The stress that comes with daily life and then the added stresses of being gluten free can get really harsh some days. Some people go to have a drink to relieve some of that stress. It can also be a way to celebrate or even just a social event. Either way alcohol has become a big part our society.
The problem is alcohol can have gluten hiding within it too, so now, your stress relief can be the very stress you are trying to get away from.
There is a lot of misleading and contradicting information about gluten and alcohol so I’m going to do my best to get the most accurate information I can.
First lets start with how its made. We will start at the beginning and work our way out from there.
A fermentation process makes alcohol, where yeast breaks down sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. You can ferment grains, fruits and vegetables. The carbon dioxide bubbles that come out of the fermenting solution create ethanol and water. The ethanol is what gives alcohol its strength or potency.
Beer is made when barley, hops water and yeasts are fermented together. Wine comes from sugars of crushed grapes.
Spirits and stronger alcohols are made with an added distilling process. This is where some of the contradiction starts. Distilling fermented alcohol is what creates the higher percentage. Distilling separates the ethanol from the water and that ethanol gas is cooled down and condensed into liquid and used in the drinks. This process scientifically removes gluten from whatever the grains they have used. BUT – this is where the confusion is created – that does not mean all distilled alcohols are gluten free like some pieces of information suggest!!
Gluten can be added back in after the distilling process through cross contamination, flavouring and other additives.
I repeat NOT ALL DISTILLED ALCOHOLS ARE GLUTEN FREE!!!
Okay now that we have the basics covered, lets go through the other issues that come with gluten and alcohol and then go through each type of alcohol individually.
First besides drinking the wrong alcohol, cross contamination can come into effect. When you are dealing with different kinds of alcohol always make sure you have a designated cup, stir stick or anything else that is going into your cup. Even though it is alcohol, if you use the same cup that a beer was previously you can still get “glutened”. The same goes for fancy umbrellas or olives that have been saturated in other alcohols.
You also need to be careful about spills or bar tables. Sometimes just a towel sopping up the fallen brews won’t cut it and like myself you will end up with a nasty arm rash from the table.
There are also the wonderful world of mixes that can be dangerous. Some drinks use other additives such as grenadine to add flavour and colour to drinks. So, you will need to be weary of these as well.
But, don’t get discouraged there are a lot of gluten free options for alcohol out there. Now let’s go through some of the main types of alcohols so you will know what to look for and what options you have available.
Beer normally made by fermenting ratios of barley, hops water and yeasts. Which normally means bad. But, beer can be made my fermenting other grains such as buckwheat, sorghum, rice and corn.
Ales are a type of beer. Ale is mad with a warm fermentation method and normally creates a sweet fruity full-bodied taste. It is also normally made without hops.
Lager beers are made at low temperatures and can be pale, golden, amber or dark in colour.
Here is a list of gluten free beers that are safe to drink.
- Alley Cat Scona Gold Kolsch
- Against the Grain
- Bards Beer
- Billabong Brewing
- Brew Dog Vagabond Pale Ale
- Daura Damm
- Dragon’s Gold
- Element Beer
- Epic Glutenator
- Ghostfish Brewing
- Green’s Beer
- Ground Breaker Brewing
- Hambleton Ales
- Joseph James Brewing Company – Foxtail
- New Grist
- Nickel Brook
- Nouvelle France
- O’Brien Beer
- Ramapo valley Brewery
- Redbridge Beer
- Sprecher Brewery
- St. Peter’s Brewery
- Steadfast Beer Co.
- Toleration Ale
Cider is fermented from apples and other fruits to add flavour. Ciders are normally gluten free but some companies add other things into their ciders. These ciders are gluten free. If you want to try other ciders just make sure to read the labels.
- Ace Pear Cider
- Angry Orchard
- Blue Mountain Cider Company
- Blackthorn Cider
- Bulmers Original Irish Cider
- Crispin Cider Co.
- Harpoon Craft Cider
- JK’s Farmhouse Ciders
- Lazy Jacks American Style Cloudy Cider
- Magners Irish Cider
- Original Sin
- Smith & Forge Hard Cider
- Strongbow Apple Ciders
- Woodchuck Cider
Mead is made from fermented honey, water and occasionally fruits or spices.
- B Nektar – http://www.bnektar.com/find-us/
Wine and Champagne
Wine is made from the sugar of grape skins so it is naturally gluten free. The only problem with wine is it has been made for so long some wineries still use ancient ways of storing and making it. Some barrels are sealed with wheat paste and that can contaminate the wine. A lot of companies have moved from this process and either use tanks or a gluten free paste to seal their barrels. Whether its white, red, rosé, sparkling, or champagne you need to be careful. The best way to find out what wines and champagnes are completely gluten free you can contact companies to make sure.
Spirits and Liqueurs
Spirits are distilled alcohols that have no added sugars. Liqueurs have sugar and added flavouring. There are many spirits and liqueurs I’ve listed a couple of the main ones here.
Absinthe is a highly alcoholic distilled beverage. It’s made from botanicals such as Artemisia absinthium, green anise, sweet fennel and some other herbs. Absinthe is a naturally gluten free alcohol.
Distilling wine makes Brandy and it has an alcohol volume normally of 35-60%. Some brandies are made in wooden casks and have caramel colouring added to them. Those things can be glutinous and should be watched out for. The same with wines you will have to contact the companies to make sure its gluten free.
Gin is a spirit that has a main juniper berry flavour. Its dates back to the Middle Ages. Some gluten free gins are,
Rum is distilled from sugarcane and molasses. Dark rums can have added caramels and colouring in them making it so not all rum is gluten free.
- Appleton Estate Rum
- Bacardi – only Gold, Superior, 151 and flavoured rums
- Bayou Rum
- Bundaberg Rum
- Captain Morgan Rum Products
- Cruzan Rum
- Mount Gay Rum
- Malibu Rum
- Myer’s Rum
Rye and Whisky
Rye and Whisky are distilled from various grains including barley, corn, rye and wheat. Because of the distilling process it takes the gluten out of the barley, rye and wheat. But, other contaminates can be added back in afterword.
Queen Jennie Whiskey is made from sorghum and is completely gluten free. Other whisky and ryes you will either have to play Russian roulette with or contact the companies.
Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, which means its gluten free, but some of the cheap brands don’t go that route. The cheaper brands can use gluten and they are called “mixto” instead. To ensure your tequila is gluten free make sure it says 100% agave.
- 1519 Tequila
- 1800 Tequila
- Cabo Wabo
- Don Julio
- El Jimador
- Jose Cuervo
Vodka is made from grains, corn, grape or potatoes that are fermented and then distilled. Just like the whiskeys and other distilled alcohols you should be careful of the grain-distilled vodkas. To be safe you can just stick with non-gluten grain vodkas or contact the companies to make sure there aren’t extra additives in the grain vodkas.
- Blue Ice Vodka
- Bombora Vodka
- Boyd & Blair
- Chopin Potato Vodka
- Cold River Vodka
- Devotion Vodka
- Ocean Vodka
- Pau Maui Vodka
- R W B Vodka
- Teton Glacier Vodka
- UV Vodka
I hope this list helps you in your gluten free journey. If I missed anything or you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.
Until next time, happy drinking.