Whether you’re gluten free or simply looking to consume less gluten, you already know these potentially health-compromising grain proteins find their way into far more stuff than just bread—including beer. While nixing any comfort staple is never fun, gluten-free beers (just like gluten-free bread) have come a long way. Bold, nuanced, flavorful brews are out there—but first, what exactly is gluten-free beer?
“Gluten-free beer is made from gluten-free grains like sorghum, rice, millet, and buckwheat—or from gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, or rye that’ve been processed to remove gluten before the fermentation process,” says Jeanne Reid, marketing manager of Gluten Intolerance Group. “Gluten-removed beers don’t qualify as gluten-free in the U.S. because they start from gluten-containing grains, and brewers try to remove the gluten after fermentation,” she adds—noting her organization’s research has shown that celiac disease patients do react to gluten-removed beers.
Gluten-free beers appear to be on the upswing, though.
“Nearly 25 percent of U.S. shoppers are choosing a gluten-free diet—and the availability of high-quality, great-tasting gluten-free beer is steadily increasing,” says Reid. “Beer drinkers may look to avoid gluten due to uncomfortable symptoms, a desire for increased health and performance, and/or to treat medical conditions such as celiac disease.”
If you’re ready to make the switch for yourself (or even in solidarity with a buddy who can’t tolerate gluten), here are 10 exceptional gluten-free beers worth snatching up. If you’re gluten free for medical reasons, be sure to reach out to the brewery with any questions you may have about the company’s production facility, in addition to seeking qualified advice from a healthcare professional.
Best Gluten-Free Craft Beers That Pack Bold Flavor
1. Ghostfish Brewing Company Watchstander Stout
This Seattle brewery makes a seriously good stout—good enough for its gluten-free signature Watchstander to get the gold at this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in the Gluten-Free Beer category. Here, roasted and malted millet, buckwheat, and brown rice provide notes of coffee, toasted campfire marshmallows, and extraordinary chocolate malt character in every sip. The certified gluten-free oats offer an airy, satiating mouthfeel—and the label art’s pretty badass, too.[$17; 4-pack; ghostfishbrewing.com]
2. Holidaily Brewing Company Big Henry Hazy IPA
Like all of Holidaily’s beers, this IPA is certified gluten free. Brewed with local millet and buckwheat, rather than barley and wheat used in traditional beers, Big Henry will leave GF imbibers smiling wider than before thanks to its juicy, well-balanced body with hints of tropical notes and citrus. A bronze medalist at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival in the Gluten-Free Beer category, several hard-to-please suds fans agree this is one to stock up on.[$11; 4-pack; holidailybrewing.com]
3. Ground Breaker Brewing Gayle Fresh Hop IPA
This gluten-free beauty from Portland got its name from third-generation Oregon farmer Gayle Goschie. Featuring fresh Crystal hops from Goschie Farms—tucked away in the bucolic hills of Willamette Valley—the ingredients come from the first hop farm in the nation to be certified Salmon-Safe (for some extra terroir cred). Taste-wise, this malt-forward, Northwest-style IPA will flood your buds with caramel and lightly toasted bread with a hoppy spritz of pine and citrus on the finish.[$6 per can; craftshack.com]
4. Evasion Brewing Coastal Colossus Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
This exclusive beer has quite the backstory. Two barrels, previously aging Oregon-distilled whiskey on fishing boats at sea, eventually landed at this McMinnville, Oregon, brewery to bring to life a dense, luxurious, gluten-free imperial stout. After aging and blending, this beer is then finished on toasted coconut for added flavor. Living up to its “Colossus” name, it’s loaded with heady notes of fudge chocolate, cinnamon sugar, dulce de leche, almond macaroon, and sweetened condensed milk.[$29 per bottle; evasionbrewing.com]
5. Ghostfish Brewing Company Grapefruit IPA
Bold grapefruit flavor in this IPA comes from the Altus hops grown in Washington state’s Yakima Valley—also famous for its piney, resinous, and tart notes. Caveat: The grapefruit flavor is mostly rind, though a bit juicy. You’ll also enjoy biscuit maltiness at the end of each swill, balanced by some caramel malt sweetness and floral esters. The label artwork for this brew (as well as Ghostfish Brewing’s Watchstander Stout) was created by Seattle-based artist Kevin LeDoux.[from $15; 6-pack; ghostfishbrewing.com]
6. Evasion Brewing Batch 2 Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
This thick, sticky, award-winning imperial stout is aged in Balcones, Texas, corn whiskey barrels to develop punchy aromas of rum-soaked fudge, rounded out by hints of sweet coffee and dark chocolate, like soft whiskey heat, anise, and cinnamon. Like all of Evasion’s beers, it’s brewed in a gluten-free facility.[$26 per bottle; evasionbrewing.com]
7. Holidaily Brewing Company Patchy Waters Pumpkin Ale
Another winner from Colorado’s Holidaily Brewing Company, this festive newcomer is perfect for fall sipping. The seasonal brew (named after founder Karen W. Hertz’s family sailboat) is brewed with organic pumpkin and features a singular blend of autumnal spices.[$11; 4-pack; holidailybrewing.com]
8. Omission Balanced Brewing Ultimate Light Golden Ale
Looking for something light and refreshing somewhere between standard and gluten free? This stellar, gluten-reduced release from Omission Balanced Brewing is crisp, smooth, and only 99 calories per 12-ounce can. Made with citrusy hops, this beer offers a round, full finish.[$11, 6-pack; drizly.com]
9. Moonshrimp Brewing Wild Science
This wild fermented fresh hop ale is made with a blend of Cascade and Mt. Hood hops the Oregon brewers grow themselves. Fermented using only the yeast naturally found growing on a Cascade hop cone lends the beverage a one-of-a-kind taste. The limited-edition beer can be purchased by Portland-area residents on the same-day delivery app Lowkel—while supplies last.[$6 per bottle; lowkel.com]
10. Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher
Here’s a gluten-free, nonalcoholic option made in hoppy heaven. This highly carbonated, dry-hopped sparkling water has a touch of brewer’s yeast to biotransformate the hops and pull out terpenes (the compounds that give beer its aroma)—ranging from bubblegum to lemon to pine. This IPA-inspired beverage is perfect when the mood calls for a beer sans alcohol, carbs, or calories because you either eschew all that stuff in general or have a crazy day tomorrow.[$5; 4-pack; lagunitas.com]
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