Gluten-free diet no longer burden for beer drinkers -Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gluten-free diet no longer burden for beer drinkers

When people think of allergies, they often think of chocolate, grass, animal dander and sometimes milk.

But at least they can still enjoy a nice, cold beer at the end of day.

This isn’t so for people with celiac disease, a health problem that requires the lifestyle known as “gluten-free.” The disease damages the small intestine, as well as creating difficulty in absorbing nutrients. Gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye and barley — generates an abnormal immune response. The body will attack tiny little bumps lining the small intestine, called villi, which usually absorb the nutrients. If left untreated, people become significantly malnourished, even with a bountiful feast spread before them.

At its essence, beer is comprised of four core ingredients: water, hops, yeast and barley. Yet for individuals with celiac, that last ingredient can cause them to experience stomach spasms, fatigue, depression or even lead to infertility.

Brewers have realized this untapped market and taken up the challenge of perfecting new varieties of beer, using various grains or grasses such as rice or buckwheat. In 2007, the Great American Beer Festival officially added a gluten-free category. Last year, 20 entrants competed, with Rock Bottom Arlington and Strange Brewing Company tying for first place.

Gluten-free beer is generally made using one of two methods. The first — a complete avoidance of gluten grains — often creates a different flavor from regular beers, as companies experiment with fruit or sorghum to generate new flavors for the beer.

The other way is to create beer normally and then extract the gluten. While those with particularly sensitive cases of celiac typically avoid this type, international standards have deemed it acceptable. Unfortunately, an individual will only know which type a beer is if the brewery publishes its results.

Until recently, alcohol innovators had been frustrated by legal problems surrounding gluten-free beer. Gluten-free beers didn’t fit under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935’s definition of beer as a beverage brewed from malted barley and other grains.

The FAA Act required the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau “to ensure that a product’s label adequately inform[ed] consumers about the nature of the product and that the label information [was] truthful, accurate and not misleading.” Problems arose when the Food and Drug Administration noted that there was no scientific method to substantiate gluten-free foods. On July 7, 2008, the TTB decided to let the FDA maintain regulation of whether a given beer is in fact gluten-free...Read more»

By: Em Maier