Gluten allergy got you down? We’ve lined up a few g-free brews to cure—or, at least, help you temporarily forget—what ales you.
Team Gluten has experienced some deflating setbacks of late. Health Canada now estimates that about one in every 100 Canadians suffers from celiac disease, a serious autoimmune reaction to gluten; many more remain undiagnosed. Factor in a rash of diet tomes (like 2012 bestseller Wheat Belly) and celebs like Miley Cyrus—who slagged the substance as “crapppp” on Twitter—and you’ve got widespread vilification of the protein found in wheat, barley, and, most importantly, the vast majority of tasty beers.
Tapping into this glutenous backlash, the LCBO now stocks a modest selection of g-free brews. While these alternative ales tout their wheatless bases—corn, rice, and millet, for instance—four of the six choices on the LCBO’s shelves are actually made primarily with sorghum syrup, derived from a plentiful African grass. They’re shockingly appealing to the taste.
Using the same building block lends the beers similar characteristics—a sweet, honey-like base and a light, almost watery feel. One of the best options is St. Peter’s G-Free, a crisp pilsner with bold orange-peel bitterness. The runner-up, Quebec’s La Messagère Rousse, is made with buckwheat and rice syrup, and is akin to a boozy Dr. Pepper.
A recent arrival in the g-free game, Toronto’s Snowman Brewing is a two-man DIY malting outfit with a custom machine that toasts a range of grains, which allows the company to pump out everything from blondes to stouts. The first exclusively gluten-free malters in Canada have experienced their share of broken equipment and long delays, but Snowman’s Top Hat Amber Ale is expected to be released, at long last, before the end of 2013—probably in early fall.
For Snowman co-founder Kevin Snow, the anti-gluten movement might be a blessing in disguise. “We knew there would be problems along the way,” he says, “but brewing with all grain [instead of syrup] is the way to make beer.”
Some of the best selections for Toronto’s celiac beer lovers can actually be found at the bar. Mongozo, an organic Dutch pilsner, is on tap at Parkdale’s The Rhino. And beers by Montreal’s Glutenberg, which swept the gluten-free category at this year’s World Beer Cup, are sold by the bottle at watering holes like Bar Volo and Richmond Station. So whether you’ve gone gluten-free by choice or out of necessity, your beer universe is rapidly expanding—and getting better, to boot.
Gluten-free tasting notes
Nickel Brook Gluten Free, Ont.
Piney bitterness with a pear-cider twist.
$2.95/473 mL can, LCBO.
Lakefront New Grist, U.S.A.
Light and fruity; more like a cider than a beer.
Bard’s Gold, U.S.A.
Buttery croissant taste with a light, watery feel.
Do you have any recommendations for quality gluten-free beers? Let us know in the comments section below.