Gluten-free innovations in beer could put healthier, delicious new varieties on tap

Wisconsin’s agricultural past, present, and future serve up an enticing but dangerous medley of products for those who suffer from dietary restrictions. It’s pretty hard to avoid dairy in the land of cheese curds, meat where the Packers reign, and gluten where a can of PBR is an essential accessory.

But at least in regards to that last complaint, unique strides are being made. Alt Brewing, a nanobrewery in Madison, has made it their mission to produce great gluten-free beer using all gluten-free products. Brew-master Trevor Eaton, an engineer, was able to craft safe recipes and even safer equipment for the practice.

Alt Brewing’s dedication to the gluten-free lifestyle seems even more important after a new study from the Gluten Intolerance Group. GIG’s research indicates that beer with “gluten removed” is worse for those with an intolerance than those that are “gluten free.” While the labels are laughably similar in-name, they actually denote very different brewing processes.

While the gluten from common ingredients like barley and wheat can hypothetically be removed through an enzyme reaction, “gluten free” beers don’t mess with gluten at all and simply use alternative ingredients like sorghum. If the gluten removal method does not entirely work, as the study suggests, then it presents a conundrum both for consumers and the medical community. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes gluten to damage the small intestine, and while the condition has only recently entered the larger public consciousness, it may affect 1 in 100 people. It makes you wonder: Is beer making us sick without us knowing it?

But not everything about the GIG’s study has to be doom and gloom. In addition to providing valuable insight into how gluten functions in the human body, it may also serve as another push for innovation. Alt Brewing’s beer isn’t just “gluten free” beer, it’s different, good beer. And it’s good beer that can change an industry.

For several years now gluten-free products (which covers almost everything, even chapstick can contain it) have begun dominating shelves in health havens and elsewhere. In fact, one 2015 study predicted the gluten-free market will value 4.9 billion dollars by 2021, with roughly 43 percent of consumers not even claiming a gluten intolerance. In other words, the trend is not only benefiting those with serious dietary restrictions, but has evolved into a marketing coup that denotes “different” or even “innovative.”

The beer industry could take a lesson from the gluten-free bagels at the bakery around the corner and bring a better, healthier product to drinkers.

As for restauranteurs and drinking establishments, adding gluten-free options to the beverage menu could only mean good things for your business. The growing number of people with a gluten intolerance tends to gain momentum as the public becomes more and more concerned with their waistlines. In order to stay ahead of the curb in today’s insane cocktail and beverage industry, you need to understand that gluten intolerance and sensitivity may be the way of the future.



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