A cursory look on the Google machine will offer up various lists from multiple sources of the best gluten-free beers you should try, and even the worst ones you should avoid. We decided to ask a small group of people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance what they thought. Here’s what they had to say.
Once made by The Alchemist, Celia Saison is now brewed by Ipswich Ale Brewery in Massachusetts. It is made with sorghum syrup.
Pros: According to one person from the group, the taste is fantastic. But your mileage will, obviously, vary.
Cons: Another person from the group said that because most gluten-free beers are malted with sorghum, including this one, “the taste is just wrong.”
This brand touts itself as the first craft beer in the United States to use “traditional beer ingredients,” including malted barley, which the brand says is specially crafted to remove the gluten.
Pros: Brand awareness. People know it, even if it’s not available in their neck of the woods, so they mention it as a candidate even if they have never actually had it before.
Cons: It’s not gluten-free. The brand itself explains that it removes the gluten from the barley, and this means people with celiac have to deal with the ramifications of trace amounts. One person in the group confirmed she had a horrible reaction to it.
Dogfish founder and president Sam Calagione was on a mission to craft a gluten-free beer that would resonate with people suffering from celiac or gluten-tolerance issues.
Pros: Tweason'ale is malted with a mild sorghum base, but the other flavors, such as the hints of molasses and pit-fruit are said to be balanced by vibrant strawberry notes and a unique complexity that comes with the addition of a malty buckwheat honey.
Cons: One person said that although it was good, it tasted drier than expected and tasted so much like cider he preferred to just stick with cider. But nobody hated it, either, and even those who were not super keen on it said it was still palatable.
This is another beer brand that strips the gluten from the barley — which for people with celiac means possible, if not probable, exposure to trace amounts. Estrella has removed the words “Gluten-Free” from its labels because of this.
Pros: The person in the group who recommended it says she thinks it tastes quite good.
Cons: That same person added that if you have celiac, she wouldn’t try it, obviously because of cross-contamination and trace amounts.
Made in England, this is one of the few beer brands that doesn't stick exclusively to lagers, and is made gluten-free from the start instead of having the gluten "removed" from the brew after the fact.
Pros: HellaWella contributor Sarah Leche used Green's Discovery to make a delicious steak and ale pie. Green’s is a medium-bodied amber ale with subtle caramel and nut flavor nuances with a refined, herbal hop aroma and finish. This one seems to be a definite must-try.
Cons: Pretty much no cons were cited by the group. This is, after all, brewed in a land that knows its beer. And since it is truly gluten-free, it’s certainly worth trying.
Many in the small group we talked to about gluten-free beer said they recommend people, especially those with celiac, simply stick to hard cider instead — even after recommending a gluten-free beer or confirming they liked how a particular brand tastes.
One of our respondents, Crissy Brown, said she’s tried nearly all the brands available in the United States. “I’ve found each to be profoundly inferior to real beer. All have an overwhelming taste of sour, bitter or chemical — or a combination of those things.” The bottom line is that it’s not real beer, so the flavor, if you are accustomed to and like the taste of beer, will almost always disappoint.
So let’s take a look at some ciders.
Affordable and delicious, this cider is marketed in a manner that Brown was used to seeing with craft beers: seasonal flavors, fun labeling (there’s a different tree on every brew) and special releases (the Ciderhouse brews). So she’s a huge fan of the brand, especially its crisp apple and seasonal elderflower flavors.
It’s a little pricey, Brown says, and depending on where you live, you may have a difficult time finding the brews you like. “However, their special release Private Reserve brews are more affordable than Angry Orchard’s Ciderhouse brews,” she says, adding, “my favorite being the Pink brew. Yes, it is pink.” Neat!
Brown says that this cider tastes very much like champagne, “which makes sense because they use champagne yeasts in their brew.” This cider is a little on the pricey side, but Brown promises that it is never a let-down.
Affordable and tasty, this cider comes in a 12-pack of cans, which is a nice change from the usual bottles.
Ciders are gluten-free, but Brown reminds us that they are also loaded with calories and sugar, so beware that potential hangover headache the next day, and be mindful of your waistline if you’re trying to lose weight.
Be sure to let us know which gluten-free/gluten-removed beers and ciders you prefer drinking and where you stand on the "you may as well just have hard cider" debate. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.