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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    A Word on Gluten and Beer

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    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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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 gluten-free 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 gluten-free claims.

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    So...you noted that gliadin was tested - it would be helpful if your article explained the results of the gliadin testing.

    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    Valerie, it may have been the yeast in the beer not the gluten. Yeast can cause reactions that are similar to gluten

    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.

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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