Ben Stange on May 15, 2015 0 Comments Gluten-free diets are becoming far more commonplace these days, and for a lot of beer drinkers, that can be very bad news. The selection of gluten-free beer available in the market is very limited, and, unless you happen to have a sympathetic craft brewer in your town, not particularly flavorful. Home brewing, however, can offer an elegant solution to the gluten-free beer drinker. Whether you are suffering from Celiac disease or you are gluten-free for other reasons, brewing your own gluten-free beer is a fun and enjoyable way to enjoy a delicious beer without destroying your diet (or your health). What is Gluten? Because some readers of this article may not be familiar with celiac disease and gluten-free dieting, I’ll elaborate a little: gluten is a generic term for storage proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Eating these proteins triggers an immune reaction in the body, which then attacks the intestines, causing severe abdominal discomfort and many other dreadful symptoms. Some people may also be avoiding gluten for other reasons. Some people suffer from gluten intolerance, while others avoid gluten for other health reasons. A celiac sufferer’s only option is to avoid all products made with barley, wheat, rye (or any of the other grains which contain gluten). Because beer is traditionally made from barley, wheat, or rye, as well as a few other ingredients, it is typically off the menu for anyone that suffers from celiac disease or following a gluten-free diet. While there are now more options than ever when it comes to buying gluten-free beer, the selection is still pretty limited. Not only does this mean gluten-free beer can be hard to find in some areas, it may actually cost more to buy it. Because of this, many celiac sufferers have turned to brewing their own beer. Brewing a Better Gluten-Free Beer To help those that suffer from celiac disease, here’s a link to my favorite recipe for gluten-free pale ale. We’ll use this recipe as an example for this article. In creating this recipe, I settled on several criteria that would make this as approachable and easy-to-brew as possible for a beginning brewer while still resulting in a delicious beer. To that end, I settled on the following criteria: The Ingredients are Readily Available: This gluten-free pale ale recipe calls for some specialty grains that may not be readily available at your local homebrew shop. If not, you can try visiting a local health food store for the grains or look for them online. There are many companies out there that give you the opportunity to buy homebrew supplies online, including hard-to-find ingredients. It is Easy to Brew: A newcomer to brewing should be able to pick this recipe up and start with it. It’s an “extract with grains” recipe, and most of the equipment needed to brew this recipe is likely already in your kitchen. If not, you can easily buy everything you need in a pre-packaged equipment kit. If you are a celiac sufferer who has never before brewed a batch of beer, this pale ale recipe is a great recipe to start with. It Tastes Like Beer: I know this sounds weird, but some gluten-free beers don’t taste particularly “beery” to regular beer drinkers. They don’t taste bad, but they may not be very flavorful, either, or they may have a different flavor due to the grains used. Finally, it has to be Drinkable: This pale ale recipe was created to produce a beer any beer fan would be happy to have in his fridge whenever they might want one. There are a lot of recipes for brewing gluten-free beers which require malting unusual grains. We’ll not be doing any of that. Malting is a several-day, time consuming process by itself, and would achieve inconsistent results when done outside of a malting facility. This recipe is easy and repeatable by design. A common base malt for gluten-free recipes is sorghum malt extract, which is available at local homebrew shops and online sources. It is as easy to use as any malt extract, and it makes good beer. To add more depth to the flavor of the beer, we would recommend toasting your own grains prior to brewing. Rinsing and then toasting the grains will bring out some additional flavors. In addition, the beer will get the majority of its color from the specialty grains. Adjusting Your Recipes As you adjust the recipe to your taste over time, you can change how you toast the grains to bring out different flavors. Toasting them at a higher temperature will add more color and toasty flavors, but may reduce the sweetness and similarity to crystal malt you may get from lower temperatures. Toasting at a low temperature for longer time makes the grain sweeter without adding a bunch of roasty flavors. Typically, gluten-free beers are crystal clear due to the lower quantity of proteins that would cause haze. After you brew your first batch, you can adjust the toasting in future batches to achieve the color and flavor you are looking for. In addition, you can swap out several of the specialty grains with other grains. For instance, when I cannot find one of the key ingredients, I often add millet, which has a nice barley-like flavor.