what's the difference between gluten free beer and gluten removed or gluten reduced beer?
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Earlier this month fitness-oriented Sufferfest Beer Company made history when it became the first acquisition in Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s nearly 40-year history. Why would the third largest craft brewery in the United States have any interest in a little known contract brewer (though Sufferfest is based in San Francisco, its beers are produced over 1000 miles away at the Sleeping Giant Brewery in Denver)? Sufferfest happens to be one of a growing number of breweries focused on the production of gluten-removed beers, a reflection of the ever-popular gluten-free movement.

Beer is comprised of four core components: hops, yeast, water, and grain. As for that last category, the two most widely used options—malted barley and wheat—are chock full of gluten. However, if you want (or need) to go the gluten-free beer route, there are plenty of options that are brewed with ingredients that naturally don’t contain any gluten such as millet, sorghum, and buckwheat (which, despite its name, is not related to wheat).

New Belgium Glutiny Pale Ale on Drizly (price varies)

A gluten-reduced beer from a major producer.
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Gluten-removed beers, however, take full advantage of malted barley and wheat. That’s possible thanks to Brewers Clarex, an enzyme which is added at the start of regular fermentation and proceeds to break down the gluten that crosses its path. The process keeps the flavor imparted by the grains intact while ensuring the gluten level in the beer falls below 20 parts per million (ppm), which meets the United States Food and Drug Administration standard of gluten-free. Sierra Nevada isn’t the only notable brewery to jump on the gluten-removed bandwagon. Stone and New Belgium have released gluten-removed options while Craft Brew Alliance, which is partially owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, counts the gluten-removed exclusive Omission Beer as part of their portfolio.

Omission IPA on Drizly (price varies)

Another gluten-removed (or gluten-reduced) option to consider.
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While they are often billed as such, gluten-removed beers are not legally considered gluten-free. Despite the fact that gluten-removed beers technically satisfy the FDA’s gluten-free standard as far as levels of gluten detected, because they are brewed with ingredients which initially contained levels of gluten above that threshold, they cannot officially be designated as gluten-free. There have so far been few scientific tests on the effects of removing gluten from beer and a recent research study conducted by the Gluten Intolerant Group concluded that the process does not ensure safe drinking for those who suffer from celiac disease.

If you don’t want to take that risk, only drink beers that are marked as “gluten-free” on the label; or if you’re having a gluten-free pint on draft, be sure to double-check with your bartender or do some research online to make sure that it is not actually gluten-reduced. Though gluten-free beers have carried a negative stigma in the past, breweries such as Ground Breaker—which produces a wide variety of innovative gluten-free offerings such as an imperial dark ale brewed with lentils and chestnuts—have helped change that perception.

Ground Breaker Dark Ale on Drizly (price varies)

Naturally gluten-free and safe for celiac drinkers.
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For beer drinkers who are able to consume gluten but would prefer not to, going the gluten-removed route is a great option.

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