Gluten-free beer is the new norm for beer geeks, globally. Even celiac and gluten intolerant can enjoy it sans any condition-specific discomfort, post-drinking. But, what is gluten-free brewing? Let’s explore it with regards to ingredients, processes and technicalities involved.
What Is Gluten?
Before getting into the dynamics of gluten-free brewing, let’s discuss what gluten is all about. Gluten is a group of proteins of the same family. You find them in cereals, notably wheat, rye and barley. The protein is a part of the seed, providing nourishment to the plant embryo at the time of germination. When the seed is grounded to make flour, the role of gluten diversifies. Now, the dough’s elasticity directly links to gluten and so is the chewiness of baked eatables. That’s because gluten serves as an adhesive agent to keep the eatable together.
Gluten is courting controversy, mainly for its ability to trigger an autoimmune response in celiac. For starters, the celiac disorder is an autoimmune condition. Herein, the body considers gluten as an invader and mounts a host defence in response. When that happens, the lining of the gut suffers severe damage, leading to anaemia, nutrition deficiencies and other conditions.
What Is A Gluten-Free Beer?
Gluten-free beer is exactly what it means, a beer without gluten. Thus, it’s brewed from grains devoid of gluten, including, but not limited to, rice, corn, millet and buckwheat. It tastes just fine and is safe for people with celiac disorder and other gluten tolerance issues. This beer type is a staple gluten-free diet, along with meats, poultry, fruits, legumes, and more.
Gluten In Beer:
What is gluten in beer is an open-ended, country-specific question. Technically, any beer with 20 parts per million (PPM) or less of gluten is considered gluten-free beer in Europe and Canada. However, a beer with similar gluten levels is defined as a “gluten-reduced” in the US. The term, gluten-free beer is a misnomer, as there’s gluten in across all gluten-free certified beers, in insignificant quantities though. Brewers brewing gluten-free beer have to test each batch for gluten and document the gluten intensity in PPM.
A stock standard beer features 30 PPM of gluten. Brewers swap about 30% of the base malt with zero-gluten malts to keep the gluten levels below the 20 PPM mark. That’s a standard gluten-free brewing technique. Among all zero-gluten cereal crops used as malt for brewing, buckwheat malts is the commonest. Although buckwheat is zero-gluten, it’s prone to cross-contamination when the seed is split open. Castle Malting, the world’s leading malt-house malts the buckwheat without breaking the grain-free, and ship it to the brewery. With the elimination of cross-contamination, the malt-house need not certify its buckwheat to be gluten-free.
Is Gluten A Passing Fad?
Is gluten-free beer a fad? Perhaps yes. Specifications may vary, but it takes around 300 mg of gluten to trigger an adverse reaction in individuals with gluten tolerance issues. Now, the gluten levels in a standard beer are way below the danger mark. Let’s break it up!
- 1 PPM = 1 part in 100000
- 1 Litre = 1000 Millilitre
- 1 Gram = 1000 Milligrams
- Water density: 1 Gram = 1 Millilitre
- Therefore, PPM/Litre = 1000000 parts of a Litre
One litre of standard beer contains 30 Mg gluten. You can drink at least 10 litres of beer without bothering about ill-effects. That’s a lot of beer for an individual to drink!
How To Brew Gluten-Free Beer?
Gluten-free brewing has much more to it than what meets the eye. Yet, you can consider it as a DIY project. When brewing with buckwheat, you need rice husks, artificial amylase enzyme, and of course buckwheat. Lautering is an issue, as no husks are involved. Here, rice acts as an external lautering aid. Artificial amylase enzyme provides the needed Diastatic power. As you are brewing pure buckwheat, no speciality malts are required.