8 Lip-Smacking Gluten-Free Beer Alternatives

GF beer alternatives featured image

Beer is the drink of choice for many football fans—but not everyone enjoys the taste. If you’re not a beer drinker, check out these gluten-free alternatives to savor during the Big Game on Sunday.

Hard sodas

The hottest area of growth at the moment is the rise of “hard” sodas. While many of the popular alcoholic root
beers include barley malt, there are several that pass muster for those on a gluten-free diet. Louisiana’s Abita
Brewing Company offers an alcoholic version of its famous root beer. It’s the first product in the brewery’s line
of Bayou Bootlegger hard sodas and can be found primarily east of the Mississippi River. The flavor profile
delivers aromas of wintergreen, vanilla and sassafras, with hints of clove and anise.

Root Sellers’ Row Hard Root Beer
Root Sellers’ Pedal Hard Ginger Beer

Root Sellers, based in Missouri with distribution
concentrated in the Midwest and New England,
brews its Row Hard Root Beer without grains.
Row Hard is made with pure cane sugar, molasses, spices and botanicals. The brewery
also produces gluten-free Pedal Hard Ginger
Beer, brewed with ginger root, molasses and
cane sugar.

Combining fruits and vegetables, the brewery’s Himmel & Erde Carrot Apple Ale presents another gluten-free beverage option. Based on a German dish with potatoes and applesauce, the ale is made from fermented carrot juice and added sweetener that is part apple juice.

Hard sparkling water

For a lighter fizz, look for gluten-free “hard” sparkling waters such as those from Truly Spiked & Sparkling
and SpikedSeltzer. Distribution for both brands is rapidly expanding beyond the companies’ New England
bases into the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.


Boston Beer, the producer of gluten-free
Angry Orchard alcoholic ciders, introduced
its Truly brand in April 2016. This spiked
sparkling water with a hint of fruit is an
alternative to light beer, especially for
those seeking something refreshing
made with simple ingredients and no
artificial flavors or sweeteners. Truly’s
three flavors—Colima lime, grapefruit
and pomelo, and pomegranate—are
100 calories per 12-ounce serving and
have 2 grams of carbohydrates.



SpikedSeltzer's four varieties. Photo by Edward Garrity for SpikedSeltzer.
SpikedSeltzer’s four varieties. Photo by Edward Garrity for SpikedSeltzer.

The first hard seltzer brand, SpikedSeltzer
launched in 2013 and is available in four
flavors: West Indies Lime, Indian River
Grapefruit, Valencia Orange, and Cape Cod
Cranberry. The alcohol in SpikedSeltzer is
derived from cold-brewed sugar, resulting in
a low-carb, low-calorie drink. Even Oprah is
a fan, featuring it as The Find in the June 2016
issue of her O magazine on account of its
refreshing, fruity and just-sweet-enough taste.







While obscure, mead is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in existence. Also known as honey wine, mead is
created by fermenting honey with water and, unless grains are added (a variety known as braggot), it is gluten
free. Like wine, mead can be dry or sweet, still or sparkling.

Photo by Kerry Trusewicz
B. Nektar Tuco-Style Freakout. Photo by Kerry Trusewicz.

Mead makers, which number fewer than
200 in the U.S. (compared to more than
6,000 wineries), tend to focus on local or
regional distribution given their size.
B. Nektar in Michigan, which opened its
doors on National Mead Day (who knew!)
in 2008, produces several varieties of mead
with fun labels and names, including Zombies
Take Manhattan, Kill All the Golfers and Dragons
Are Real. Give one a try for National Mead Day
on August 6!






The producer of the famed Stolichnaya vodka released a completely new gluten-free recipe to meet the
needs of consumers. Made with 88% corn and 12% buckwheat, Stoli Gluten Free is available nationwide.
The vodka is labeled “gluten free” pursuant to the U.S. government’s labeling classification, which requires
alcoholic beverages to be made with naturally gluten-free ingredients.


Tito’s vodka, produced at the oldest distillery
in Texas, is made with corn instead of potatoes
and certified gluten free by the Gluten
Intolerance Group. According to founder and
owner Tito Beveridge, “some producers add a
little bit of mash back into the spirit after
distillation, which would add gluten content into
an otherwise gluten-free distillate [if using wheat
as the base], but I don’t do that regardless.”
Made in batches using old-fashioned pot stills,
Tito’s has grown exponentially since the first
case was sold in 1997 and is now one of the
best-selling vodkas in the U.S.


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The Gluten Free Documentary

“Incurable,” “autoimmune,” “disease,” “genetic,” “treatment”—these are not the words the media or many consumers associate with a gluten-free diet, but they should. A documentary by Bailey Pryor that is airing on Public Broadcasting System over the next two years aims to change public perception for the better. With a long career producing award-winning long-form documentaries through Telemark Films, Pryor chose to tackle the misunderstood topic of gluten and gluten-related illnesses (celiac, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy). The Gluten Free documentary gives much-needed credibility to non-celiac gluten sensitivity, delves into the importance of preventing cross-contamination at home and in restaurants, highlights medical advances on the horizon, and provides some old-fashioned myth-busting.

Pryor interviews the food and medical industry’s top experts as well as people diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, celiac and wheat allergy to uncover what mainstream media and fad dieters can’t seem to grasp: a gluten-free diet is the only treatment for these conditions. There is no medical cure—eliminating gluten from the diet is the only way to heal the body (and mind) after it has been ravaged by gluten.

While a gluten-free diet is being used as a fad diet trend by the misinformed, to the more than 3 million people diagnosed with celiac and 18 million diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, it is a lifelong commitment not to be taken lightly. Millions are needlessly suffering from undiagnosed gluten-related illnesses, taking an average of six to 10 years to receive a proper diagnosis.

Common questions (such as whether gluten is harmful or not, is it a fad diet or can gluten actually kill people, and why is everyone going gluten free) are answered with accuracy by industry experts in a relatable and understandable manner. I recently spoke with Pryor about the documentary and what he hopes it accomplishes for the gluten-free community.

Gluten-Free Living: What made you decide to tackle this topic?

Bailey Pryor: Gluten-related illnesses are widely misunderstood in the United States. My goal is to provide accurate information about these illnesses, allowing viewers to understand what they can do to help their friends and loved ones who suffer from gluten.

gluten-free-expertsGFL: How did you choose the experts interviewed in the film?

BP: Considerable research led me to the experts and individuals who appear in the film. I chose a wide range of individuals who had differing experiences with gluten, both personally and through scientific research. Their stories help to clarify the full spectrum of information relating to the current science and actual experiences that are common to people suffering from gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.

GFL: The research and production of the documentary took four years. Can you describe your creative process?

BP: I initially develop my films through actual comments from individuals who appear on camera. This means that once I complete the initial research required to identify the experts, I interview all the experts, then review the comments they made on camera. This stimulates additional research and more interviews as the process matures, often taking me several years to complete a film. This protracted timeline also allows for word to get out among my subject community, thus allowing people I didn’t find through my research to make themselves known to me. Having an unrestricted amount of time to produce my films is a luxury in the film industry, and in the end, I believe it results in a far superior film.

GFL: What do you hope viewers take away from the information on einkorn, beer and pizza in the documentary?

BP: The idea with all of them is to investigate how individuals who suffer from gluten have taken matters into their own hands and created steps to rectify the problem. One individual figured out how to implement a bulletproof gluten-free program in his small pizzeria, another individual produced a gluten-free beer from a radical new idea using sorghum extract and a small processed-food manufacturer turned to an ancient grain in hopes of finding a better form of wheat. All are interesting and innovative ways of dealing with a common problem.

GFL: What do you hope people will take away from this documentary:

BP: I hope people learn about the complexity of gluten-related illnesses, the misinformation about fad diets and how to care for your loved ones by preventing cross-contamination.

GFL: What did you learn about gluten that you didn’t know prior to starting your research?

BP: I didn’t realize the extent of damage the human body will inflict upon itself. Celiac disease is a serious illness that has eluded medical professionals for decades. I am hopeful that they can decode this illness soon and commence a more accurate form of detection, treatment and prevention.

GFL: Thank you for shining a light on cross-contamination, which is largely ignored by mainstream media. What made you zero in on this issue?

BP: It seemed to be the obvious discussion point for my film. Others are not discussing it, yet it is such a simple and empowering thing to have this knowledge and then be able to act to help friends who suffer from gluten-related illnesses.

GFL: What else would you like to add?

BP: I love that this disease is not solely subject to medical treatment, as in surgery or lifelong medicine dependence. As soon as you find out you have celiac disease, you can take action yourself to cure yourself…to help others. As difficult as celiac disease is, it allows for you to be in control.

PBS plans to stream Gluten Free over the next two years. Check your local listings.

News Editor Jennifer Harris is a gluten-free consultant.

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Top 5: Dining Out Gluten Free

What you should ask

Most people enjoy dining out without really having to think about it, but someone following a gluten-free diet has to research and ask many questions before ordering with any level of confidence.

Restaurants have clued in to the demand for gluten-free offerings by adding replacement products and taking steps to keep gluten out of their dishes. Some have even created gluten-free menus or indicated gluten-free items on their regular menus. Unfortunately, not all restaurants are created equally, so determining what is and isn’t safe to order still requires a bit of work.

Asking these five questions at the restaurant will help you figure out which items you can safely and confidently order.

Do you accommodate gluten-free diners? This is a great starting question because it forces the restaurant to define what “gluten free” means to the staff as it relates to safe handling. The restaurant will usually highlight popular gluten-free items, which tend to include replacement products, such as bread, pasta and pizza. Unless the kitchen handles only gluten-free products, cross-contamination is always a possibility, but probe further to learn how the servers and kitchen staff handle gluten-free orders.

Do you have a gluten-free menu? This is an easy question because the answer is either “yes” or “no,” but it also lets the diner know how experienced the restaurant is at serving gluten-free diners.

Do you treat all gluten-free orders the same? People who order gluten free are commonly asked whether they are doing it by choice or for an allergy, which usually means all gluten-free orders aren’t treated the same and cross-contamination can occur. Be sure to answer “allergy” when asked so the staff takes all necessary precautions when preparing your order. Of course, allergy is the wrong term, but this is how the restaurant industry perceives gluten free.

How do you handle gluten-free replacement
Replacement products include bread, pasta and pizza. Find out how the breads are heated, the pasta is cooked and the pizza is made to learn whether it is safe to consume. Not all restaurants follow safe handling procedures to prevent cross-contamination, and often heat and cook gluten-free items with wheat-based ones, on the same surface, without using dedicated utensils and equipment.

Do you have a dedicated fryer? Many restaurants don’t understand that gluten-free items prepared in a shared fryer can become contaminated by the wheat-y bits left behind by gluten-containing food. Fried foods such as chips, fries and onion rings are often marked ‘gluten free’ on menus when they really aren’t. It takes more than just gluten-free ingredients to render prepared food gluten free. Safe handling procedures have to be followed to keep food gluten free from start to finish.

What you should do

You have your questions prepared for the restaurant staff once you arrive, but before you even leave home you can use these tips for a stress-free and satisfying gluten-free dining experience.

Plan ahead by calling the restaurant and making a reservation that specifies your dietary needs. It is also a good idea to check out the menu online, but keep in mind that not all restaurants have current menus available on their website.

Avoid dining during peak hours, which will allow the staff to pay more attention to your needs and answer any questions you may have regarding safe choices. This is especially true when visiting a restaurant for the first time.

Know what to avoid when dining at a restaurant. Suspect items include sauces and gravies, breaded and fried foods, soups and salad dressing. Eating foods as close to their natural, unaltered state as possible is the best way to keep gluten out of a meal. Highly processed foods are more likely to contain gluten.

Use gluten-free apps to read reviews of the cuisine and service. A number of free apps on the market can help you not only avoid an unpleasant or even dangerous experience but lead you to a fabulous one as well. The Find Me Gluten Free, Gluten Free Passport and YoDish apps contain reviews and photos from restaurants with gluten-free offerings.

Take a gluten-free dining card and present it to the server to ensure there is no miscommunication.

—Jennifer Harris

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Roasted Chicken Thighs, Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

“This recipe for Roasted Chicken Thighs, Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts has to be one of our favorite go-to weeknight meals when we want something comforting and warm, but are short on time,” says Jilly Lagasse. “I love to use chicken thighs because not only are they cheaper than other chicken parts, but they also have more flavor in my opinion, especially if you get them on the bone. Instead of squash, you could substitute pumpkin cubes if you have them readily available.

“Get ready to fall in LOVE with this sauce, everyone. I probably make this two or three times a week for a tasty sauce to jazz up our meals. It’s so easy to make, you could probably do it blindfolded… though I probably wouldn’t recommend that. I prefer to throw everything into my Nutribullet and whizz it up in a flash, but feel free to use any blender you like.”

This recipe is free of gluten, dairy and nuts.

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Preventing Gluten Cross-Contamination in Medications

Steve Plogsted, a pharmacist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is an expert on gluten in medications. His website, glutenfreedrugs.com, is widely recognized as the most reliable source of information on gluten-free prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Have a question about gluten and medications? Send it to glutenfreedrugs@gmail.com.



Q: What steps are taken to minimize or prevent cross-contamination in a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility?

A: There are numerous requirements and precautions employed by any pharmaceutical manufacturer who plans to sell their product in the U.S. market. This includes plants in other countries that manufacture for a U.S. distributor. They must maintain the same standards and are required to undergo examination by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspector. People who work with the drug products wear suits similar to what you might see in an operating room. All facilities and production procedures must be approved by the FDA. Here are excerpts from the FDA manual on manufacturing practices:

“All utilities that could affect product quality (e.g., steam, gas, compressed air, heating, ventilation and air conditioning) should be qualified and appropriately monitored and action should be taken when limits are exceeded. Drawings for these utility systems should be available. Adequate ventilation, air filtration and exhaust systems should be provided, where appropriate. These systems should be designed and constructed to minimize risks of contamination and cross-contamination and should include equipment for control of air pressure, microorganisms (if appropriate), dust humidity and temperature, as appropriate to the stage of manufacture.

“Particular attention should be given to areas where APIs [active pharmaceutical ingredients] are exposed to the environment. If air is recirculated to production areas, appropriate measures should be taken to control risks of contamination and cross-contamination. Permanently installed pipework should be appropriately identified. This can be accomplished by identifying individual lines, documentation, computer control systems or alternative means.

“Pipework should be located to avoid risks of contamination of the intermediate or API. Drains should be of adequate size and should be provided with an air break or a suitable device to prevent back-siphonage, when appropriate. Equipment should be constructed so that surfaces that contact raw materials do not alter quality of the intermediates and APIs beyond the official or other established specifications. Closed or contained equipment should be used whenever appropriate. Where open equipment is used, or equipment is opened, appropriate precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of contamination.”

The manufacturers predominantly use materials that are easy to clean and sterilize, such as stainless steel, and employ specific cleaning processes. I spoke with a generic drug manufacturer and learned that a precise cleaning and sterilization procedure is used in a production room where a single drug product is manufactured. If more than one type of drug product is produced in that room, additional cleaning steps are employed, and the room is quarantined until the results are thoroughly evaluated. The cleanliness and sterility of these facilities is a crucial point of emphasis.



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Quick Gluten-Free Breakfast Options

While commonly acknowledged as the most important meal of the day, getting breakfast ready on hectic mornings is a challenge. But skipping it will leave you feeling sluggish, with little energy to get through your to-do list. To help keep your tummy full and your stress level low, check out these gluten-free breakfast options for those days when you need to get out the door fast.

Cereal-ously delicious

On those chilly mornings when you really want a warm meal to start the day, reach for Bakery On Main’s Creamy Hot Breakfast. Comforting and completely customizable, this great source of fiber made with ancient grains can be prepared either sweet for breakfast or savory for dinner, and comes in two varieties: Amaranth Multigrain and Quinoa Multigrain.



Perfect Pinole in a bowl

Ready to switch up your regular cereal routine? Purely Pinole is the perfect power food to help you get through a busy day, packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and mighty antioxidants. Available in Blueberry & Banana, Tart Cherry & Lemon, or Original, this easy breakfast is fuel in a bowl.



Power plant

Sick of starting every day with the same breakfast? Sunwarrior has you covered with this versatile illumin8 Plant-Based Organic Meal, which can be added to an array of ingredients to help boost your morning routine. Whether mixed in your oatmeal or blended as a shake, this powder will help cover all your nutritional bases.



Haulin’ oats

Need your oats on the go? On those busy days when you’re trying to get everyone fed and out the door on time, these easy oatmeal to-go packs are the perfect way to enjoy a hearty breakfast while shaving some time off your early morning routine. Lose the bowl and opt for this trouble-free meal already equipped with its own waterproof packaging!



And for those mornings when you’re able to spend more time on breakfast prep, check out all of our delicious gluten-free breakfast recipes!




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Grainless, Gluten-Free Café Squirrel & The Bee

After successfully treating her ulcerative colitis with a strict dietary regimen, Michelle Retik wanted to educate others on the benefits of such a diet. This desire led her to open the grainless bake shop and café Squirrel & The Bee in Short Hills, New Jersey. Also known as “the Queen Bee,” Retik lines the shelves of her grainless, gluten-free café with not just grain-free, gluten-free goodies but also refined-sugar-free and low-dairy or no-dairy products. The menu clearly indicates which dietary restriction each item meets, including gluten free, Paleo, dairy free, vegan and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Grainless, Local, Real Food

All baked goods at Squirrel & The Bee are made with a combination of nut flour, coconut flour, coconut or olive oil, fresh fruit and honey for natural sweetness. Baked goods containing nut flours add protein and healthy fats to your dietary intake. The staff makes everything from scratch, right down to roasting the nuts and making the jams. Aiming to bring a “farm to table” element to the baked goods, they use locally sourced honey, fruits and vegetables. In fact, the name Squirrel & The Bee is an homage to two such ingredients proudly featured on the menu: nuts and local honey.

The website for Squirrel & The Bee provides not only a culinary experience but an educational one as well. Ingredient lists also include health benefit information so diners can understand how certain foods affect their body and what shapes Retik’s dietary philosophy. Even those without any food restriction might want to take cues from the choices Retik has made in her own diet after learning how various ingredients have positively affected her body.

Stimulate Your Senses

While the website offers a feast for the eyes, a visit to the bakery awakens all your senses, from the sight of the glass case full of decadent pastries to the wafting aromas of freshly baked goodies. Good luck choosing! Diners rave over the peanut butter swirl brownie prepared with house-made almond butter and natural peanut butter, bagels made with almond flour, and Tom’s Treat Cookies, named after a loyal customer and available in three nut-and-fruit filled varieties that are as healthy as they are yummy. “Waffle Sundays” give guests the opportunity to devour grainless Belgian waffles with such toppings as berries, chocolate chips, pecans and bananas. Vegan guests and those
avoiding dairy can even enjoy shakes and smoothies
made with Don’t Have a Cow dairy-free frozen dessert.

In addition to the sundry scrumptious dessert and breakfast options, lunch offers the opportunity to try one of the more savory—but no less tasty—menu items. The roasted veggie sandwich with basil-aioli; pineapple, avocado and cucumber gazpacho; and carrot-zucchini, pumpkin-tomato or sweet potato soup provide hearty and rich midday repasts. Those in the mood for something lighter but just as filling can’t go wrong with the delightful apple and brie salad, blackberry-avocado salad or roasted butternut squash salad.


On Any Given Morning

Guests at Squirrel & The Bee will find busy yet sunny staff buzzing up smoothies and coffee drinks. Retik often joins them behind the counter or in the kitchen, overseeing everything in her customary workout clothes and positive attitude, happy to share the “lemonade” she’s made from a “lemon” of a health diagnosis. Out of hardship, she created a business that keeps giving to all her customers, many of whom have been “coming since the beginning.”

Photos by Angela Sackett

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