In the U.S., GF foods have pulled in an estimated $2.6 billion across supermarkets and restaurants. And even though only an estimated 1% of people have celiac–the digestive disorder that makes gluten a poison–craft brewers are clamoring to get a piece of the buckwheat-crust pie.
Gluten is found in all the delicious grains commonly used to create the world’s most magnificent beverage, including barley, wheat, rye, spelt, and oats. To craft a GF brew, you need to substitute those grains out for other fermentables, like amaranth, buckwheat, corn, flax, millet, rice, sesame, sunflower, soybeans, and sorghum–which has been traditionally used for centuries to make fermented beverages in Africa and Asia.
Many of the GF beers on the market are coming from breweries where the owners or an owners’ spouse has celiac. This includes The Alchemist Brewpub (Celia Saison), Bard’s, New Planet, Widmer Bros. (Omission series), and Strange Brewing Co, who won GABF gold in 2011 for a GF Lemon Pale Ale (first batch, too).
A wide range of commercial offerings is becoming widely available on the beer isle nowadays. Everyone knows about New Planet and Bards, but there is also Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist, AB-InBev Redbridge, Ramapo Valley GF Honey Lager, Dogfish Head Tweason’Ale, St. Peter’s Sorghum Beer, Deschutes Chinquapin Butte Golden Ale, and Brasserie Brunehaut Ambree and Bio Blonde.
If there were a GF Beer industry leader, it would most definitely be New Planet. Founded by Pedro Gonzalez and Seneca Murley, both with celiac, decided in 2009 to put GF beers into the hands of those who couldn’t enjoy a brew with their friends, or while watching sports, camping, or just missed drinking a brew after a day’s work. Today, New Planet Brewing is available in some capacity in 40 states, and just inked a deal with a major Colorado brewer to increase that number.
On October 12, a deal was announced that would allow New Planet to brew and bottle at The Fort Collins Breweryin Ft. Collins, CO. This will give New Planet a new 30k bbl/yr brewhouse, and will allow them to increase production by 50% to keep up with growing demand. Along with increased production capacity, New Planet Beer and The Fort Collins Brewery plan to implement a state-of-the-art laboratory to test for quality and gluten in-house, providing the brew masters with real time feedback on progress.
“Quality, consistency and public safety have always been priorities for The Fort Collins Brewery. Our standards are higher than just meeting federal guidelines – we actually exceed those set by the FDA,” said Tom Peters, owner of The Fort Collins Brewery. As of now, the FDA and TTB require Gluten-Free products to contain 20 parts-per-million or less of gluten. New Planet boasts a 1ppm rating. That’s pretty gluten-free.
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