It’s the summer and what better way to celebrate than by enjoying a cold beer by the pool? But for those with food allergies, finding the right alcoholic beverage isn’t as simple as it seems. From navigating new “gluten-reduced” beer options to the general lack of allergen labeling of alcohol, picking a drink may be harder than you think. Here’s a guide on what to look out for when shopping for alcohol to find allergy-friendly options.
For those with celiac disease or a gluten-sensitivity, most beers, lagers, and even some ciders contain gluten. However, there are gluten-free beer options consisting of millet, sorghum, and rice flooding the market. That being said, being knowledgeable of the differences in gluten labeling on these beers is extremely important.
There are three different meanings: “Dedicated Gluten Free” (the beer was brewed in a facility where gluten never enters which is the safest option against cross-contamination), “Gluten Free” (brewed with gluten-free ingredients), and “Gluten-Reduced” (brewed with gluten, but is reduced with an enzyme and has trace amounts of gluten). If looking for a local KC option, Best Gluten Free Beers recommends Dark Hills Brewery, Anaheuser-Busch’s Redbridge Lager, and Martin City Brewing Company’s Operation: Yoga Pants.
When looking for gluten-free harder alcohol options, there may still be a catch. The article How Allergens Hide in Alcohol adds, “Many distilled spirits are also made with grains but as the allergens are removed during the distillation process, they’re considered suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.” They recommend anyone avoiding gluten to try a potato or grape-based vodka or whiskeys made from sorghum.
The book Gluten Free: The Definitive Resource Guide explains this distilling process and how beverages made with gluten are still able to be considered gluten free as, “the alcohol itself evaporates into special equipment where it cools and forms a pure distilled liquid.”
Free-From Other Food Allergens
The biggest issue among different types of alcohol is the lack of proper ingredient labeling. United States manufacturers aren’t required to list ingredients on alcoholic beverages. According to Food Allergy and Drinking: How to Socialize Without Brewing Up Trouble, “In the United States, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) does not cover alcohol ingredient labels.”
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that has the responsibility for determining the regulations of alcohol labeling. On the TTB website, an interim rule was published in 2006 that allows “the voluntary labeling of major food allergens on the labels of wines, distilled spirits, and malt beverages.” This interim rule covers the presence of milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans. But until this rule shifts from voluntary to mandatory, those affected by allergens must continue to be cautious.
For anyone wanting access to further resources to find allergen-friendly alcoholic beverages and breweries, try Barnivore.