Gluten Free Drinking, 2 posts for the price of one!

It has been hot in Seattle, and not just a warm spring hot, but 80’s and 90’s HOT. Of course my family was in Seattle this weekend, so instead of finding a cool corner of my house and hiding from the sun, like any normal person, we were out and about in the city doing touristy things. So, I know I promised 2 posts last week, and didn’t deliver. I didn’t even make a post yesterday, but that’s because I am going to give you 2 posts tonight, in one SUPER POST! IKR…I’m excited too.

So, here we go….

Life can continue, there is good gluten free beer

When it gets really hot, there is nothing like an ice cold beer, and yes celiacs can have an ice cold hard cider or a margarita, but there’s nothing more American than grilling and a beer. Gluten free beer is a thing, and there is some really good gluten free beer. There is even some gluten free beer that are as good (or better) than some traditional beers.


A lot of people talk about the types of gluten free beers, and there’s one that produces micro brew style beer and the other that produces domestic style beer. I may be over simplifying it, but a lot of the alternative grain beers do taste a bit more rounded and like a micro brew than those that process the gluten out. That comes from the science of the process to break the gluten down in brewing process. Breaking down the proteins make beer less rounded and clearer. There are some brands that bridge this comparison (Coors Peak, I’m looking at you) but they are the exception and not the rule.

Well, first off, let’s look at the breaking down of the gliadin in beer. Gliadin is a protein in gluten that, when in breaks down in our intestines, makes us sick. It’s such a pretty sounding word, like sometime that you would name a good witch of Oz and yet soooo evil. 68743090Now, if it’s not breaking down in our intestines, well it’s supposed to be safe. This is the basis of some of the drugs that are being developed  (like Bioline’s BL-7010) because keeping the gliadin out of our tummy’s might just be the best thing to keep celiac’s from getting sick. Kind of amazing right. Gluten Free beers like Omission where they “brew the gluten out” work on this theory. There is this magic chemical called Brewers Clarex that can be added to beers and break down the proteins, including the gliadin. This DOES cause some problems in a specific population of celiacs, who react to part of gliadin, because if you break “glia” and “din” into two pieces and you as a celiac react to “glia”, well it’s still there. You’re still getting sick.

I will say, I have tried Omission, and I didn’t get sick. I can’t promise you won’t. They do their best to keep you safe, but they can’t really assure that you won’t get sick. They can put gluten free on the label, because they test their products and it comes back as less then 20 milligram of gliadin per gram of beer. So they meet the FDA standards, but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe for all celiacs.

The other thing that Brewer Clarex does is it “clears” the beer. This means that all of the beers that are being brewed and put through the Clarex process it takes out all of the meaty goodness that you get from a Guinness or any other Stout. You can’t put a dark beer through a Clarex process (at least not from my research, if I’m wrong, please point me to the evidence.) So, beers that are getting their gluten processed out are going to be the lighter beers: lagers, IPAs, Pale Ales, ect…Personally, I’m not a light beer drinker, but some people like it. If you like it, and don’t react to the separate parts of gliadin, then beers that process out their gluten might be the beers for you. There’s a lot of brands that do this, including some big brewers like Portland Widmere (Omission) or Colorado’s Fat Tire.

Me, I like a beer so thick that I’m eating it. I like Red Ales and Stouts and the really dark beers. To find the kind of stuff that I like, I need to find those beers that use alternate grains. These will be sold in 20 oz bottles in the back of your local Bevmo, or in a specialty beer shop. My personal favorite brand is a local Seattle brewer, Ghostfish, founded by 3 guys who are medically gluten free (2 have NCGS and 1 has Celiac) and wanted good beer. Some of my non-gluten free friends enjoy Ghostfish as much as some of their glutened beers, because it’s just that good. Plus, if you go their tasting room in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, you can get their Watchstander Stout mixed with Stumptown nitro brewed coffee.

I can’t….I just can’t even with it right now.

If you don’t have Ghostfish in your area, there’s a lot of other brands that are using alternative grains, like Coors Peak, which is a rice beer. There’s so many of this kind of beer that you probably have seem some of these in your supermarket. Honestly, these are as diverse as the blends that are used to make gluten free breads. The only thing you can do it try them. Try as many of them as you want. Find one that you love, and then consume it (because by buying the beer, only then can we get it spread far and wide.)

So, there’s gluten free beer, enough different types of gluten free beers that you can try them all., and do. Try them all. Take this summer and buy some gluten free beer. Drink it in your backyard with your feet in a wading pool. Drink it when someone is is grilling some burgers with gluten free buns. Just drink some! Because trying these things is the only way that there will continue to be good gluten free beers, demand means there will be supply. So, it’s your duty to the rest of us to drink some gluten free beer. You’re just doing your part to improve the community.

Vodka: not just potatoes anymore.

vodka salad

Yes, I’m finally getting to the gluten free Vodka, or really the glutened vodka. So lets start this with a disclaimer. According to the FDA, alcohol should be distilled enough that the gluten is “processed out of it.” This means that celiacs should be able to drink all sorts of booze and not worry about it. In fact, here’s the FDA’s actual language:

Since proper distillation is capable of removing all proteins, including gluten, it would be considered as a “process to remove gluten.”  Thus, an ingredient that is derived from a gluten containing grain that has been properly distilled would be allowed to be used in a food bearing the “gluten-free” claim since the ingredient would meet the requirements of [the gluten free labeling rules].

Now, any of us who have gotten glutened from whiskey or bourbon or even vodka know that this isn’t 100% true. This might mean that most vodka distillers do not use proper distillation techniques, or maybe the FDA is not as strict on their regulation of this. Then again, most of these alcohols don’t claim to be gluten free, and that might be the problem. They really only fall under the testing and regulations IF they claim to be gluten free.

But vodka, oh vodka, it seems to be the vague nature of vodka that makes it so full of mystery. Vodka isn’t just made from potatoes or grains anymore, it can be made from things like wood chips or petrol (yeah that’s gross.) Most of the “top” vodka brands are make from wheat or rye, and not potatoes like everyone seems to think. Maybe this is just a urban legend, the thought that vodka has to be made from potatoes, but wheat and rye are both traditional vodka making too (along with molasses.) Is one superior to another? I have no idea. That’s a job for someone who knows way more about alcohol than I do, but I can say I have had a reaction from drinking Ketel One vodka.

I’d been drinking Ketel One for years, it was my preferred vodka brand. I have had a hangover from it, and it usually only lasts a few hours and after some water and some protein, I’m good to go. I do not have the 3 days of gluten sickness that I got from just that one shot of Ketel One that I had. Ketel One is a grain vodka, but I didn’t know it at the time. In fact I was on day 2 of gluten before I even looked into it. I didn’t have anything else new that night, and even the mixers were things on my 100% safe list (Reed’s ginger beer and a lime). AND when I mixed the same things with rum, I had no problems. This is as scientific as I can get with this without risking my intestines again.

There is suggestions that a gluten reaction from vodka might be psychosomatic, because distilling is the process of converting the liquid in the mash mixture into steam and then allowing it condense back into a liquid in a new still chamber. This can (and is) done several times for good vodkas. Gluten shouldn’t be able to survive this, because there is no transfer of proteins through the steam, and yet there’s been reports across the board of celiacs having reactions from grain vodkas, so it’s probably just best to avoid it. It makes it harder to get drunk, but really it means you’re not drinking swill from the bargain basement (less chance of drinking some of those plastic vodkas).

Vodka’s will put what they’re distilled from on the bottles, so if you’re in a3890816_fadbc3c90010708595ad18f1542512f5 liquor store, just read the bottles. There’s some cheaper and pretty good corn and potato vodkas out there. One of the most popular brands in America today, Tito’s, is a corn vodka from Texas.

If you’re out and about and wanting a drink well I suggest getting some Kracken rum. Rum is always made out of sugar, and Kracken is a particularly good spiced rum. But if you really want some vodka, Titos is a good one to ask for. It’s not as expensive as trying to track down a Chopin potato vodka. It’s pretty widely available at this point in time, and so it’s pretty safe to ask if a bar has it. If not, Kracken, always ask for Kracken.






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