Gluten Free Alcohol for Adults
Gluten Free alcohol can be a little confusing. Here's a quick primer for GF adult beverages. We'll cover these broad areas - liquors, wines, Champagne, coolers & malt beverages, hard cider and beer.
LIQUOR - The process of making liquor is distillation. Distillation renders the resulting liquor GF. This goes for whiskey and other beverages that start with GF no-no's. Now, if a distiller chooses to add something subsequent to distillation, you may have gluten in the finished product. The vast majority of liquor and spirits are GF, but you'll want to investigate flavored liquors. A great guide to specific alcohols can be found here:
TriumphDining.com - guide to GF alcohol
Wine, Sparkling Wine and Champagne - These beverages follow a similar logic. Wine is the result of fermentation and is naturally GF with grapes as its foundation and not grains. But here's where it can get tricky. Wineries all over the world follow a variety of practices for aging, bottling and distribution. Although current methods usually avoid gluten, some older wineries may use barrels that once contained wheat or other g!uten-bearing substances. Also, some wineries (not common, but sometimes found in Europe) use a flour & water putty for sealing casks and barrels. This can obviously present a problem for the GF community. You know the old saying... "when in doubt, call the winery and ask because life is too short to live without really great wine".
NOTE: wine coolers and other malt beverages (hard lemonade) are NOT GF, so steer clear. But...
HARD CIDER - If you're looking for a refreshing gluten free option, try Hard Cider. The more popular options include Strongbow, Crispin, Harpoon, J.K. Scrumpy's and Woodchuck. Our favorite is Woodchuck and it comes in several fruity flavors and some seasonal offerings that offer a great change of pace. Woodchuck is crisp & smooth and goes great with food.
Here's a link to the Woodchuck website regarding their GF commitment:
Woodchuck Hard Cider - Naturally GF
Before we get to beer - the moment we know you've all been waiting for - the history of cider in the United States is quite interesting (and leads into beer's current day popularity). Cider was the beverage of choice almost from the start of the colonies because it offered a safe (germ free) drinking beverage for meals and was easily stored in the home due to its alcoholic content. Diluted ciders were available for children too. Fast forward to the early 20th Century. When prohibition was passed in 1919, many of the apple orchards that provided the stock for making cider were cut down. Then when prohibition was repealed in 1933, most folks couldn't wait ten years for new apple trees before having a drink, so the beer culture from Germany (and other European countries) stepped in with the brewing of readily available barley and hops. And ever since, the United States has favored beer over the once ubiquitous hard cider. And now for beer...
Beer - Because most beer is made from water, barley and hops, it is NOT GF. Several brewers have boldly come forward to offer ales that start with Rice Flour and other GF grains rather than barley. You may have to look a little harder to find them at the grocery store but they're there and the list of GF beers is growing all the time. Here are some of the more popular brands: Bard's Tale - Dragon's Gold, Green's Quest Tripel Ale, Redbridge from Anheuser-Busch (a micro-brewery from St. Louis, MO) and New Grist. Tastes vary considerably, so sample some today and find your favorite.
As with everything GF, read the labels, ask some questions and follow your instincts. Here's mud in your eye!
~ The LifeAfterGluten Crew
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