Dude note: This is a modified version of an article I wrote that appears in the current issue of Simply Gluten-Free Magazine, where I have my own column. It’s a good magazine run by good people. You can subscribe here.
Here’s the latest news. This article is about booze. If it’s not what you choose, for you this may be a snooze. But if you like your brews during the holiday woo-hoos, you may be confused as to what booze you can infuse and which ones you must refuse. No need to get the blues. Stick with me…you’ve got nothing to lose.
Ok…that was exhausting to write.
If you are at a celiac support group or have an online following, I have a great way to cause some controversy. Simply say “[insert any liquor here] is gluten-free.” You will certainly get your share of opinions; some of them spot on, some of them fear-based and some of them just totally bizarre.
I will try to set you as straight as humanly possible. But alcohol is one of those issues where I always say LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. And there are still some question marks regarding specific alcohol.
Ok…ready for some fun. Here we go.
Beer is split into two camps: Gluten-free and Gluten-removed. This is pretty simple. Well, let me rephrase that. This “should” be pretty simple, but alas it’s actually very complicated.
Gluten-free beer is just that. Totally gluten-free and completely safe.
Gluten-removed beer is actually made with gluten, but then, so they say, the gluten is removed using a proprietary process, making it fall below 20ppm. I don’t drink these and I never will. Naturally, they market themselves as gluten-free, even though technically they’re not allowed.
You want ever more confusion? The CSA, a top celiac organization, gave their seal of approval to Omission, a gluten-removed beer, even though their seal implicitly states that “our Seal Program does not allow the use of oats or ingredients that are derived from gluten-containing grains that have been refined in such a way to remove the gluten.”
How’s that for a contradiction?
And let’s add one more layer of confusion into the mix. Some standard beers actually say they are safe for celiacs, falling under the 20ppm. These are not gluten-removed beers but beers actually containing gluten. Yeah…crazy I know.
Here is what one major brewer, Heineken, says on their website’s FAQ page for the question “Does your beer contain gluten?
“Beer contains gluten, which comes from the grain used to brew it. Only a fraction of the gluten in the grain gets into the beer – the exact amount depends on the kind of grain used. Brewing beer with barley leaves only traces of gluten in the beer, while wheat contributes considerably more. The brewing process can also affect gluten content. Generally speaking, the clearer and blonder the beer is, the less gluten it contains. Some people are allergic to gluten and have to follow a diet that minimizes or excludes their gluten intake. Whether beer can be part of such a diet or not depends on the extent of the allergy and the type of beer consumed. In many cases, lager beers pose no problem for people who have a gluten allergy. However, it is up to individuals to assess their own sensitivity.”
I think I speak for the gluten-free community when I say…HUH?.
Oh…and though I’m not a cider kind of guy, there are lots of gluten-free ciders on the market too.
My personal favorites: Glutenberg (especially the IPA), Pyro, Groundbreaker
VODKA, GIN, RUM, TEQUILA
As long as they are non-flavored, they are safe. Yes, I know some of them are made with wheat. But the distillation process removes all gluten, leaving them with a whole lot of goodness behind. And if you want to be extra careful with the vodka, there are plenty made from corn, grape or potato.
Yes…I know there are still many celiacs who swear these items are not gluten-free. But science says otherwise. And so does The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. They say that “in pure spirits, the distillation process makes these beverages safe because the protein is removed. However, flavored spirits may contain malt, and should be avoided.”
And by the way, if you’re wondering why removing the gluten from liquor is ok but removing it from beer is not, that’s a valid question. And here’s a valid answer: It’s a totally different process. Science proves that the distillation process of hard liquor removes all gluten. The process that gluten-removed beer uses is not distillation at all. They use enzymes, etc. It’s proprietary and unproven.
My personal favorites:
- Vodka: Titos
- Gin: Hendricks, Bombay Sapphire East
- Rum: Not a big fan, but I’ll drink a Capt. Morgans every blue moon
- Tequila: Casamigos (amazing!!), Don Julio, Cabo Wabo. If making margaritas, just stick with good old Cuervo Gold
SCOTCH, BOURBON, WHISKEY, RYE
My dad would enjoy one scotch (or two or three) every night after work. This eventually led to his downfall and way-too-early death. Perhaps sub-consciously that’s why I don’t drink it. Or maybe it’s just because I hate the taste.
Anyway, my research says these are all gluten-free. But I have heard many, many varying viewpoints from my fellow celiacs about these items. Here’s a sampling of responses I received after posting that whiskey’s, etc. are gluten-free:
You are spreading mis-information! Some whiskeys, bourbons and scotchs are aged in barrels coated in wheat paste. Very sensitive celiacs can react!
Dude, sorry but you are misinformed. You are correct about the science of distillation removing gluten, but I’ve never met a distiller that doesn’t add the mash back into their final product. They all do it but most will tell you they don’t.
Wait – I read from multiple sources that whiskey, scotch and bourbon aren’t gluten free!
I hate to tell you, Gluten Dude, but i am celiac and i cannot drink those liquors.
I’ll tell you…being a celiac can be exhausting. Here is what I say to the people above: Perhaps you are sensitive to something else in these liquors and it has nothing to do with gluten. Perhaps not. I reached out to a few popular distillers and heard nothing by crickets in response. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. LISTEN TO YOUR BODIES.
Wine is gluten-free. And you can ignore the rumors about the barrels being sealed with wheat paste. Wine is fine. Especially when you dine. Just don’t take mine. And don’t drink nine. Ok, that’s my last line.
My personal favorites: Red, White
So there you have it.
Oh wait…one more item. Since my celiac diagnosis, my tolerance level has seem to gone done some. If you are going to imbibe, be careful and drink lots of water during the course of the evening.
Stay thirsty my friends.