Is Gluten-Free The New N/A, Low-Carb, Light Beer?
I love how mankind has a habit of bending nature to submit to our will. From genetically modifying our crop seeds to seeding clouds to make more rain for those crops, when nature doesn’t fit into the scheme, we tweak it. Part of me is being highly sarcastic, but another part marvels without judgment. This goes double for what we are able to do to nature’s best gift: beer. For millennia, beer has been brewed with grains, herbs or spices, water, and—whether the brewer knew it or not—microorganisms called yeast. Drink enough and it can make us happy. Drink too much and it makes us unhappy. Drink too much without proper exercise and it makes us fat.
To combat this, some chemists and brewers have created non-alcoholic (N/A) beer that, IMHO, only makes sense for alcoholics (from whom I’ve given up the argument that they should just drink other beverages instead of soft drinks made to taste beer-like). To combat beer bellies, there’s beer with far fewer carbohydrates and calories that natural beer contains. This only makes sense for people who play beer pong and the like.
But nowadays, some people suffer from Celiac Disease (1 in 133 Americans) or are in some way gluten-intolerant. Drink regular beer and they will surely get sick. As such, there is a growing market for gluten-free beers. Instead of traditional cereals like barley, they’re generally made from sorghum and/or buckwheat. Tragically for the glutarded, most are unpalatable. (Dogfish Head added a strawberry field however, to their sorghum-based Tweason’ale, for a resulting beer-juice hybrid. Portland’s Harvester adds chestnut flour and tons of hops to make their GF beers tasty. Also from Portland, Widmer Bros. just launched the Omission brand of authentic flavored beers made from real barley malt but filtered to the point it features less than 20 parts per million making it as gluten-free as N/A beers that are 0.5 percent ABV or less.)
Which is why it kills me that there’s a growing segment of the population who are not Celiacs, who are not allergic to gluten, but who merely adopt a GF diet because they think it’s healthier. Newflash: It’s not the gluten in cinnamon buns that are making you flabby, it’s the sugar, carbs and butter!
I overheard a guy talking about how he was going to start a gluten-free brewery, so I struck up a conversation with him. Here’s all I needed to hear: A) he isn’t gluten intolerant; B) he’s never homebrewed. Here he is proselytizing the gluten-free lifestyle—just like many people I’ve encountered—without understanding the basic tenets of what it means to be truly allergic to gluten. My guess is these are the same people who’d rather suffer through four 64-calorie beers than one delicious 264-calorie brew.