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Published on December 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Is it gluten-free or gluten-reduced?

There’s a steadily growing market for gluten-free beer, which allows everyone with an allergy or intolerance to wheat products to enjoy a perfect pint of craft ale. But what do we mean by “gluten-free” and should some beers carrying that tag actually be referred to as “gluten-reduced”?

People with coeliac disease – a reaction of the immune system to gluten, the protein found in many grains – and others who are allergic to wheat, barley and rye can still enjoy good beer, but there is a difference in how they are produced.

A gluten-free beer uses grains which are naturally free of gluten in the fermentation process – for example, sorghum or brown rice. In that way, the beer does not have any gluten in it from start to finish. A gluten-removed beer uses wheat, barley, or rye to ferment and make the beer, which then undergoes a process to remove the gluten using enzymes to break it down into smaller fragments which theoretically would not induce an immune response in the person who drinks it.

Co Durham-based Autumn Brewing was the first brewing company in the UK to brew all its beers and lagers domestically using only naturally gluten-free grain brewing malts containing rice, millet and buckwheat, plus quinoa. It has won several awards for its pioneering gluten-free work.

Many breweries are adding gluten-reduced options to their range – not just to satisfy the demands of this group of beer lovers, but also because it’s a fairly simple process to remove gluten while the brew is clarifying.

Brewers are always looking at efficient and cost-effective products to use which offer greatly reduced gluten content as an extra benefit. SE Brew Clear from NicheSolutions (NicheSolutionsGB.co.uk) is one of a number of ways of clarifying beer without affecting its flavour or aroma.

As an added service, the company can also arrange for a sample of a particular brew to be tested by international medical diagnostics provider Synlab, with a certificate of UKAS accreditation.


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Alastair Gilmour



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