Gluten is a mixture of gliadin and glutenin proteins that are found in wheat, barley and rye, and from the research that I have done, oats are excluded since oats only carry one of these proteins.
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from malted cereal grain (wheat, barley, rye), flavored with hops and fermented. Now while there are root beers (sarsaparilla, and birch), the word Beer is a newer classification most commonly used to group together Ales and Lagers into one category.
So with these definitions working as a baseline for what we are talking about, I think it is pretty easy to see that there is no such thing as Gluten Free Beer, by definition. So until recently the question really was, “do you have a recipe for a gluten free alcoholic beverage that is fermented without the sugars from fruit or honey that has a similar body and flavor to ales or lagers?” Well, that is a mouthful, but we know what you mean, and yes we do. Here is our “house recipe”.
Rice Syrup Solids 2.0lb @ 15min
Light Candi Sugar 1.0lb @ 15min
Malto-Dextrin 8.0oz @ 15min
Cascade Hops 1oz @ 60min
Cascade Hops .5oz @ 30min
Cascade Hops .25oz @ 15min
Cascade Hops .25oz @ 0min
Nottingham Ale Yeast
...But, like many other commercial gluten free products, this is absolutely Gluten Free, but is not what most would think of as Beer. Sorghum is a great base for alcoholic beverages, but it has a fundamentally different taste than barley or wheat, so we add other sugars to mask that flavor a bit and the Malto-Dextrin to simulate the body of an ale. And, until recently this is how Gluten Free beers were built; trying to mix different kinds/amounts of other gluten free sugars to simulate traditional beer. But, for brewers, this landscape has change dramatically over the last couple years.
Clarity-Ferm was originally designed for brewers to fight chill haze, which is a “precipitation of complexed polyphenols and protiens”, that appear while storing your beer cold, but will disappear when the temperature increases. This is just a visual defect of beer, but many people like the look of a nice clear beer, so Clarity-Ferm was designed to fight this unsightly cloudiness. Clarity-Ferm is an enzyme that essentially breaks down proteins, and it just so happens that these same proteins include gliadin and glutenin. The gluten levels of a beer can be lowered to under 20 ppm, which is under the international standards for “Gluten Free”. This means that you can add Clarity-Ferm to ANY homebrew at the start of fermentation (as long as there is no rye) for a drink that is absolutely Beer, but not exactly totally Free of Gluten.
What does this mean for the consumer? What is the best option for a Gluten Free Beer? Well, if you are fundamentally opposed to gluten for dietary reasons that have to do with loose interpretations of what a small portion of ancient homosapiens consumed for survival, then you may have a small inner battle on your hands on what “gluten free” means. However, if you are gluten intolerant, or have Coeliac Disease you are most likely free to drink either the barley based beer or the non-barley based beer without any complications. But with that said, if you are highly allergic to any amount of gluten or maybe even one of the two proteins that make up gluten, which some people are, I would hesitantly try the Clarity-Ferm beer with an EpiPen on hand for any allergic reactions that may occur... along with a ambulance at standby, and a doctor close by, and your Will filled out, and well, you get the point. Try a small sample and be very careful.