07 October 2008

Gluten-free beer

Last week, we received this e-mail from HBG reader Karen:

I have a gluten intolerance problem and now need gluten-free beer. Gluten is found in barley and wheat which most beer is made from. Have you done a piece on this as I need to know where to find some? I live in Fishers.

We haven't done a piece on gluten-free beer . . . until now, thanks to Karen's question.

The condition that Karen was talking about is called celiac disease. Celiacs (as people with this condition are called) have digestive systems that cannot tolerate the protein gluten, which, as Karen explained, is found in grains from which beer is typically made. Celiacs who consume foods and beverages with gluten can encounter very serious health problems. So, we've done some exploring to help out those folks like Karen who want to enjoy beer but can't partake because they're celiacs. Fortunately, several breweries brew beers that don't contain gluten. Here are the gluten-free brands you can find in Central Indiana:

Redbridge. This is Anheuser-Busch's gluten-free beer. Like A-B's flagship brand, Budweiser, Redbridge is an American lager. It's brewed with sorghum instead of barley.

Green's. Green's, which is brewed in Belgium, offers three different ales: an amber called Discovery, a dubbel called Endeavour, and a tripel named Quest. These beers are brewed with a blend of four grains: millet, rice, buckwheat (no, not that Buckwheat), and sorghum.

Bard's Tale. This brewery was started by a couple of celiacs who are, in their words, "ardent beer-lovers." Bard's Tale is brewed in the American lager style and is made with sorghum.

New Grist. This beer, which is billed as a "session ale," is brewed by Milwaukee brewery Lakefront. It's brewed with sorghum and rice extract.

Toleration Ale. Brewed by Hambleton Ales in the UK, this beer is described as "a tawny ale with aromas of Cascade, Liberty and Challenger hops. Specially prepared dark sugars provide a full bodied initial sweetness giving way to pronounced fruit and hop character with a strong citrus finish." It's not clear what grains are used to brew this beer, but it is indeed gluten-free.

The first four brands listed above are available at Whole Foods. In addition, Redbridge can be found at the Castleton Trader Joe's. Other central Indiana stores that carry gluten-free brands are Parti Pak, Kahn's, the Hop Shop, and Sahara Mart.

In the interest of disclosure, we've not tried any of these beers, so we can't vouch for any of them. But, I can say that a gluten-free roundtable might be in the offing in the near future.

In the meantime, if you have tried any of these beers, leave a comment or drop us a line at hoosierbeergeek@gmail.com to let us know what you think. Special thanks go to Mat Gerdenich of Cavalier Distributing and Bob Mack of World Class Beverages, who assisted us in putting together our gluten-free beer list.


  1. When I first tell people that I can't eat wheat, rye, oats, or barley they usually ask "Can you eat bread?" followed by "Can you drink beer?" Now I can point them to this list.

    Redbridge is the most widely distributed since it is made by Anheuser-Busch. New Grist and Bard's Tale are getting a wider distribution, at least here in NYC.

    Thanks for posting this list.

  2. It wasn't until a few years ago that Gluten-free beers were hitting the market in this area. And where they had them, they were few and far between with regard to quality and taste -- there was a story for a while where New Grist bottles were exploding on the shelves because of some conditioning issues. Not exactly the kind of thing you want happening and a brewery and / or distributor.

    I've wanted to try my hand at homebrewing a gluten-free beer. Clearly I am not affected by Celiac, but I feel so much pity for those who can't revel in the beauty of the beverage.

    Those I have tried are a little thinner than your typical brews, I think mostly because of the lack of barley. In layman's BSing terms, I think there are few malted grains that provide enough protein for the body of the beer. Clearly you can make "beer" with sugar, water hops and yeast, leaving out the malted grain, but you can imagine from that list what kind of beverage you would get. That being said, finding a substitute for barley in the taxonomy chart is challenging to the brewer and likely will result in beer that is always going to be somewhat different than your typical beer (as we know it). That being said, the HBGs ever do a tasting -- while you don't often make comparisons (bravo), this would definitely be one tasting to avoid comparing a gluten-free 'beer' to your typical fare -- unless, of course, you're thinking 'Bud American Ale.'

  3. JJ, It was Bard's beer that had problem with secondary fermentation, NOT New Grist from Lakefront. With regards to taste, the New Grist looks and tastes like a beer. Two GABF medals attest to the quality of the brew, one of which was the gold medal in the experimental category even before there was a gluten-free category. 'Nuff said.

  4. Certainly 'nuff said. Thanks for the correction.

  5. Reader Kay has informed us that New Grist is available at the Chatterbox and at the Broad Ripple Brewpub.

  6. Thank you so much for your research on this! I just recently moved to Indy and am so happy to find out that Whole Foods carries several brands. Looking forward to trying Greens.

    I have brewed a few batches of GF beer and would be happy to share the recipe if anyone is interested. It came out a bit like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

  7. You're welcome! Glad that we could help out.

  8. Life After Safan,

    I'd love your home brew recipe. I am so glad this post was done on my behalf. I appreciate too that Kay wrote in about two places (Broad Ripple Brewpub and Chatterbox)we can order a gluten free beer in the area. I only wish there were more. If anyone knows of more clubs and bars or even restaurants in the Indy Scene please do share!

  9. I live in Pennsylvania and it is hard to find these beers in grocery stores. However, in Florida I have tried many. My favorite is Redbridge, and I have had New Grist which tastes like burnt charcoal (gross). Also I drink Wood Chuck and Strongbow which are gluten free ciders which are very tasty. Has anyone had Bards?

  10. You can get New Grist at Scottys, and Redbridge at Outback. I have found Redbridge at a few liquor stores in the Geist area, but it has been random when they have it! Ciders work as well, but not my cup of tea!

  11. I've tasted them all... and I strongly recommend Redbridge over the others, even to non-celiacs. All GF-beers have a lingering sweet taste from the sorghum, but Redbridge is the only well-hopped GF beer I've had that covers it up well.

    I'm holding out my final verdict for whomever comes up with an IPA though!

  12. Angela's Gluten Free Beer 9-4-07

    15 oz malted Teff*; 11 oz roasted buckwheat; 20 oz amaranth; 4 oz millet (grains so fine, most fell out of grain sock) (next time use several layers of ultra fine cloth)

    Temp up to 150 degrees and then steeped for 45 minutes. Brought up to boil and added:

    ½ # Sierra Wildflower Honey; 1 # Grandma's Molasses; 3 # Karo Light Corn Syrup; 1 # Corn Sugar

    1 oz Horizon at start of boil; 1 oz Amarillo after 30 minutes; 2 oz Saaz
    after 55 minutes yielded 9 brix

    Very glutinous from the buckwheat. Very difficult to filter. Tasted burnt after fermentation because of the free grain boil (burned grain in bottom of pot) So I added coffee beans or Asian chili peppers at bottling ( 4 oz priming sugar) on 9-21-07

    burned flavor totally disappeared and the resulting beer had good color, bright nose, sparkly taste, loved the chili peppers - gave some heat and bite.

    *I malted the teff over 4 days on cookie sheets on the kitchen counter, then popped them in the oven at 350 degrees stirring occasionally until toasted and dry.

    Problems with the buckwheat and burned grains can be overcome by using fine cloth rather than the grain sock.

    Now I want to try this recipe again!

  13. I have all of them. I am partial to the Green's lineup. The provide a style of beer to suit everyone's palate. We have all three Green's varieties at Vine and Table in Carmel along with the Redbridge, New Grist, and Bard's Tale.

  14. I am the sales rep for AB in the Fishers/Noblesville area and Redbridge is carried at all the Krogers and Cheeseburger in Paradise. If you would like any favorite restaurant in the area to carry Redbridge, just ask you bartender or manager to request it, as it can be brought in anywhere. Have a great day all.

  15. Boathouse Grill on 56th near Eagle Creek carries Redbridge

  16. I don't have celiac disease but I do remove gluten from my diet periodically for health reasons and it is great to see a comprehensive list of GF beers.

    I've had New Grist and Redbridge and like them both, but partial to New Grist. Not familiar with Green's, but seems like it's a hit with readers.

    Thanks for the post!

  17. I know this is an old post, but since my diagnosis of having Celiac Disease I have tried just about every gluten free beer on the market. There is one that is not listed here, St Peters, that definitely deserves some recognition.


    I was always a huge fan of German Pilsners, Darks, and Wheats, and this beer comes incredibly close to the flavor of some of my favorite pilsners.

    Some commenters remarked that they thought Lakefront Brewery's New Grist was the best of this lot and I can only say that they should have called the beer New Grit. It has lots of charcoal and dirt undertones and is not a pleasurable beer experience. Its very unfortunate, I was always a fan of Lakefront and their beers.

  18. Did you know all Mikes Hard Lemonades are Gluten-Free ?

  19. Although Mike's says their product is GF, it's still made with malt liquor that has not been distilled. If you're celiac and very sensitive you may want to stay away from Mike's, or email them to see how many ppm of gluten they test for.

    I for one would give my first born for a gluten free oatmeal stout. ;(

  20. A few restaurants/bars are carrying GF beer in Indpls now. Bluebeard and End of the Line in Fountain Square both carry one GF microbrew beer each and both are tasty. Wish I could remember the brands but it's not New Grist or Redbridge. Marsh Supermarket carries Redbridge.