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The past decade has brought an increased awareness to those living without gluten. These days, you can get just about anything gluten-free, from cereal to jelly beans. And while the food industry was quick to adapt to the gluten-free trend, which also brought more options to those with Celiac disease, it’s taken years for the beer industry to catch up.
“I have had so many conversations over the past years about the seriousness of Celiac disease with distributors around the country,” says Mark Ewald, owner of Vermont Beer Shepherd. “Many initial reactions are that the gluten-free crowd is really just a lifestyle choice for the hipster millennials. I then get to explain the seriousness of Celiac disease and the dangers that come from drinking a product that is either enzymatically altered or the gluten is removed. These altered and gluten-removed beers are still not safe for a true Celiac. They then realize that the gluten-free movement is way more than just the millennial trying to make healthier choices.”
“Most beer drinkers won’t notice a difference between gluten-full and gluten-free beer these days—the industry has come a long way over the years, says Lindsi Kay, founder BestGlutenFreeBeers.com. "It can be tricky learning how to work with gluten-free malts, but once a brewer cracks that code it really allows them to color outside the barley lines and experiment with a diverse variety of flavors and textures.”
Whether you have a gluten allergy or would just like to explore some brews made with alternative grains and methods, here are our expert's picks for the best gluten-free beers on the market right now.
Best Overall: Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA
- Region: Washington
- ABV: 5.5%
- Tasting Notes: Grapefruit rind, hops, bitter
Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA has racked up more medals than Michael Phelps at the Olympics, from bronze at the Great American Beer Festival to gold at the U.S. Open Beer Championship. “It has a nice bitterness and the grapefruit is delicious,” Ewald says. Kay is also a fan of this brew, saying on her blog, “I highly recommend it for the grapefruit-lovers out there and also for anyone who loves citrusy IPAs.”
Best Pilsner: Lakefront New Grist
- Region: Wisconsin
- ABV: 4.6%
- Tasting Notes: Bread, green apple, hops
Wisconsin’s Lakefront is one of the few breweries that offer a gluten-free beer alongside its regular lineup of gluten-full beers. New Grist is the first gluten-free beer granted label approved by the U.S. Government and remains a staple of the category. This pilsner, brewed with rice and sorghum, is crisp and refreshing with a healthy dose of hops.
Read Next: The Best Beers
Best Lager: Redbridge Lager
- Region: Missouri
- ABV: 3.2%
- Tasting Notes: Malt, hops, sweet
While the gluten-free brewing industry is a relatively niche market, one of the most widely available gluten-free lagers comes from the country’s largest brewery. Anheuser-Busch’s Redbridge is a full-bodied lager made with sorghum. It’s a beer that is designed to replace that six-pack of the cheap stuff that sits in the back of your fridge. This easy-drinking beer can proudly sit in the front.
Best Dark Ale: Ground Breaker Dark Ale
- Region: Oregon
- ABV: 5.5%
- Tasting Notes: Chocolate, roasted coffee, dark fruits
“It was the first gluten-free beer to me that actually tasted like beer and I was sold. I knew that this market would continue to expand,” Ewald says about Portland-based Ground Breaker Brewing’s IPA. “Over the years I have sought out gluten-free beers to explore and I always have loved the Ground Breaker Dark Ale.” The beer’s dark color and flavor comes from roasted chestnuts and lentils. The result is a rich and robust beer with all of the chocolate and espresso notes you’d expect from the style.
Read Next: The Best Light Beers
Best Wheat Ale: Holidaily BuckWit Belgian Witobier
- Region: Colorado
- ABV: 4.8%
- Tasting Notes: Orange peel, coriander, malt
Karen Hertz opened Holidaily Brewing Company after a battle with melanoma and thyroid cancer led to a gluten-free diet. “I have been impressed with the offerings coming out of Holidaily,” Ewald says about the four-year-old brewery. Both he and Kay are especially fond of the Belgian Witobier, made with millet and buckwheat for a refreshing wheat-like flavor.
Best Sour: Glutenberg Gose
- Region: Quebec
- ABV: 3.5%
- Tasting Notes: Citrus, sea salt, hops
For over a decade, Quebec’s Glutenberg has been making gluten-free brews using locally produced grains such as millet, buckwheat, black rice and corn. But for this Canadian brewery, it’s not enough to just brew great gluten-free beers, the brewer is continually pushing the envelope with styles seldom seen sans glutens. Its refreshingly sour gose is made with a sprinkle of sea salt. With a slight pucker and dry finish, it’s true to style in (almost) every way.
Read Next: The Best Ginger Beers
Best Blonde Ale: Holidaily Blonde Ale
- Region: Colorado
- ABV: 5%
- Tasting Notes: Hops, subtle malt, refreshing bitterness
“This beer is wildly unoffensive,” according to Kay. Holidaily Blond Ale is a slightly malty brew with an equally restrained hop bitterness. If you’re looking for a blond ale with a little more attitude, look for Aurochs’ coriander and orange peel-spiced take on the style. “It’s light and thirst quenching, but also interesting and flavorful,” Kay says on her blog.
Best Saison: Ipswich Celia Saison
- Region: Massachusetts
- ABV: 6.5%
- Tasting Notes: Spice, orange peel, hops
A Belgian-inspired saison is one of those beer styles that really relies on a strong wheat character to bring all of those funky, farmhouse characteristics to life. So when Ipwich decided to make a gluten-free saison, the Massachusetts brewery was in for a challenge. Made with sorghum and Belgium yeast, this beer taps plenty of spicy and citrus notes to give it loads of character.
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Sarah Freeman is a food and beverage writer based out of Chicago. She has been writing about, as well as frequenting, restaurants and bars for the past decade—from learning about what makes a perfect piece of cocktail ice to the exploring art of beer label design. At the moment, she doesn’t have enough room for food in her refrigerator, because it’s filled with cans of beer and bottles of wine.