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Identifying Gluten-Free Alcohols

The gluten-free movement is gaining momentum as more people are diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance or simply choose to avoid consuming gluten. But many people who are following a gluten-free diet still want to enjoy a beer or cocktail.

Gluten is a protein found in foods processed from wheat, including barley and rye. Conventional beer and many other alcohols are made from those three grains, so these drinks contain gluten. Bourbon must be 51 percent corn, which is gluten-free. But the rest of the mash — up to 49 percent — comes from wheat, barley, and rye, so avoid bourbon if you’re avoiding gluten.

Most wines and rums are gluten free, along with vodkas made from potatoes. Tequila from the blue agave plant is naturally gluten-free. But some tequilas are considered mixto, or not entirely from the blue agave plant. So if the label doesn’t say “100-percent agave,” the tequila isn’t gluten-free! Gin, whiskey, and Scotch don’t contain gluten. But best to consult your doctor and the labels!

When seeking gluten-free alcohol, do your homework. Call the manufacturer or go online and try to figure out whether the alcohol you want to consume is made from wheat, barley, or rye. If it is, stay away from it.

You can’t depend on ingredients labels on bottles of alcohol to list every ingredient. Alcohol manufacturers aren’t required to list their ingredients the same way food manufacturers are. So just because you don’t see one of the gluten grains listed on the label doesn’t mean the product is gluten-free.

Gluten-free beers are increasingly popular. Here are some options:

  • Anheuser-Busch Redbridge

  • Bard’s Tale Beer

  • Dogfish Head Tweason’ale

  • Green’s Amber Ale

  • New Grist

  • New Planet Beer Company

  • Nickel Brook Gluten Free

  • Schnitzerbräu

Another option is gluten-free ciders. These are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, so more brands are sure to follow:

  • Angry Orchard

  • Crispin

  • Stella Artois Cidre

  • Strongbow

  • Woodchuck

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