The Ultimate Gluten-Free Beer Guide: Top Picks for 2024

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With so many beers to choose from these days, finding a quality gluten-free beer option can feel overwhelming. Yet, for those avoiding gluten, a tasty GF beer is an elusive holy grail. This guide cuts through the noise to highlight the very best gluten-removed and naturally gluten-free beers for 2024. Backed by extensive research and real-world testing, we spotlight the most delicious GF beer brands and styles available in the UK today. From fruity IPAs to chocolatey stouts, these top picks prove you needn’t sacrifice flavour or variety when going gluten-free. So read on to discover your new go-to GF brews for the year ahead.

Table of Contents

What is Gluten-Free Beer?

Gluten-free beer has exploded in popularity in recent years as more people adopt gluten-free diets. But what exactly is gluten-free beer, and how does it differ from conventional beer?

At its core, gluten-free beer is beer made without gluten-containing grains like barley, wheat, and rye. Most mainstream beers contain these gluten grains, which cannot be safely consumed by those with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity.

To make gluten-free beer, brewers replace the gluten grains with substitutes like sorghum, buckwheat, corn, rice, millet, and quinoa. These gluten-free grains and adjuncts serve as the base that is fermented into beer. Hops and other standard beer ingredients are typically included as well.

The brewing process for gluten-free beer is similar to traditional beer, but extra care must be taken to avoid cross-contamination with gluten. Many dedicated gluten-free breweries have equipment and facilities solely for gluten-free production. Some brew gluten-free options on dedicated systems in their brewhouses.

In terms of taste, gluten-free beers were historically considered inferior to conventional beers. But modern brewing techniques have dramatically improved the flavour, resulting in gluten-free beers that stack up well to traditional styles. They tend to be a bit lighter in body and have a drier, crisper finish.

Major beer brands like Stella Artois, Kopparberg, and Budweiser now produce widely available gluten-free options. Craft breweries across the UK also offer an expanding range of gluten-free beers to cater to demand. Styles include gluten-free lagers, IPAs, stouts, wheat beers, and more.

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Top Gluten-Free Beers

When it comes to tasty gluten-free brews in the UK, there are plenty of excellent options to choose from. Whether you prefer lagers, ales, IPAs or stouts, you can find high-quality gluten-free versions to suit any palate. Here is a round-up of some of the top picks for 2024:

Estrella Damm Daura

This Spanish lager is one of the most popular gluten-free beers on the UK market. Crisp and dry with a slightly malty backbone, Estrella Damm Daura offers a light bitterness and a moderate 5.4% ABV. It’s a solid go-to lager option with a clean, easy-drinking flavour profile. With its green-bottled European styling, this beer brings a taste of the Mediterranean to your gluten-free drinking.

St Peter’s Without

Fans of English ales should try St Peter’s Without from Suffolk brewer St Peter’s. This warming golden ale uses a blend of sorghum, rice and buckwheat to create a smooth, biscuity malt flavour balanced by subtle citrus hops. Reviewers praise this ale for staying true to the British ale style while omitting gluten ingredients. It makes a great session beer at just 3.9% ABV.

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Glutenberg American Pale Ale

Canadian brewery Glutenberg has won awards for this American-style gluten-free pale ale. It pours a hazy copper with a creamy white head. On the nose, citrus and tropical hop aromas blend with bready, biscuit malt notes. The flavour offers more bright hop fruitiness countered by a sweet, smooth malt body with low bitterness. If you enjoy New World hop-forward ales, this is a gluten-free beer worth sampling.

Green’s Discovery Amber Ale

For an easy-drinking amber ale, turn to Green’s Discovery. It pours deep copper in colour with a sweet caramel malt nose. The flavour mixes rich toffee and biscuit malts with light, floral English hops and a dry, mildly bitter finish from the sorghum base. Reviewers praise the balanced flavours and drinkability of this certified gluten-free beer. At just 3.8% ABV, it’s one you can enjoy all afternoon.

Brewing Process of Gluten-Free Beer

The brewing process for gluten-free beer follows the same basic stages as traditional brewing, with a few key differences. Just as with standard beer, it starts with selecting and preparing the base grains.

Gluten-Free Grains

Since gluten-containing barley, wheat, and rye are off the table, brewers turn to substitutes like sorghum, buckwheat, corn, rice and millet to form the mash. Some even utilise niche grains like quinoa or amaranth. The choice of grains impacts the beer’s final flavour and body.

Mashing and Lautering

The selected gluten-free grains are milled, mixed with hot water in a mash tun, and steeped to convert their starches into fermentable sugars. The resulting sweet liquid (wort) is lautered to separate the grains.

Extra care must be taken to thoroughly clean equipment between batches and prevent cross-contamination with gluten. Many dedicated gluten-free breweries use separate equipment just for their gluten-free beers.

Boiling and Hopping

The wort is boiled with hops for seasoning. Gluten-free brewers must source hops processed without barley or wheat. Most traditional hops are fine, but some beers promoted as “gluten-removed” risk contamination at this step.

Cooling and Fermenting

After boiling, the hopped wort is cooled quickly to avoid spoilage before the yeast is pitched. The chosen yeast strains ferment the sugars into alcohol. Some brewers add enzymes to aid conversion.

Conditioning and Packaging

Finally, the gluten-free beer is conditioned to smooth out flavours before packaging. Strict protocols must be followed to avoid gluten exposure during bottling or kegging.

While the ingredients change, gluten-free beers generally follow the customary four-step brewing process. By taking precautions against cross-contamination, brewers can make tasty beers that are safe for gluten-sensitive drinkers.

Health Considerations

When it comes to enjoying a chilled pint, those avoiding gluten have extra health factors to weigh up. The good news is that certified gluten-free beers offer similar nutrition to regular brews without the dangers of gluten exposure. They provide a safer way to gain certain health perks of moderate beer drinking. But as with any alcohol, moderation remains key.

Beer tasters surrounded by hops / gluten free beer
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Nutritional Value

Gluten-free beers have roughly equivalent vitamin and mineral content versus standard beers. Most beers derive their nutrition from the underlying grains and adjuncts used. Gluten-free brands simply substitute grains, retaining nutritional benefits. For example, buckwheat and millet offer protein and fibre, while sorghum packs iron and B vitamins. Hops contribute additional nutrients. So you can gain the same levels of niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine and more whether you opt for a conventional or gluten-free brew.

Lowering Heart Disease Risk

Evidence suggests moderate beer intake may lower cardiovascular disease risk for healthy individuals. Compounds in hops called isohumulones provide anti-inflammatory effects that protect blood vessels and heart tissue. Gluten-free beers utilise the same hop varieties as traditional beers, offering this potential benefit. Just be sure to practise moderation, as heavier drinking counteracts any gains.

Allergen Precautions

For coeliacs and anyone highly gluten-sensitive, caution is still needed with gluten-free beers. Some risk of cross-contamination exists during processing and packaging. Those highly reactive could still experience issues. Brands certified gluten-free must adhere to defined safety protocols with independent testing. But for those extremely sensitive, even tiny traces of gluten could trigger symptoms or damage. Checking the specific allergen labelling is always advised.

Gluten-Free vs. Traditional Beer

When it comes to tasty beverages, UK consumers today have more choices than ever before. Alongside classic barley-based brews, the shelves now stock a growing range of gluten-free beers catering to special dietary needs. But how do these new gluten-free offerings compare to traditional tipples?

Availability and Variety

Gluten-free beers were once hard to find locally. But thanks to rising demand, most supermarkets, off-licences and craft beer vendors now stock certified gluten-free options from major brands and microbreweries alike. Whilst the selections still lag behind standard beers, the GF range has expanded rapidly with pale ales, IPAs, lagers and more.

Price Point

Specialty gluten-free beers do often come with a higher price tag versus mainstream brews. The alternative grains and strict safety protocols increase production costs that translate to pricier pints. However, the leading brands ensure their gluten-free beers are accessible without blowing the household budget. And as more producers enter the market, competitive forces should lower costs.

Taste Profile

Modern gluten-free beers have come a long way from the first sorghum sippers. Whilst GF brews tend to finish drier and crisper thanks to the alternative grains, many rival classic beers for flavour. Leading brands like Estrella Damm Daura please the lager lovers. And craft producers like Glutenberg appease hop heads with vibrant American pale ales. Of course, taste remains subjective. But overall, feedback shows most drinkers agree today’s gluten-free beers deliver on taste.

Where to Buy Gluten-Free Beer

With the rising popularity of gluten-free living, decent GF beer options are easier than ever to track down in shops and online across Britain. Mainstream retailers and specialist merchants now cater to gluten-free beer lovers seeking quality brews minus the barley.

At the Supermarkets

Top UK supermarkets have vastly expanded their free-from offerings to meet growing demand. Most large chains like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons now stock a range of certified gluten-free lagers, ales, IPAs and stouts from leading brands. Offerings tend to focus on the major names like Estrella Damm Daura, St Peter’s and Green’s. But some branches also carry gluten-free choices from small craft producers. Supermarkets let you grab GF brews as part of the weekly shop.

Specialist Retailers

For those seeking more obscure gluten-free finds, independent beer shops and health food stores often have wider craft and imported selections. Retailers like Beer Hawk, Honest Brew and Real Ale stock harder-to-find GF producers alongside the common brands. Many independent bottle shops and off-licences – especially in hipster hotspots like Shoreditch and Brighton – also showcase gluten-free options beyond the mainstream picks. Specialists take more care catering to alternative diets.

Online Craft Beer Shops

To access the largest range of gluten-free beers in one spot, online craft beer retailers like Beer52, Flavourly and Hopt provide ideal one-stop shops. These e-commerce platforms partner with scores of small GF breweries to ship their offerings across Britain. Alongside famous names, you can discover gluten-free rarities like sorghum saisons, chocolate porters, fruited sours and mixed culture ales to really diversify your drinking. It’s often cheaper to buy beer online, too, especially via subscription services. Home delivery puts exciting GF finds at your door.

Pairing Gluten-Free Beer with Food

Gluten-free beer, once an afterthought, now claims prime real estate in the UK’s bustling craft brewing scene. With so many flavoursome GF brews to sample, more tipplers want to know – what should I eat with these beers? Luckily, gluten-free bottles pair just as easily with foods as traditional beers. With a few handy pairing pointers, you can take your gluten-free drinking from drab to fab.

Hearty Snacks and Pub Grub

Full-flavoured gluten-free beers like buckwheat honey porters, chocolate stouts and millet IPAs match famously with hearty British snacks. Enjoy vibrant hoppy IPAs with ploughman’s pickings like sharp cheddar, pickled onions and pork pies. Let the hops cut through the cheese while the malts parallel the sweetness of the pickle. Or set off the roast of a gluten-free stout with the salt and spice of scotch eggs, sausage rolls or pasties for the ultimate beer match.

Light Dishes and Salads

For lighter gluten-free sips like crisp lagers, golden sorghum ales, and fruity wheat-free hefeweizens, pair them with fresh, vibrant foods. The zesty citrus tang of a GF Belgian witbier sings alongside a fresh prawn cocktail or goat cheese salad dressed in lemon. And a herby quinoa salad topped with nuts beautifully balances a delicate rice lager. The nuttiness and grains unite in bliss.

Sweet and Savoury Desserts

Finally, fruit-forward gluten-free beers like raspberry wheat, pineapple sours and passionfruit goses bring dessert to your pint glass. Their tart and tropical flavours align fabulously with sweet-savoury treats like lemon drizzle cake, carrot cake, sticky toffee pudding or vanilla ice cream. It may sound odd, but the synergies are sublime. The possibilities are endless.

So, free your kitchen from the shackles of gluten alongside your pint glass. With a world of flavours to explore, why settle for bored buds? Gluten-free beer remains versatile enough to party with any plate. Just have fun and experiment to uncover your ultimate pairings.

Final Thoughts

Gluten-free beer has come a long way. What was once a niche product with limited appeal has blossomed into a thriving category with mass appeal. Mainstream brands and craft breweries alike now cater to the growing consumer demand for tasty GF brews.

With modern techniques, these beers deliver on flavour, rivalling conventional offerings. Crisp lagers, hoppy IPAs, roasty stouts – your favourite styles can be found gluten-free. And nutritional content generally aligns with standard beers when substituting grains.

So, for those avoiding gluten, there are now many excellent gluten-free beer options to choose from. The range of quality products makes sticking to a gluten-free diet much more enjoyable. Just be sure to check labels for a certified “gluten-free” declaration to ensure safety.

There is finally choice, quality and accessibility – no more settling for second-rate sippers. Gluten-free need not mean flavour-free.

By Tickety Brew

Ivor Ardghal : Brewer and Writer at Tickety Brew