Which beers are safest for the grain-free lifestyle?

Football games, tailgating and beer always seem to go hand in hand. This can be problematic when you are adhering to a grain-free lifestyle. Virtually all ales, beers, malt liquors, and lagers are brewed from grains. Thus, there are measurable grain protein residues present in most beers— generally 1 to 2 grams per 12 ounces. This is not a lot, but it’s enough to stimulate appetite, provoke inflammation, and initiate autoimmunity.

People with celiac disease or the most extreme forms of gluten sensitivity should avoid beers altogether, except those designated gluten-free (though I have my doubts about even the gluten-free products, since all are brewed from the seeds of grasses). If a beer is designated gluten-free, no gliadin or gluten should be present (the official cutoff is fewer than 20 parts per million), but there is still potential for uncertain reactions from other grain proteins. Those who do not have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity seem to do okay with beers brewed from sorghum and rice but which also include barley malt, though you may have to experiment and see how your body reacts to these beers before you decide whether or not to consume them regularly.

Of all alcoholic beverages, beer is the most hazardous, so be careful. If you must drink it, here are a few of the least problematic brews.

Bard’s gluten-free beers. Brewed from sorghum without barley, this beer is truly gluten-free. As with many gluten-free beers, however, it’s high in carbs, and therefore you should not drink more than one per day (14.2 g carbohydrates per 12-ounce bottle).

Bud Light and Michelob Ultra. Bud Light, made by Anheuser-Busch, is brewed from rice but also contains barley malt. The most severely gluten-sensitive people should therefore not indulge in this beer because of the gluten content. But most of us who are just avoiding wheat but who aren’t gluten-sensitive can safely consume this brand without exposing ourselves to the undesirable effects of grains. One 12-ounce bottle contains 6.6 g of carbohydrates. Michelob Ultra is likewise brewed from rice with barley malt. It is also low in carbohydrates, with 2.6 g per 12-ounce serving.

Redbridge. Redbridge is brewed from sorghum and is not brewed with wheat or barley. It is therefore confidently gluten-free, though it’s still brewed from the seed of a grass. The carbohydrate content is a bit high at 16.4 g per bottle; have more than one beer and the carbohydrates begin to stack up.

Green’s gluten-free beers. UK brewer Green’s provides several gluten-free choices made from sorghum, millet, buckwheat, brown rice, and “deglutenised” barley malt. They are not grain-free and have low quantities of grain proteins. So tread carefully here, and make judgments based on your individual experience. The carbohydrate content of these beers is slightly less than most others, ranging from 10 to 14 g per 330-ml bottle.

In addition to these choices, I have seen some microbreweries starting to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Look for beers brewed from chicory and other ingredients. Enjoy and may the best team win!

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Dr. William Davis

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