Which Alcohols are Gluten Free?
That pesky gluten really is everywhere — even in our favorite drinks!
Irritatingly, because the alcohol industry is far less strictly regulated than the food industry, whether an alcoholic product has gluten in it or not is often a complete mystery.
That’s why we’ve written this guide to help you decide whether or not it’s safe to crack open that ice cold beer or sip that glass of red red wine.
Bad news guys. Most beers are brewed using barley, a close relation to wheat, which most certainly does contain gluten.
Any beer that is made with barley and unfiltered, such as ales or stouts, is 100% off the menu. However, there are certain beers that are brewed differently which, although they may contain small traces of gluten, satisfy the FDA’s <20ppm test for being certified ‘gluten free’.
These include many Asian beers that are actually made without barley such as the Chinese Tsingtao. Some light lagers are also so highly filtered that the gluten is virtually removed, such as America’s Coors Light.
This is a handy website for checking whether there’s gluten in beer.
Nowadays, as the benefits of going gluten free continue to emerge, you’ll find more and more beers designed specifically to be gluten free.
If you can’t drink beer then one alternative that’s usually served alongside it is cider.
Cider is made from apples, so there are no gluten containing main ingredients. However, some gluten can creep in during the process, so if you’re a full blown coeliac you still have to be careful. Magners is one very popular brand that’s certified gluten free.
Here we get into some contentious ground. Whiskey is traditionally made with a variety of grasses and grains, including wheat and barley, marking it seemingly unsafe. However, some argue that the distillation process – where the liquor is purified to increase alcohol percentage – removes gluten from the final product.
This being said, some counter that the distillation process is often not carried out correctly, and gluten containing ingredients are added for flavoring after the distillation process.
Frustratingly, due to the lax alcohol regulations, the gluten contents of many brands remain a complete mystery. One whiskey that’s certified gluten free, however, is Johnnie Walker.
Good news: most other spirits such as vodka, rum, brandy and tequila do not contain any gluten ingredients, so they’re all gluten free!
Just watch out for any flavored spirits that may have had gluten containing ingredients added after the brewing and distillation process.
Wine is made from grapes, which do not contain gluten, so it’s generally considered gluten free and safe to drink. There are a few exceptions however, because certain processes in wine making can introduce gluten to the final product.
For example, during the aging process some winemakers use a wheat flour paste to seal the aging barrels. The final wine will typically contain less than 20ppm of gluten, however a full coeliac may still experience a reaction.
Other wines may have added ingredients such as coloring or flavoring that may contain gluten. This is most common in dessert wines, so pay special attention to those.
If you’re unsure then it’s best to contact your favorite wine manufacturer just to check.