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Gluten-free Beer: All you Need to Know

If you’re gluten-intolerant, you’re probably very wary of drinking beers. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are many beers that are gluten-free that can be enjoyed without risking your health and BrewDog are on hand to give you all the information you need to know right here.

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What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. That means that there are thousands of products that contain it, from the obvious ones like bread, pasta, noodles and cereals to those that are perhaps less instinctive, such as soups, sauces, condiments and, yes, beers.

Is beer gluten-free?

Beer has been brewed for millennia from four key ingredients: grains, hops, yeast and water. It’s that first one – grain – that can cause issues for gluten-intolerant people. That’s because the most commonly used grain is barley, but wheat and rye are also used.

For those who grew up in cultures where beer is part of social life, a palate for the “beer” taste will develop, and since that’s what the public wants, brewers oblige by focusing on barley as the main grain.

Although there are plenty of grains that contain no gluten, as we’ll see below, it can seem like a culture shock for those who want a “normal” beer to be asked to try one without barley. So most of the time, beer is not gluten-free.

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Gluten-Free Punk IPA

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IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 4 x Can (330ml)

Was £6.25
£5.63£1.41/can
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Gluten-Free Punk IPA

BOLD. HOPPY. TROPICAL.

IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 12 x Can (330ml)

Was £17.49
£15.74£1.31/can
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Gluten-Free Punk IPA

BOLD. HOPPY. TROPICAL.

IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 24 x Can (330ml)

Was £33.99
£30.59£1.27/can
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Gluten-Free Punk IPA

BOLD. HOPPY. TROPICAL.

IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 48 x Cans (330ml)

Was £61.95
£55.76£1.16/can
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What is gluten-free beer?

The truth is, however, that the barley in a beer is only part of the flavour. Hops are normally the key ingredient when it comes to flavour and aroma, and they balance out the natural sweetness by adding bitterness; but with a whole world of hops to choose from, they bring much more than that to the party.

Alcohol itself also provides bitterness, so strength is also a factor. The main purpose of the grain is to be germinated and malted, via which biochemistry produces the sugars that the yeast feeds on and that produce alcohol. That’s not to say the grain has no effect on the flavour – it does – but it can be dialled up and down, and there are grains that are similar to barley in flavour.

Finally, there are other additives which are introduced at various stages in the brewing process whose sole purpose is to add flavour. With that in mind, it’s good to know that there’s a host of grains that can replace barley or wheat in beer, but the most common are sorghum, rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, gluten-free oats, amaranth or corn.

If you’ve ever had a mainstream Japanese beer, there’s a good chance it was based on rice, but if you have delved into the most esoteric caverns of craft brewing, you’ve probably tasted plenty of beers made with other grains. Also, beers made with barley can actually be made gluten-free, just as most alcohol-free beer starts out as a normal alcoholic drink.

It’s important to point out that just because a beer doesn’t contain barley or wheat, that doesn’t mean it’s gluten-free. Always check the label and third-party GF specialists if you’re in doubt. A beer that’s made without any gluten-containing ingredients can still have gluten by way of cross-contamination, for example, from barrels that have been used in normal beer production.

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BrewDog’s gluten-free beer

At BrewDog, we’ve grown organically since making our first product, Punk IPA, in 2007. Now, we’ve got dozens of beers plus a range of ciders, spirits and alcohol-free beverages to tempt the adventurous drinker. In 2015, we launched our first gluten-free beer, Vagabond Pale Ale, alongside our regular range. It proved popular, and as far as taste was concerned, it was every bit as flavoursome as the barley-based beers we made.

In 2021, co-founder James Watt announced that Vagabond would be discontinued and replaced by a gluten-free version of Punk IPA. You can find it in our Free From range, which focuses on products that cater to specific dietary needs or tastes. Just like the regular Punk IPA, it comes with a pleasant kick of hops, a subtle, fruity sweetness and that familiar bitter finish, so you’ll hardly notice the difference.

But if you look at the ingredients, you might be surprised to see that malted barley is listed alongside water, hops and yeast. How can that be gluten-free? Well, any product that has less than 20 parts per million of gluten can be listed as gluten-free by law, and indeed, Punk IPA GF satisfies those limits.

This remarkably low level of gluten is achieved through the use of an enzyme that breaks down the gluten and makes the drink safe for consumption by those with gluten intolerance, including coeliac disease.

Each batch is tested by a UKAS-accredited laboratory to ensure it falls within those limits, and of course, this is a responsibility we take very seriously. So, if you’re gluten-intolerant and love a good quality craft beer, why not give it a try?

Shop Gluten-Free Punk

10% off
product image

Gluten-Free Punk IPA

BOLD. HOPPY. TROPICAL.

IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 4 x Can (330ml)

Was £6.25
£5.63£1.41/can
10% off
product image

Gluten-Free Punk IPA

BOLD. HOPPY. TROPICAL.

IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 12 x Can (330ml)

Was £17.49
£15.74£1.31/can
10% off
product image

Gluten-Free Punk IPA

BOLD. HOPPY. TROPICAL.

IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 24 x Can (330ml)

Was £33.99
£30.59£1.27/can
10% off
product image

Gluten-Free Punk IPA

BOLD. HOPPY. TROPICAL.

IPA ‧ 5.4% ‧ 48 x Cans (330ml)

Was £61.95
£55.76£1.16/can
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