We’ve all heard of it: “gluten free”, “gluten sensitivity”, “gluten allergy”, and quite a few more terms to describe those who cannot or choose not to consume gluten. But what is gluten? And more importantly, can you still drink beer if you can’t consume gluten? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our guide to gluten, beer, and how to give up one without having to give up the other. Please note, this article is for information only, and does not constitute any medical advice. If you have any gluten-related medical condition, please consult your doctor before consuming any product that may contain gluten.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a category of proteins that are present in several types of grain, including wheat, rye, and barley. It’s what gives dough its elasticity and makes bread chewy. Unfortunately, for those with a medical condition like celiac disease (an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation of the lower intestine), consuming gluten can cause very painful symptoms. Even those without celiac disease may have gluten sensitivities and prefer to avoid gluten-rich foods.
Types of Gluten Proteins
The term “gluten” is a generic term describing a few different proteins found in grain. Each grain has a slightly different protein, but they all affect those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The types of gluten are found in gluten-containing grains are:
- Gliadin, found in wheat
- Glutenin, found in wheat
- Hordein, found in barley
- Secalin, found in rye
Unfortunately, these gluten-rich grains also happen to be the grains most commonly used to brew beer. Whatever their reason for avoiding gluten, many people moving to a gluten-free diet have one important question: Does beer contain gluten?
Does Beer Contain Gluten?
Unfortunately for those following a gluten-free diet, most traditional beers contain gluten protein. Because one of the main ingredients in most beer is barley, rye, and/or wheat, traditional beer contains enough gluten to make it unsafe for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity to consume.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), any food product cleaning to be “gluten-free” must contain gluten levels of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten in compliance with regulation 21 CFR 101.91. While a substantial amount of the gluten present in barley malt and wheat is removed from the beer during the brewing process and fermentation process, most beer has above 20 ppm of gluten.
How Much Gluten is in Beer?
Most people with a gluten intolerance should not consume any gluten, even in very small amounts. For beer drinkers who can consume traces of gluten in small quantities without an adverse reaction, it is worth comparing the gluten content in different types of beer. Some beer styles, like unfiltered wheat beers like Blue Moon, contain substantially more gluten than other styles, like light lagers. Remember, anything over 20 ppm of gluten is not considered to be “gluten free”. It is important to note that laboratory testing of gluten levels in beer is not necessarily indicative of whether those with gluten allergies will have a reaction.
Is Gluten Reduced Beer Gluten Free?
You may come across several beers claiming to be “low gluten”, “gluten reduced”, or even “gluten removed”. Don’t trust that these are truly gluten-free products! “Gluten removed” beer is brewed with normal brewing grains like barley and wheat, but the gluten is removed by various processes including introducing enzymes that break down the gluten into smaller pieces, which was hoped to avoid the immune response in celiac patients.
Originally, this process was promising because laboratory testing could not detect the gluten content in the deconstructed gluten molecules. Unfortunately, in studies like “The Celiac Patient Antibody Response to Conventional and Gluten-Removed Beer”, test results indicate that gluten-removed beer is not safe for consumption by people with celiac disease. Just because there is less gluten in the final product does not mean that it will not cause a reaction in those with gluten-related disorders.
Gluten Free Brewing Grains
To be truly gluten-free, beer must be brewed with gluten-free grains like brown rice, sorghum, teff, millet, buckwheat, or quinoa. These alternative grains do not contain gluten in any form and can be used to brew a completely gluten-free beer. There are many breweries that produce gluten free beer, and there are even dedicated gluten free breweries that ONLY brew gluten free beer in a 100% gluten free facility. If you’re sensitive to gluten, it’s best to stick with gluten-free beer, and avoid regular beer, gluten removed beer, or gluten reduced beer.
Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in the United States and Canada
While there are some gluten-free beers available on the market right now, they can be difficult to find. There is good news, though: gluten-free beer is becoming increasingly available. This is especially good news for those living a gluten-free lifestyle who are tired of being served alternative alcoholic beverages like hard ciders and hard seltzers every time they go to a brewery.
There are even some dedicated gluten-free breweries, which is important to those with celiac disease, because even cross-contamination of gluten during production can cause a reaction. Dedicated gluten-free breweries only use gluten-free ingredients, so there is no concern of gluten contaminating the beer. These breweries are able to provide a full selection of gluten-free craft beer (including a few bitter IPAs for hop heads like me!). Like just about any other style of beer, we feel that craft breweries outperform domestic breweries in innovation and quality in beer, which is why we think dedicated gluten-free craft breweries will make the best gluten-free beer. Here’s a list of some dedicated gluten-free breweries for you to try:
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Canada
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in California
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Colorado
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Ohio
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Oklahoma
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Oregon
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Washington
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Wisconsin
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Maine
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Michigan
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Minnesota
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Pennsylvania
- Dedicated Gluten-Free Breweries in Vermont
As you can see, there are some popular gluten-free beers, and as the demand for gluten-free options continues to rise, there will be even more great gluten-free beers to try.
Gluten Free Beer You Can Find at the Grocery Store
There are even a few gluten-free options for domestic beer lovers that you can find at an average grocery store. For example, Anaheuser-Busch’s Redbridge Lager is a gluten-free beer brewed with sorghum, and it’s the most widely-available gluten free beer. You’re likely to find it at most grocery stores with a decent beer selection. While it has a distinct flavor, it’s a step in the right direction for those following a gluten-free lifestyle to have access to gluten free beer at the grocery store.
Gluten Free Homebrewing
If you’re interested trying to brew your own gluten free beer, we recommend starting by brewing a gluten free recipe kit from MoreBeer. Gluten free alternatives to the grains normally used in brewing are a little more difficult to brew with, so starting with an extract kit is a great way to dip your toe into the world of gluten free brewing. These kits use a brewing extract made from sorghum, a completely gluten-free grain, as well as rice, honey, and candi syrup. MoreBeer currently has three gluten free recipe kits to choose from:
What About My Favorite Beer? Is It Gluten Free?
Here’s a list of the most common questions we get asked about whether specific brands of beer are gluten free. Spoiler alert: the answer is almost always no.
Is Budweiser Gluten Free?
Budweiser is not gluten free. It is brewed with both two-row and six-row barley, and contains gluten in amounts sufficient to cause symptoms in those with gluten-related medical conditions. Even Budweiser Zero, Budweiser’s new non-alcoholic beer, contains gluten and is not recommended for those with celiac disease or non-celaic gluten insensitivity.
If you’re a fan of Budweiser beer but can’t consume gluten, Budwiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, produces a gluten free beer called Redbridge that you may want to try.
Is Bud Light Gluten Free?
While it’s considered the world’s favorite light lager (it’s not ours!), Bud Light is not a safe choice for those with gluten-related medical conditions. Like most light lagers, it contains a relatively low amount of gluten compared to other gluten-containing beers, but it is likely still enough to cause a reaction for those with gluten intolerance. While none of the beers, including Bud Light Lime, offered under the Bud Light are gluten free, Bud Light does offer a gluten-free hard seltzer.
Is Miller Gluten Free?
Both Miller Highlife and Miller Lite are brewed with barley, making them unsuitable for celiac disease patients or those with non-celiac gluten intolerance. Like many light beers, they have relatively low gluten count, but are still not gluten free.
Is Michelob Ultra Gluten Free?
Michelob Ultra is brewed with barley and is not gluten free. Like other light beer, it contains a smaller amount of gluten than many beers, but it is not gluten free. Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, while organic, is also not gluten free.
Michelob Ultra Amber Max is advertised as being brewed to remove gluten, however it contains rye, and likely contains gluten molecules sufficient to cause problems for those with severe gluten intolerance. Remember, “gluten removed” or “gluten reduced” does not mean gluten free!
Is Heineken Gluten Free?
Unfortunately for those who love Heineken, but are gluten intolerant, both Heineken and Heineken Light are not gluten free. It is brewed with barley (a gluten-containing grain), and it is not intended to be consumed by those with gluten intolerance. With that said, Heineken has a relatively low level of gluten present when compared to many other beers, especially craft beers. Heineken is unsafe for those with celiac disease and those who are highly intolerant to gluten, but it may be safe for those with a less severe gluten allergy.
Is Coors Gluten Free?
Neither Coors Banquet nor Coors Light are gluten free. Both are brewed with barley malt, making them unsafe for those with celiac to consume. Like other light lagers, they do contain a relatively low amount of gluten, so those with a less severe case of non-celiac gluten intolerance may be able to consume a small amount of Coors Banquet or Coors Light without issue, but we highly recommend discussing your gluten-related illness with your medical doctor prior to consuming it.
Coors did briefly produce a line of two gluten-free beers, called Coors Peak. They had produced both a copper lager and a golden lager under this brand, but unfortunately it was discontinued by Coors in 2020. There is not currently any information available as to whether Coors will produce gluten-free beer in the future. For now, Coors does not offer a gluten free beer option.
Is Guinness Gluten Free?
Guinness does not offer any gluten free beers under their brand. None of the beers produced by Guinness are gluten free, including the stout and the blonde. Guinness contains gluten in amounts sufficient to cause a reaction in those with celiac disease as well as non-celiac gluten intolerance. It is not recommended for those with gluten-related conditions to consume Guinness.
Is Stella Artois Gluten Free?
The classic Stella Artois lager is brewed with barley malt, and is not gluten free. Stella Artois also makes a Solstice Lager and a Midnight Lager, but unfortunately neither of those are gluten free either. Stella Artois does produce “Stella Artois Cidre”, which is a European style cider. It is specifically marketed as being gluten free, however barley is listed in the ingredients for it, so those with severe gluten intolerance should proceed with caution. With the potential exception of a cider, Stella Artois does not offer any gluten free options.
Is Sapporo Gluten Free?
None of the beers sold under the Sapporo brand are gluten free, including Sapporo Pure, Sapporo Black, Sapporo Premium Beer, Sapporo Light, or Sapporo Reserve. All Sapporo beers are brewed with barley, and Sapporo does not offer a gluten free beer.
Is Sol Gluten Free?
None of the beers sold under the Sol brand, including Sol, Sol Cheleada, and Sol Chelada Limon y Sal, are gluten free. Those with celiac disease should avoid consuming Sol beer.
Is Modelo Gluten Free?
While Modelo Especial, Modelo’s flagship beer, has relatively low levels of gluten, it is not gluten free and should not be consumed by those with celiac disease or severe non-celiac gluten intolerance. Modelo Negra as well as Modelo’s line of Chelada beers all also contain gluten. Unfortunately, this means that none of Modelo’s beer is gluten free.
Is Corona Gluten Free?
While Corona is relatively low in gluten when compared to other beers, Corona self-reports that because there is no universally accepted method for testing gluten content in fermented drinks, they cannot accurately report the gluten content in their beer. Because all Corona beer, including Corona Extra, Corona Premier, Corona Light, and Corona Familiar, is brewed with malted barley, there is some gluten present in Corona beer and it is not suitable with those with gluten-related medical conditions.
Corona also produces some non-beer beverages, and you might be surprised that a few are not gluten free. Corona Hard Seltzer is gluten free, however Corona Refresca is not gluten free as it is a fermented malt beverage. Corona’s Limonada and Seltzerita do not appear to contain any ingredients that contain gluten, however Corona does not report them as gluten free like they do with their hard seltzer, so proceed with caution if you have a gluten-related medical condition.
Is Pacifico Gluten Free?
Like Corona, Pacifico does not make a statement as to whether their beer is gluten free and instead states that there is no accepted methodology for testing gluten content in beer. They do admit that there are “traces of gluten in all of [their] beers”. Unfortunately for those with gluten sensitivity, because Pacifico beer is brewed with barley malt and non-malted cereals, it is not gluten free and is therefore not a good choice for those with gluten-related medical conditions.
Is Blue Moon Gluten Free?
Blue Moon specializes in brewing unfiltered wheat beers, which have the highest gluten content of any style of beer. Those with gluten-related medical conditions should absolutely avoid consuming Blue Moon beer. For perspective, Blue Moon contains, literally, more than 2,000 times the amount of gluten that can be included in a beverage that is considered gluten free. If there is a single beer on this list that should be avoided by those with celiac disease, it is this one.
Unfortunately, there are very, very few domestic beer options that are readily available for those with gluten-related medical conditions. Luckily, though, there is now a great selection of gluten-free beers for those who cannot consume gluten, including quite a few dedicated gluten-free breweries across the United States. Whether living a gluten-free lifestyle or not, we always recommend supporting independent craft beer above buying mass-produced domestic beer. So, pick up a delicious gluten-free beer, and rejoice that once again craft breweries have saved the day with good beer. Cheers!
Thanks for Reading!
Did we miss your favorite gluten free beer? Let us know in the comments and we’ll add it to the article! Do you still have questions about gluten free beer or anything else beer and brewing related? Leave a comment below or post in the forums! The BrewTogether Community is made up of an awesome group of homebrewers around the world that are always supportive and happy to help answer your questions!
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