In the past few years, gluten-free has gone from food fad to a bona fide beer category. Set aside the scientific debate about whether non-celiac gluten intolerance is a real thing; it’s an indisputable fact that a good third of Americans report they’re eating less of the grain protein. And when Anheuser-Busch gets into the rapidly growing $1 billion gluten-free-food game, it’s safe to say that suds without wheat are here to stay.
Sadly, many gluten-free beers downright suck. Barley and wheat (both of which contain gluten protein) are the principal grains used in traditional brewing; they provide the structure and flavor that are missing in many gluten-free beers. Part of the problem is that mass-produced gluten-free beers tend to depend primarily on sorghum, a cereal grass, as their base ingredient. And beer that is too reliant on sorghum often has an overabundance of sweetness and fruit flavors. Despite this, a number of gluten-free beers stand out as worth drinking for the taste alone, their brewers having dialed in flavor profiles that boast a beerlike balance of bitter, sweet and sharp.
People who suffer from celiac disease should never experiment with anything that contains gluten, but we do have a beer drinker’s hack for limiting intake of the ingredient: Stick with Corona, which, it turns out, is made from rice and corn as well as malted barley, bringing the gluten content below the 20 parts per million threshold that Sweden uses as its gauge of gluten-free. For a more artisanal experience, try the four brews at right—the best gluten-free alternatives to your favorite style of beer.
FOR THE LAGER-LOVING LAD
Estrella Damm Daura
If you prefer classic Euro-style lagers (think Stella, Heineken, Peroni), try Spain’s Estrella Damm Daura, a malty, easy-drinking, medium-bodied alternative to the standard stuff. It has a tinge of sweetness true to the category.
FOR THE STOUT SIPPER
Steadfast Beer Co. Oatmeal Cream Stout
The first and only gluten-free stout in America, this offering from Albany-based Steadfast Beer Co. is rich, nearly jet-black and full of the delicious toffee, coffee, chocolate and slightly sweet flavors that stout lovers expect.
FOR THE EXPERIMENTALIST
Dogfish Head Tweason’ale
Many gluten-free beers mimic other styles, but craft-beer pioneer Dogfish Head developed this one-of-a-kind fruit-forward brew made from strawberries, sorghum and honey. Think of it as a beerlike twist on rosé wine.
FOR THE HOP HEAD
Glutenberg India Pale Ale
Fans of super-bitter IPAs will rejoice over the high hop content of this Canadian brand’s award-winning beer, which has a score of 76 IBUs (international bitterness units). It also has an IPA’s trademark citrusy, lip-smacking refreshment factor.