I consider myself a lucky girl. My love of beer isn't constrained by allergies or sensitivities, and I knock on my big wooden butcher block every morning that I can taste without impunity.
The thing is, everyone should be so lucky. And as a professional beer drinker with a fair number of friends who have (by necessity or free will) taken gluten out of their diets over the past few years, believe me, I've heard all the complaints about the attempts to find a truly decent gluten-free brew.
Happily, it seems like creativity and technology are finally catching up to beer lovers' tastebuds—no doubt compounded by the growing market for anything and everything that's edible, drinkable, and gluten-free. Brewers are pushing themselves to use alternative grains and fermentable ingredients that play well with hops and yeast, and I can say with certainty that there are now a number of gluten-free beers out there that don't suck.
Some of the gluten-free beer offerings on the shelves taste amazingly identical to their gluten-full counterparts, while others go for unexpectedly original flavor profiles that are still completely satisfying to craft beer fans. Here are six of the best I've tried, including a few under-the-radar brews that are worth seeking out.
Six Gluten-Free Beers You'll Love
- In the ultimate blind taste test, Harvester Brewing's roster of IPAs would pass with flying colors in the "I can't believe it's gluten free!" category. This Oregon brewery boasts a completely gluten-free lineup of ales that use chestnuts and buckwheat as part of the brewing process. This curious alchemy results in a rotation of creamy and hoppy beers that any (non-nut-allergic) beer nerd would be happy to drink.
- Likewise, the Belgian brewery Green's dedicates its entire output to the gluten-free sphere, and each of its ales showcases the hallmarks of great Belgian ales. The award-winning Quest Tripel, with millet, buckwheat, rice, and sorghum, has the signature spicy fruitiness of the style, giving it clean sweetness without a metallic aftertaste.
- Those who have become accustomed to drinking cider instead of beer will find a happy medium in Dogfish Head's Tweason'ale — brewed with sorghum syrup, buckwheat honey and strawberries, it's lightly fruity with a snappy bite. This is a porch-drinking beer if there ever was one; bonus points if there's a cool breeze and a lake involved too.
- New Planet, a Colorado brewery also solely devoted to gluten-free (and GMO-free) beer is justly proud of its brown ale, which comes through with a sweet palate of cocoa, coffee, and molasses. But the brewery turns out a range of gluten-free ale styles, from raspberry to amber to blonde to my favorite of the bunch, the seasonal orange and cinnamon-spiced Belgian ale.
- Element Brewing calls Plasma, the Massachusetts brewery's gluten-free offering, a "sake - IPA." It's an apt name for a slightly cloudy ale with floral hop notes that's a great pairing for Asian foods. Element only brews in large-format bottles, so split this 9% ABV over a plate of pad Thai with a friend or two.
- Geary's IXNAY pale ale is a beer meant for pairing with cheeseburgers, and its crisply bitter but malty profile may be due to the fact that it uses a popular enzyme process to break down the gluten in barley and wheat. According to Geary's, each batch is tested to keep gluten percentages below the FDA threshold, but it's something the truly gluten-allergic should be aware of before trying this Maine beer.
Have you found any gluten-free beers that make your head spin with happiness?
(Image credits: Casey Barber)