March 13, 2019
The Official Guide to Gluten-Free Homebrewing
Note: In this article, we distinguish between gluten-free beer and celiac-safe beer. Not all food products considered "gluten-free" are safe for celiacs to consume. If you (or one of your friends) is celiac, please take extra precaution.
Beer is not gluten-free. Barley, the base of most beers, contains gluten, as do wheat, spelt, and rye. Unfortunately, this fact presents a very real roadblock to those who love beer but suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
But fear not! Gluten-free homebrewing is not only possible, it's also a fun challenge.
Building Your Recipe
Let's review: beer is malt, hops, yeast, and water. Those last three ingredients are all 100% gluten free. The only part of your recipe you need to change is the malt. So, what is malt? At its core, malt supplies the sugar that yeast consume to make alcohol. Gluten-free beer, then, requires a gluten-free fermentable.
We recommend that you choose your fermentable first, then build the rest of the recipe around that base. This method both prioritizes the drink's gluten-free nature and gives you ample room to play with flavor and aroma. Experimentation is the best part of homebrewing, after all.
Let's jump into a few key gluten-free players.
We carry a mix of products that will help you brew gluten-free beer that still looks, tastes, and (mouth)feels like beer. Let's start with white sorghum.
Ever heard of sorghum? This crop is native to Africa, Asia, and many parts of the Pacific. According to the Whole Grains Coucil, sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world. It's also 100% gluten free. If you want to try brewing with it, find white sorghum malt extract here.
You're probably familiar with sake, which we call rice wine in English. This is actually a misnomer. Sake is brewed like beer, not wine. Rice is another naturally gluten-free grain.
Rice beer exists across the globe in many forms, particularly in Asian countries where barley doesn't grow natively. The challenge of brewing with just rice is that it doesn't contain the same natural enzymes present in barley that automatically convert starch into sugar during the boil. It needs an added enzyme. Here's an excerpt from our own rice beer experiment:
"A cheap way to do it is to use commercially available amylase enzyme. From what I've read this is, like many cheap solutions, not that great-tasting. I decided to go a more traditional route by using koji, a strain of Aspergillus mold used in making sake and miso... I ended up with very floral aromatics (like lavender or oil of bergamot), a bit of fizz, and smooth, lingering sweetness."
To read our full adventure with rice beer, click here.
We don't recommend fermenting with just Belgian Candi Sugar. However, if you resulting beer is either too light in color or too low in alcohol content for your taste, these little gems are a great way to boost both of those things. Candi sugar is made from beets and completely gluten free.
Gluten-Free Yeast Options
Omega Yeast OYL-071 Lutra™ Kveik - Gluten Free Yeast
Isolated from Omega's Hornindal Kveik (OYL-091) culture, Lutra™ GLUTEN-FREE is shockingly clean with unrivaled speed when pitched at 90°F (32°C). This strain is perfect for brewing a gluten-free hard seltzer, alcopop, mead, cider, or beer!
When paired with Omega Yeast's Propper Seltzer you can achieve a complete Hard Seltzer fermentation in as little as 4 days!
Propper Seltzer™ Yeast Nutrient - Gluten Free
One dose of Omega Yeast's specially formulated gluten-free Propper Seltzer™ nutrient powers your favorite beer yeast through a healthy sugar-based fermentation in as little as 7 days.
Propper Seltzer™ supports your favorite Omega Yeast strains and many other yeast including wine yeast and distilling yeast strains. Not only does it work for seltzer fermentations but it will work for mead, cider, wine, and hard kombucha, or any other non-malt-based fermentation.
The Magic of Clarity Ferm
Clarity Ferm is a gorgeous little enzyme created by White Labs Yeast that reduces the gluten content of beers made with glutinous fermentables. The enzyme is so powerful that it can reduce gluten in barley-based beer to below 20 ppm, which is the national standard for being labeled gluten-free.
In other words, Clarity Ferm can magic your beer to being just as gluten free as any other FDA-approved food product.
WARNING: While Clarity Ferm is a great tool for those with gluten intolerance or who are simply trying to cut gluten out of their diet, it is NOT an acceptable method for those who suffer from serious celiac disease. Do not serve beer made with Clarity Ferm to someone with celiac.
Another excellent option for the gluten-free homebrewer is to play with naturally safe brews, like wine, cider, or kombucha.
Most commonly associated with autumn's apple harvest, homemade hard cider is a fantastic gluten-free drink that can be made at any time of the year. To make your first batch of cider, try one of our all-in-one cider kits.
Mankind's original alcoholic brew. Fermented from pure honey, mead carries a long tradition of gluten-free indulgence. We carry several mead recipe kits to choose from.
Kombucha is fermented probiotic tea with a rich history dating back to ancient China. Many consider its gut-boosting bacteria to do wonders for digestive health. It can be made either lightly alcoholic or alcohol-free.
Try one of our all-in-one kombucha kits to make your first batch a breeze.
You know it. You love it. And now, you can make it.
Want to keep reading?
Begin or continue your homebrew education with Northern Brewer University and our Homebrew Video Courses.