Gluten Free?

September 20, 2012

This weekend, Cow Thieves Brewery, is back at it again, this time working on our very first wheat beer batches. We’ve got a few interesting flavor profiles we will experiment with (Coriander / Bitter Orange and Lemongrass / Grapefruit), but one thing is for sure, our wheat free friends will have to hold off until the next round of brewing. Sorry Wheat Free Sarah…

But this got me thinking. I’ve been hearing more and more about gluten-free beers that are coming into the market place to capture up the ever-growing market of gluten avoiding beer lovers. If you aren’t familiar with the gluten-free on-goings these days, the majority of the awareness has come from the more readily diagnosed Celiac disease. Celiac disease is essentially an auto-immune response to certain peptides (found in gluten) that has some pretty nasty symptoms. The only real remedy is to completely avoid gluten.  An important distinction however, is that Celiac Disease and a wheat allergy are not interchangeable. So…there are some folks out there that avoid wheat, but eat other sources of gluten without problem.

So with my handy-dandy chemistry background in tow, I had always assumed that those that did suffer from Celiac, should skip the beer and go straight to liquor. And after a little double checking, celiac-disease.com confirmed my suspicion that all distilled products are indeed gluten-free. That in fact, the distillation process leaves behind those nasty proteins causing all the problems. But then I went back to my Google search and found a few interesting rebuttals. There are quite a few folks who claim to have had not so great reactions to wheat based distillates like many vodkas on the market. So maybe this isn’t so clear after all…

One important comment I read was essentially “why risk it?”. With so many alternative choices out there producing non-wheat based vodkas for example, Chopin from potatoes and Ciroc from Grapes, what’s the point in drinking the others.  But that still limits you at weddings, happy hours, dinner parties, and I’m not so sure I’m convinced one way or the other. So I’m leaving it up to you Gluten-Free readers. What do you do when choosing liquor? Have you ever had a bad reaction to a wheat based vodka?



  1. I’m allergic to wheat and sadly have to forego beer (except barley wine). I haven’t had any problem with vodka and usually drink Absolut (which is made from grain), but then again, I don’t have Celiacs. Either way, I love it when I walk into a bar and it has gluten-free beer! Perhaps Cow Thieves can work on a GF beverage?!

  2. Hey Ricky! Your trusty friend and Health Coach Angie here: I myself suffer from a GLUTEN allergy. Not just a wheat allergy, those other grains that you mentioned often give me problems. That being said, I am not Celiac, and if I consume those grains with gluten, I don’t risk permanent damage, only a few days of mild to moderate discomfort. Last fall I had to give up beer (which is honestly the worst thing I’ve had to give up!!!) and I’ve been left with ciders ranging from overly-sweet to pretty good, wine, and hard alcohols. I personally have a mild allergy, and therefore alcohols distilled from gluten-containing grains don’t make me sick, just tipsy. However, friends and family members with more serious allergies or Celiac’s Disease always opt for the potato vodka, which it seems is the most common gluten-free spirit option out there in our small(ish) town. Recently my beer-loving boyfriend accidentally picked up a 4 pack of GF microbrews (after frequently bashing GF beers) and only realized that is was GF after I pointed it out. So maybe the world of gluten-free beers is getting bigger and better, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to drink beer again without discomfort. HUGS! -Angie

    • Hey Angie! Thanks for the input and glad to hear that GF beers are coming around. Sounds like things are going real well at leionthewater.wordpress.com!!!! So glad to see it!

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