by CCA National Office
For many people, bartenders have become experts about gluten in beer. After all, they are educated by brewery representatives who have a job selling beer, not those dietitians and doctors who seem to just make your life miserable and unfulfilling! In the past month I have been told by CCA members and other celiacs that at least 12 different mainstream beers are “OK for people with celiac disease”.
Despite the obvious appeal of listening to those bartenders, there are a few problems with their analysis:
- Symptoms are not a good indicator of the absence of gluten in a product.
- Beer is not distilled so the proteins are not removed from the grain ingredients – including malted barley.
- We do not have verified technology to measure the amount of gluten in beer. That means that a gluten test might give you a number but we have no way to know if that number is correct, or if it might be significantly underestimating the amount of gluten in the beer.
- As per Health Canada, any product containing barley or malt directly added is not allowed to be called “gluten free”.
Gluten from barley is the hardest type of gluten to detect on a test. In beer, where the barley proteins are broken into pieces, detecting the “bad” part of the proteins is even harder. The conventional tests will give you a number for the amount of gluten in a beer sample, but there is no way to verify that number. Studies that use mass spectroscopy to look at the broken pieces of barley proteins have found gluten in all barley-based beers. This research article gives details if you would like to read more.
Some manufacturers use an enzyme that is supposed to break the gluten sequence in beer into pieces so that it won’t trigger a gluten reaction. This treated beer that is “Crafted to remove gluten” and sold in Canada must carry a statement that indicates that there is no way to accurately measure the amount of gluten in beer. I saw this message on a bottle of Daura Damm at the LCBO store yesterday. It was on the label around the neck of the bottle in very tiny print.
End result, the CCA does NOT consider beer made with gluten as safe for people with celiac disease, treated to remove the gluten or not. Beer is one of those things that does not meet the gluten-free criteria, just like wheat-based bread isn’t safe. There are alternatives that are not really the same (just like with bread). You either get used to them or you stop eating bread. The same rule applies for beer.