Gluten-Free Alcoholic Beverages -
Michelle Lee, HK BioTek Intern
A gluten-free diet refers to the elimination of gluten-containing foods. Gluten is a family of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt, and is often added to ingredients in foods. Gluten is a potential allergen. In the process of aging and filtering of alcohols, gluten (grain protein) is mixed into alcoholic beverages, inducing allergic reactions in gluten intolerant people.
We often mention gluten-free diets, but we rarely mention gluten-free alcoholic beverages. People who cannot digest gluten may show some allergic reactions to gluten-containing alcohols, such as beer, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and gin. For people who are suffering from celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), or following a gluten-free diet for other health reasons, you should not only avoid foods labeled with gluten. For the sake of health, you should avoid all forms of gluten, especially beverages that might contain gluten, which are easily overlooked and ignored.
To look for gluten-free beverages, we can first search alcohols that are not made from wheat, barley or rye. Apple Cider, non-fortified wine, sherry, port, spirits (such as brandy) and liqueurs (such as apple cider) are all gluten-free drinks.
Alcoholic beverage options to consider:
Gluten-free beer: Traditional beer is brewed from grains. Most beer is made from gluten, which is mainly barley, but also wheat and rye. Therefore, beer is forbidden in a gluten-free diet. Sorghum is a grain commonly used in gluten-free beer and does not contain wheat and barley. Beer composed of sorghum, to replace typical whiskey grains, can also be consumed by people with celiac disease. In recent years, some manufacturers have begun to produce some gluten-free beer that is still made from barley. Those beers were added with some enzymes that can break down gluten protein in the beers, in order to remove gluten inside.
Wine: Wine is made from grapes and literally is gluten-free, but some special flavors (such as fruit-flavored wines) and wines being added to wine-based cocktails may contain gluten. Note that there is still a risk of cross-contamination among food allergens. For example, gluten can be used as a clarifying agent in wine manufacturing. Adding a clarifying agent to wines will accidentally mix with gluten ingredients. At the same time, many wine coolers are made of malt, which is a condiment based on barley, which may cause cross-contamination of food allergens.
Can people with gluten allergies safely enjoy distilled spirits?
Gluten is most commonly used to produce distilled spirits such as vodka, whiskey, bourbon, rye and gin. Theoretically, alcoholic beverages made from gluten and grains (such as malt whiskey) would be gluten-free after the distillation process which removed contained gluten. The Canadian Celiac Association pointed out that some distilled alcoholic beverages, such as gin, vodka, and whiskey, are fermented from wheat, barley or rye, but after distillation, those alcohols would not contain any gliadin.
At the same time, there are some authorities who still believe that there are still some disputes about the safety of alcoholic beverages, extracted from gluten, for people with gluten allergies. Alcoholic beverages are distilled and theoretically remove gluten protein molecules. But there were some reported cases that people with gluten allergies still showed allergic reactions to alcohols made from gluten grains. Some researchers have conducted chemical analysis on some alcoholic beverages, and found that whiskey and vodka based on gluten grains still contain a certain amount of gluten. It showed that not all alcoholic beverage manufacturers could completely purify these alcoholic beverages. In addition, some manufacturers will add a little gluten-containing wheat paste after distillation to improve the color and flavor of alcohols. To conclude, there are always possibilities of cross-contamination between gluten grains and alcoholic beverages in manufacturing factories.
Rum: It is fermented, distilled, and extracted from sugarcane by-products or sugarcane juice. Be careful when choosing rums that have been spiced and flavored, as they may contain gluten-containing additives.
Tequila: It belongs to the category of distilled spirits. The traditionally made tequila is completely derived from the blue agave plant and is naturally gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Vodka: Although some vodka contains wheat or grains, the distillation process can remove most of the gluten and eliminate the chances of causing allergic symptoms. If you want to avoid gluten completely, you can stick to gluten-free vodka made from potatoes, grapes, sugar cane or corn.
Vodka, whiskey, gin: These alcohols are all made from grains, but after distillation, it should be gluten-free. If you want to be more cautious, you can consider buying gin and whiskey made from potatoes and corn, which are completely gluten-free.
All distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, bourbon, etc.) are theoretically gluten-free, even if it is made from gluten, it can be removed through the distillation process. If we want to avoid gluten safely, we can insist on drinking alcohol that is not derived from gluten, such as rum or tequila.
Experts hold different opinions on the safety of gluten-based alcohols, and many people have reported severe symptoms after drinking alcoholic beverages that claimed to be gluten-free. Therefore, we should stay cautious and seek for professional advice to determine whether we can drink alcoholic beverages distilled from gluten grains. Do not drink too much when you start drinking these alcohols, and use the food allergy diary to observe and record all allergic symptoms carefully.
Is Liquor Gluten-Free? | BeyondCeliac.org
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