Gluten has long been present in beer because grains like barley, wheat and rye are necessary ingredients. As a result, those with gluten sensitivities, celiac disease or dietary concerns tend to drink cider, mead, wine, hard seltzer or certain cocktails instead of beer.
Fortunately, gluten-free or gluten-reduced beers are gaining momentum as brewers have worked to improve processes that remove gluten proteins without sacrificing flavor. Some breweries use an enzyme called Clarex that strips gluten from a beer, while others embrace alternative grains that don’t have the protein at all.
There are U.S. breweries with dedicated gluten-free or -reduced portfolios, and others that solely make beers without gluten. There’s even a small guild of these breweries working to support and advance gluten-free breweries across the globe.
“I think one of the common misconceptions about beer in general is that it all tastes the same,” says Anne Becerra, Certified Cicerone and beverage director of Treadwell Park in New York City. And so, she says, some people with celiac or gluten intolerance write off beer altogether.
“But what I’m enjoying are the breweries that are making several different styles of gluten-free beers with unique flavor profiles, as well as a range of abv [alcohol by volume], carbonation levels and more,” says Becerra.
Usually packaged in bottles or cans, these beers can also be poured on draft, so long as bars commit to keeping a draft line gluten-free to avoid contamination from previous, glutinous beers.
Wine Enthusiast asked beer experts from around the country to weigh in on exemplary gluten-free or gluten-reduced offerings that are worthy of your glass.
Holidaily Brewing Company
Jonathan Shikes, a beer reporter for Denver Westword, believes Colorado’s Holidaily Brewing Company is among the largest dedicated gluten-free craft breweries in the country.
“They have hired pro brewers to create their beers, and the styles range far beyond what you can find in normal gluten-free settings, including a gose, an Oktoberfest and an imperial pastry stout,” he says.
Many of Holidaily’s beers approximate the taste of standard beers, he adds, and they have developed a real following and a community. The company started off “having one dedicated [draft] line in a couple of different Colorado breweries,” says Shikes. “That really helped them become part of the everyday conversation in Colorado.”
Ipswich Ale Brewery
Formerly known as Celia Saison, this brewery’s G Free Saison is a go-to for Em Sauter, the founder of Pints & Panels, an online beer education platform, and a 2016 Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Tastemaker.
“Saisons can be so many different grains, so it’s a good space for a gluten-free option,” says Sauter.
Ipswich Ale Brewery says G Free is sorghum-based and brewed with dried Curaçao orange peel, and its Belgian ale yeast provides peppery notes.
“It’s nice to see that almost all styles can be made gluten-free, but saisons make the most sense given that their grist can be so many different grains,” says Sauter. “Most of the saison’s flavor comes from its expressive yeast profile, ensuring that the gluten-free beer will mimic its glutinous counterparts nicely.”
Ground Breaker Brewing
“The Northwest has become a haven for GF beer, unexpectedly, but my favorite is the original, Ground Breaker,” says Jeff Alworth of the Beervana Blog and author of The Beer Bible. “Founder and brewer James Neumeister started from scratch, trying to figure out how to make gluten-free beers with the same flavor and texture profile as regular beer.”
Both are challenging, says Alworth, but the texture may be the harder part.
“All that silky gluten plays an important role in regular beer that mostly goes unnoticed—until you remove it.”
Neumeister has used sorghum, chestnuts, lentils and tapioca to achieve a glutinous body. The results are impressive, Alworth says. “Ground Breaker’s IPA is impressive, full stop, not with the dreaded ‘for a gluten-free beer.’ ”
Wooden Robot Brewery
Charlotte, North Carolina
“The spouse of one of the owners of Wooden Robot is gluten-free, so they wanted to make sure they were brewing beers she could enjoy,” says Jen Blair, cohost of the False Bottomed Girls podcast. “Thus, their beers are all gluten-reduced using Brewers Clarex, an enzyme that breaks down gluten in malted barley to create a gluten-reduced beer.”
The brewery offers a wide range of style options as well, so people following a gluten-reduced lifestyle have their choice of farmhouse and sour beers, as well as IPAs, lagers and other specialty releases.
“Good Morning Vietnam is a favorite, especially among my friends who are gluten-free,” Blair says of the brewery’s coffee-infused pale ale, “but I love their complex, barrel-aged sours.”
Departed Soles Brewing Company
Jersey City, New Jersey
This Jersey City brewery has beers with and without gluten. In the latter category are an award-winning, sorghum-based West Coast IPA and seasonal dark ale.
“On a recent trip to Departed Soles in Jersey City, the group I was with chose their beers based on the descriptions and didn’t realize until after that a handful of them were actually gluten-free,” says Becerra.
“I really believe there’s a beer for everyone, and with so many interesting and exciting options out there these days, I just love that gluten is no longer a factor or impediment to enjoying them.”
Last Updated: May 8, 2023