Is Alcohol Gluten-Free?

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Is Alcohol Gluten-Free?

GFP recommends avoiding drinking alcoholic beverages in the early stages of the gluten-free diet to allow your gut time to heal.

The annual Christmas party, tailgating at the football game or a Tuesday evening can all give rise to enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two. And while this topic might seem straightforward (no beer), it can prove frustrating trying to find alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free because by law, alcoholic beverages are NOT required to display an ingredient label. Yes, frustrating! Let’s take a closer look at what beverages are to be avoided and which are safe bets. 

Beer

While those with celiac disease (CD) or a gluten sensitivity will no longer be enjoying the company of Guinness or Budweiser, the good news is there are some pretty tasty alternatives. Traditionally, beer is brewed from malted grains like barley, wheat and rye, while gluten-free versions use ingredients like millet, sorghum, rice, buckwheat or a combination therein. Before some of the new brews listed below hit market, the refreshing stand-by for those with CD was gluten-free hard cider – like Woodchuck. Many hard ciders are gluten-free, but be sure to check the label as barley is added to some brands. Here are some gluten free beer options:

Bard's Tale Beer
Brewed from 100% malted sorghum and created by two diagnosed celiacs, it is made in an entirely gluten-free environment with sorghum carefully sourced to make certain it's free of gluten cross-contamination. 

Redbridge Beer
An Anheuser-Busch brew made with sorghum, is one of the easiest ones to find, both in grocery stores and on menus at certain restaurants. It’s considered a full-bodied lager with moderate hopiness. 

New Grist Beer
Hailing from the Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Wis., New Grist is a pale beer crafted from sorghum and rice. However, it is still brewed in the same building as its gluten-containing counterparts. 

New Planet Beer
If you find yourself in Colorado, get your hands on one of New Planet Beer's three different gluten-free offerings. All are certified gluten-free to 20 parts per million by an independent testing laboratory. 

Green's Gluten-Free Beers
This Belgian brewer makes three brews for import into North America: Discovery, Endeavor and Quest. Green's gluten-free beers are made with millet, sorghum, rice and buckwheat. 

Estrella Damm Daura
Brewed in Barcelona, Spain, this pilsner lager is brewed with barley malt, maize and hops.  The gluten amount is less than 6 ppm, so it is certified both wheat-free and gluten-free. Estrella Damm Daura has been the winner of the 2008 and 2009 World Beer Awards in the category Gluten-free beers.

Wine and Wine Coolers

Wine, made from fermented grapes only, is inherently gluten-free. However, there are two stages in the winemaking process where gluten contamination could potentially occur. The first is when a wheat flour paste is used to seal oak barrels (which is rare, and happens more in European wines). The second is the practice of “fining”, which is done to clarify wine. Gluten can be used to fine a wine, but more often a different protein is used. Common fining agents include hydrolyzed wheat gluten isolate, pea protein isolate, casein (milk protein), gelatin, egg whites, fish glue, and natural bentonite clay. When gluten is used to clarify wine it typically results in far less than the proposed safety threshold of 20 ppm. However, since current labeling laws do not mandate that wines that come in contact with gluten are labeled as such, it is best to double-check.

If you are concerned, ask the wine maker if:

  • Oak barrels are used to age the wine
  • If a gluten-containing paste is used to seal the oak barrel
  • If gluten or another protein you are allergic to is used to fine the wine

Wines that are almost always made without a barrel aging process are: Whites – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Italian Pinot Grigio, Bag-In-The-Box wines; and Reds: Bag-In-The-Box wines.

Wine coolers are not gluten-free as they generally contain barley malt. There are some products on the market that tout gluten-free wine coolers, but the jury is still out.  

Spirits 

The standard guideline used to be that only potato vodka, white rum and tequila were safe. However, the latest research on the subject has deemed all distilled liquors as gluten-free, even those derived from a gluten-containing grain because the distillation process ensures that none of the gluten from the original ingredients can remain in the finished product. It is still safest to avoid dark colored liquors because without food labels it is difficult to know if caramel color is used in the liquor, and if so, whether or not the caramel color is gluten-free.

Mixers

If you mix your alcoholic beverage with another beverage, such as soda, tonic water, root beer, vegetable juice, fruit juice, coffee, etc., be sure to check that your mixer is also gluten-free. One common place to get exposed to gluten is in mixed vegetable juices such as Bloody Mary mixes, which can contain grain vinegar. V8 products are gluten-free. If a beverage lists “Natural Flavors” and does not indicate it is gluten-free on the label than it cannot be trusted. This goes for juice, iced tea, soda and beyond!

Non-alcoholic Beverages

The safest and healthiest beverage bets are water and sparkling water, 100% fruit juices, and herbal teas. However, make sure to read labels on tea as some brands do add barley and other gluten-containing grains. GFP recommends drinking half your body weight in ounces of filtered water per day for optimum health.  

Bottom’s up!