2017 was a good year for gluten-sensitive beer drinkers. After growing 136% between 2013 and 2015, the gluten-free food and beverage category continued to see strong growth throughout this past year. While people who suffer from Celiac Disease have long omitted gluten from their daily lives, there are more and more people who have chosen to cut it out for diet or health reasons. Luckily, thanks to a little product called Clarity Ferm and the growing use of it by local breweries along with gluten testing, many are now able to add craft beer back into their diets.
Clarity Ferm Fun
Clarity Ferm is an enzyme that breaks down proteins and has historically most often been used in the brewing process to reduce chill haze. Chill haze is different than the haze we see in all of the New England style/hazy IPAs. It happens when proteins from the malt form a bond with the hop polyphenols, which are seen as suspended particles in the beer and create a yeasty, hazy color in cold beers. To get away from this, brewers have long used Clarity Ferm to reduce the chill haze as well as increase shelf stability of their beers. With the rise of the gluten-free movement, this enzyme is now also sold as a solution for lowering gluten levels in beers to incredibly small parts per million. In fact, using Clarity Ferm can reduce the beer’s gluten to well below the international standard of 20 ppm for calling the beer gluten-free. The U.S. has a higher standard for use of the term “gluten-free” so here in the states, these beers are considered gluten-reduced rather than gluten-free.
For many people who are gluten-intolerant and even some people with Celiac, this realization that many of their once beloved craft beers are actually ok for them to drink has been a huge boon. Furthermore, Clarity Ferm shouldn’t affect the taste of the beer so while a beer may be labeled “gluten-reduced,” it is not going to taste differently from that same beer were it not to use the Clarity Ferm and in some cases, blind tasters thought that the beer using Clarity Ferm tasted better than the original.
Gluten-reduced vs. Gluten-free
In the U.S., any beer that uses ingredients containing gluten, even if the gluten is reduced to the international standards of gluten-free, can’t be called gluten-free. The only beers that can be called gluten-free are beers brewed with alternative ingredients like sorghum and rice.
So how do you know which beers you may be able to try if you are on the wrong side of gluten? While a lot of your favorite breweries are using Clarity Ferm, if they aren’t testing the gluten levels then it’s probably not a good idea to wade into the gluten-waters unless you contact them directly or go to the tasting room and talk to the beer-tenders/brewers to find out for yourself if the beer you would like to drink is tested.
This was a recent topic of conversation on a craft beer industry Facebook group and there were some exciting additions to the list of breweries who use Clarity Ferm and also test for levels of gluten. Here is an unofficial (and incomplete) list of San Diego breweries that use Clarity Ferm in some or all of their beers:
- White Labs (all + tested)
- Bolt Brewery (all + tested)
- Stone Brewing (Delicious IPA)
- Alpine Beer Co. (all + tested)
- Second Chance Beer Co.
- Duckfoot Brewing (all + tested)
- Mike Hess Brewing (all)
- Council Brewing (70% of beers)
- New English Brewing
- Booze Brothers
- Wavelength Brewery
- Culture Brewing
- Abnormal Beer Co.
- Amplified Ale Works
- Burgeon Beer Co.
At Thorn, we often have a gluten-reduced option for people to enjoy. Most recently, we brewed an Aussie Pale Ale called Mick Dundee, a hoppy, bright and dry pale ale that tests below 10 ppm.
We would love to add more San Diego breweries to this list, so if you work in or know of a brewery that also uses Clarity Ferm in one or more of their beers and tests for gluten levels, please comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will update the list accordingly.
Also, please do your own research before trying these beers if you are gluten-sensitive. Most info can be found on the linked brewery websites, but if not, just give them a call and ask. Brewers are some of the most helpful and science-minded people around and many want their beer to be consumable by everyone, even those who have sworn off gluten.