It can be hard to find good gluten-free beer. Brands that are 100% gluten-free use grains like sorghum, rice, buckwheat, quinoa, and millet. Unfortunately, it can be hard to mimic the taste of “real” beer without the flavour of barley. (Montréal-based Glutenberg is our favourite, and pretty easy to find in Nova Scotia. Other parts of the country and the U.S. have far more options, such as Mongozo, Green’s, and New Planet.)
Another, more controversial, method of making gluten-free beer is to make beer in the traditional way (with barley) and then treat it to remove the gluten. U.S.-based brewery Omission does this, as well as the Spanish brewery Estrella Damm Daura. Both take great lengths to assure consumers of the safety of their products: Estrella Damm Daura is marketed as “suitable for Celiacs” and Omission tests each batch and puts the results on each bottle, with a QR code that takes you to a more detailed report.
Some Celiacs feel that it’s dangerous to consume anything that originally contained gluten, but there are other products (like wheat glucose and blue cheese) that are manufactured to remove gluten. What sold me on Omission is their Celiac CEO, who has been testing their products for years.
Michael recently started making homemade beer and decided to look into how Omission makes their beer gluten-free. It turns out that it’s a fairly simple process: they add Brewer’s Clarex to the beer during the initial stages. This product (originally designed to clarify beer) somehow binds to gluten enzymes and breaks them down. We decided to give the process a try at home. We purchased a West Coast IPA Festa Brew kit from Noble Grape ($45), 10 mL of Clarity Ferm from Ontario Beer Kegs ($4.50 + shipping), and a GlutenTox test ($29.95 for two, plus shipping), which is designed to measure the gluten content in parts per million.
We added 10 mL to the 23 litre kit right when we added our yeast. (It’s recommended to add 5 mL for a 19 litre, or 5 gallon, kit. Since our kit was slightly larger, we decided to add the full 10 mL to ensure good results. You may also need more than this amount if you are brewing a darker beer, like a stout or porter.) Other than that, we followed all the regular kit steps.
After two weeks of fermentation, we took a sample and performed the GlutenTox test. Our first test was for 20 parts per million or less, to meet the Health Canada standard.
The test was negative, meaning our beer was low enough in gluten to meet the Canadian and U.S. standard! We decided to perform a second test for five parts per million. This one was negative too, meeting the world’s strictest gluten-free standard.
I decided to perform one final test: human trials. I find that I am extremely sensitive to barley in particular, so if there was any trace of gluten left I knew my stomach would start burning within five minutes of consuming the sample.
I am extremely happy to report that I had no ill effects from the beer. The only unfortunate thing is that I have to wait a week or two for carbonation to be complete… but after that, I can’t wait to enjoy a delicious homemade gluten-free beer.