Crafted to Remove Gluten: What It Means When It Comes to Gluten Free Beer

gluten-free-beers

Recently, a couple of new “gluten-free” beers have come to market in Philadelphia. Both Omission Beer and Two Brothers Prairie Path Golden Ale are being billed as “crafted to remove gluten.” These beers are brewed with barley but the addition of an enzyme during the brewing process, breaks down the gluten molecule. The enzyme added is a product called Brewers’ Clarex. The additive is used to prevent chill haze, making the beer less cloudy at cold temperatures. But recently the connection between Brewers’ Clarex and breaking down gluten has been discovered. Tests of Omission and Prairie Path have found less than ten parts per million of gluten, below recommended levels for being declared gluten-free.

So is this the magic bullet to bring IPAs back to celiac sufferers? Well that’s where it gets hairy, very hairy. The primary question is about the testing of fermented beverages for gluten. A recent webinar from celiac disease expert Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, about gluten labeling of alcoholic beverages points out some of the complexities in labeling and testing for gluten in alcohol. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has no policy for gluten-free labeling and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has only just issued an interim policy on labeling alcoholic beverages. That policy allows for labeling to state “processed to remove gluten” if a detailed description of the process used to remove gluten is provided and testing results are supplied. These policies are also considered controversial and somewhat lacking. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) points out that the tests currently used for measuring gluten content in foods have not been scientifically validated for use in measuring the gluten content of alcoholic beverages. The NFCA stresses that more research is needed to identify a scientifically validated method for testing gluten content of barley-based, ‘gluten-reduced’ beers.

Anecdotally, we know celiac sufferers who have no problems after drinking Omission beers, Two Brothers Prairie Path Golden Ale or the grandfather of the gluten-removed beers, Estrella Damm DAURA (tested at less than 3 parts of gluten per million) but others have not tolerated the beers. For those who have enjoyed these beers crafted to remove gluten, there may also be a local option. Yards Brewing’s signature beers (Philadelphia Pale Ale, Brawler, ESA and IPA) all have Brewers’ Clarex added during the brewing process. And as such, have greatly reduced amounts of gluten. In fact, these Yards beers have, like Omission and Two Brothers, been tested to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The threshold for the “crafted to remove gluten” label. At this time though, Yards Brewing president, Tom Kehoe tells us that Yards makes no claims that its products are “crafted to remove gluten.” But the process is similar to what Omission and Two Brothers use, though with more consistent testing.

For beer drinkers with celiac disease, these beers “crafted to remove gluten” might be the equivalent to finding the Holy Grail. But to others, who can’t tolerate even this scant amount of gluten, the fear is that these beers might mean less choice at the bar. If a bar only offers one gluten-free option and it’s Omission, then a sensitive celiac sufferer would be out of luck. And another thing to give pause, we’ve seen Two Brothers Prairie Path listed as gluten-free while being served on draft. We wonder what steps have been taken to ensure the beer line hasn’t been contaminated by what was on tap before it.

And as labeling battles drag on, organizations like NFCA will continue to educate gluten-free consumers about the issues related to gluten-free labeling, so they can make informed decisions based on their individual health needs. Even with no obvious symptoms, it is not clear if these low-gluten beers are safe for celiac sufferers. But we’re also bound to see more of these “crafted to remove gluten” beers, maybe even a local one. But these beers aren’t safe for all celiac sufferers and only beers that are brewed without any glycoproteins (gluten) can be considered 100% celiac friendly.

  • BRENDA MCATEE

    i RECENTLY TRIED TO PURCHASE YOUR PRODUCT IN MIDDLEBURY VT. THE FACT THAT IT COST OVER TEN DOLLARS FOR FOUR CANS…MADE ME RECONSIDER. i AM A HARDWORKING SINGLE WOMAN, WITH TYPE ONE DIABETES AND CELIAC DISEASE, WHO LIKES A COLD BEER NOW AND THEN. WAS VER EXCITED TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT, BUT CANNOT AFFORD IT. IT MAY BE DIFF =ERENT IF I COULD BUY A SINGLE CAN TO SEE IF I EVEN LIKE IT. BUT I DO THINK THIS PRICE IS OUTRAGEOUS

  • Catherine Graves

    I recently was at a sushi place in Baltimore and the taps were down so I decided to try the Omission IPA and was pleased to see it was gluten free then I did some research later and emailed them directly and was surprised to find you they were not gluten free. Technically, I have Celiac disease but for some reason I do not have the problems that others have consuming gluten so it all worked out but this is reply I received to my letter on their website:

    “Omission is brewed from malted barley. We add an enzyme during
    fermentation that breaks up the toxic gluten epitope. We test every
    batch using the R5 competitive ELISA and follow the international Codex
    standard of less than 20 ppm gluten. We are committed to transparency
    and using the best science available to measure the gluten content of
    the beer. We are transparent about the ingredients we use to brew
    Omission, the process, the testing and the results. You can view each
    and every bottle’s results at http://www.omissiontests.com
    Furthermore, our CEO and the brewmaster’s wife are both long time
    celiacs. Our CEO enjoys Omission on a regular basis. Omission beer
    would not exist today if it weren’t for our team’s personal mission to
    make more great tasting beer options available to those who need them.
    We label Omission as gluten free in Oregon, where it is brewed. Once the
    beer crosses state lines, we adhere to federal labeling laws. Outside
    of Oregon it is labeled as crafted to remove gluten. It is the same beer
    with two different labels to abide by state and federal regulations.
    Please contact us, should you need any additional information. Thank
    you, -The Omission Team”

    Yeah… it sure is a slippery slope and thankfully I seem to be damage free at 38 but who knows how long it will last and even this little bit of gluten slipping past will be a problem. :/

    • http://ultimateglutenfree.com/ Peter Olins, PhD

      Catherine,

      If you have celiac disease, it is important to maintains a strict gluten-free diet.

      Contrary to a popular myth, physical symptoms are a poor indication of the damage happening in your intestines. This is one case where it is not a good idea to “trust your gut”.

      http://ultimateglutenfree.com/2011/02/celiac-disease-gluten-free-diet/