Sunday, May 20, 2007

Beer and Celiacs

Yesterday, my family and I took part in the 6th Annual International Walk for Celiac Disease. My niece has Celiac disease and this walk is a great way to support her and help raise funds to support research of the disease. Most of the funds raised go to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.

Very briefly, Celiac disease is autoimmune disorder that is caused by the ingestion of gluten. Gluten is made up of a number of proteins, but the main player seems to be gliadin. The main source of gluten is from wheat, but there are similar proteins found in rye and barley (more on this later).

There is no cure for the disease, but it can be treated with a gluten-free diet. That's the good news. The bad news is that it takes a lot of effort to avoid gluten. Anything made from wheat is out, and a lot of things are made from wheat. While it is tough, with a bit of education and training, people with Celiac disease can live completely normal lives.

The annual Celiac walk is quite the event. Over 1000 people show up, many of whom have Celiacs, but I would bet most do not but are there to support family members who have it. At the Minneapolis event, Rich Gannon (2002 NFL MVP) is Honorary Host. There are tons of food vendors giving away free samples of gluten-free foods. There are door prizes, raffles and then of course, the 5K walk. It is a lot of fun.

So, what does this have to do with beer? Well, beer is made from barley. For a person with Celiacs, that means barley beer is off the menu. Even a small amount of gluten can cause significant issues. The good news is that there is an alternative to beer made from barley. The alternative is sorghum.

Gluten-free beer can be made from sorghum. Beer made from sorghum is common in Africa where sorghum is a common crop, but until recently, beer made from sorghum has been rare. In addition, gluten-free beer made exclusively from sorghum has been very rare.

At the Celiacs walk yesterday, a vendor was supplying samples of Redbridge beer. Redbridge is made by Anheuser-Busch. I tried a few samples. My first impression was that it was not too bad. It had a decent flavor, but it lacked a malty body (it is from AB after all). It was also lacking in hoppiness, but that is normal for the macrobrews. I'm going to see if I can find some in my area. I need more that 2 ounces to get a good feel for it.

Homebrewing gluten-free beer
is challenging, but entirely possible. It carries with it some unique challenges, but so did "normal" homebrewing back in the early days. I don't brew gluten-free beer, so I have no insights to give (sorry to anyone who googled "gluten-free beer" and got this blog).


Anonymous said...

Anheiser-Bush has a pavillon in Seaworld in Orlando and they serve free beer there (as much as you can handle, but in 150mL tasting size. About 6 different kinds. That means lots of rounds - but the line was short and it made my dad slower but happier in that park.

Anheiser Bush bought few small breweries and is now promoting them here in Florida (although the price is bit too high). Stone Mill was a microbrewery acquired by A.B. and their IPA was quite good, something I would not be embarassed to offer it to a guest at my home. I think I tried the sorgum brew there also and it was less awesome and too light but stil respectable.

But my favorite micro-like major brand is Sam Adams, the brewmasters selection. Three bottles can put me to sleep with smile on my face every time.

MJenks said...

Have you tried the Sorghum beer from Lakefront (I think it's in's available in Indiana and also, recently, in North would think that Minnesota would have been a more likely choice than either of the first two). I had it last summer. Overall, it was a bit cloying on my palate, but then, I prefer dry beers with lots of hops. The sweetness was an artifact from brewing with Sorghum, I'm sure, but the end product was drinkable. A friend of mine tried it and really liked it. He, too, is a homebrewer and is thinking of trying to make a clone of it.

I could have just provided the name and the link, I guess.

New Grist:

Chemgeek said...

I have not tried that. I will try to track it down. My brother works at a liquor store and should be able to tell if anyone sells it in the area. Thanks for the tip.

I don't need gluten-free beer, but I am greatly intrigued by the idea of beer made from sorghum. It makes me think of how the chemistry may differ.

Chemgeek said...


I love Sam Adams. They make some great stuff even if it is on a larger scale than a typical microbrew.

MJenks said...

I like to think of Sam Adams as the marijuana of the microbrew world: you can get it anywhere, it's relatively inexpensive, and it's a gateway to bigger and better things.

This'll sound fruity (heh), but I was blown away the first time I tried a Cherry Wheat. I had just polished off a Grolsch and decided to try something a little different. It was different, and it was good.

I know you're not in need of the gluten-free beer, but I thought I'd pimp something other than A-B's stuff.

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