Gluten about the time the GMOs started coming out. Is there a difference between gluten from a GMO or Non-GMO? What about eating Non-GMO wheat from Europe? I am going to try and see what works and what does not. Any comments?




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