Are you suffering from gluten intolerance? Do you have to avoid regular food and drink options at restaurants and bars, while your friends enjoy their meals without a care?
Well, we have good news; beer doesn’t have to be something you should avoid anymore! You just have to know where to look for the right kind!
We dug deep into the world of gluten-free beers, and we’re here to share our findings as well as the secret of which is the best spot in Budapest to enjoy a gluten-free pint.
What is gluten and what does it mean to be gluten intolerant?
Gluten is a combination of proteins gliadin and glutenin, which along with starch, make up the protein found in specific types of grains.
The nutritional value of gluten is insignificant, but it has several attributes that make it beneficial while processing grains. For example, gluten has an important role in baking, since this component is what gives the dough its elasticity and the fluffy, soft end results in bread.
Wheat, spelt, rye, barley and oat are all rich in gluten, while grains such as corn or rice are lacking this protein. Therefore rice and corn are providing a great alternative for people suffering from gluten intolerance.
Gluten intolerance – or in other words Celiac disease – is a medical condition. It means that the immune system handles gluten as a threat, and reacts with various – often painful – symptoms. Mostly these are digestion issues, such as abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea shortly after a person with intolerance ate or drank anything that contains gluten. But gluten intolerance can get even more serious. Due to the immune system’s overreaction it can create dangerous conditions such as anemia, or rapidly declining dental health.
Gluten intolerance is an autoimmune disease that’s hereditary, but not everyone who has the predisposing gene develops the disorder. One thing is for sure; gluten intolerance is not a diet trend and definitely not something to take lightly!
How gluten-free beer is made?
The main component of beer is malt. Malt is made of germinated and then dried grains. In countries where brewing is a tradition – mostly in the northern areas of Europe – they use barley and wheat to create malt. Both grains are rich in gluten, and it does not disappear during the brewing process.
This is definitely hindering for those who suffer from gluten intolerance. The question is, how could they enjoy a pint of cold, foamy beer without worrying about the effects of gluten? Thankfully, the industry was keen on experimenting with different grains and developing new beverages, and now these alternative beers are entering the market.
The easiest way to avoid gluten is to use gluten-free ingredients in the process. Rather than using the regular grain types such as barley or wheat, breweries can opt for alternatives as corn, rice, millet or buckwheat.
However, this method guarantees that the final product won’t have even a hint of gluten in it. On the other hand, the taste can be quite different compared to regular beers made out of barley.
Although gluten-free beer is still “real beer”, but one can’t deny the fact that for people who are used to the taste of regular beer these new flavors can be intimidating at first.
We also have to acknowledge that “beer” is in fact hard to label. In different regions and cultures, they call different beverages “beer”. In most areas in Africa, they use sorghum for beer making, while in Asia rice is very popular. While these might sound weird at first, they are wonderful gluten-free alternatives.
Race for the best gluten-free alternatives
Another – a tad bit more modern – way to create gluten-free beer is to brew it with traditional ingredients, and then extract gluten from it with the use of special enzymes (such as clarex).
Scientifically speaking, this enzyme is added at the beginning of the fermentation process and it destructs the structure of the protein chains in gluten, therefore gradually decreasing the level of gluten in the end result.
The benefit of this method is that the beer will taste authentic so the experience can be whole. A possible disadvantage of using this way of brewing is that it’s not guaranteed that the enzymes are breaking down gluten 100%. In some cases, very low levels of gluten were still found in the end products.
But no need to worry! Gluten-free beers are tediously monitored, and the levels of gluten in each product are clearly marked on the packaging. In case a beer contains more gluten than the official limit (20 mg/kg) it can’t be marketed as gluten-free.
These days the quest is no longer to create “just” gluten-free beer, but there is an ongoing race between breweries to develop a product with the lowest percentage of possible gluten residue.
Which brands are offering gluten-free beer in Hungary?
You are in luck because the Hungarian market is quite up-to-date on beer trends. You don’t have to start an expedition if you are keen on trying some gluten-free beer options. Sometimes even supermarkets have them in stock. For example, this well-known gluten-free alternative from Pécsi Sörfőzde, can be easily found on the shelves of the stores. If you lean towards craft beers, you are in for a treat, because there are several mouth-watering options available already.
They came up with a simple yet brilliant IPA – made of traditional ingredients – which has an almost undetectable level of gluten content. It’s called Popstar.
The brand takes extra caution when it comes to gluten-free beer, they’re testing every batch at an accredited lab. The quality and your safety are guaranteed, so you can enjoy their West Coast IPA called Grumpy Octopus free of any worries.
The brewer’s top contender in the so-called “gluten-free race” is a fresh and exotic take on craft beers called the Mangoman Pale Ale.
FIRST Craft Beer
The brand delights the gluten intolerant beer lovers with not only but two beautiful and safe – lager and hoppy lager – alternatives.
Here at the Élesztő we always have a few cans of Popstar in stock, but if you’re lucky you can try other gluten-free craft beers at our bar as well. We’d love to share the story behind your chosen beverage, and can’t wait to hear your feedback on the tasting experience!