Alright, I know the fun and challenge of GF beer is to play with new ingredients, scour the forums for tips on how to malt your own grain, figure out the starch conversion temperatures, go on excursions to Chestnut farms, and sending emails to the manufacturers of every product.
However, there comes a time in a GF brewer's life when you just wish it was a bit easier. You don't have time to malt everything from scratch 1 month out from brew day. You don't want to special order sorghum extract, visit health clubs for amaranth, or stress about how many ppm would your 2nd batch yield if your first batch used a liquid yeast. All you want to do is go to your LHBS, buy some ingredients, make some beer, and then put some magic ingredient in there that would make it safe.
Well, thanks to the marvels of science, there is now a product out there that can let even the laziest of brewers make a batch of gluten free(ish) beer. That product (Brewers Clarex) was originally found in Zymurgy magazine (article), but is now sold via White Labs under the name Clarity Ferm WLN4000, and I recently found it available at my LHBS.
Now just to set the record straight:
- This enzyme breaks down proteins in the beer, gluten just happens to be one of them.
- This means you can't just give this beer out to everybody and call it gluten-free, it's not it's 'gluten-reduced'
- You must explain to anybody before they try it that the gluten is reduced to very-low levels in barley-based beers. But it is not 100% GF.
- Very little science has been done yet on gluten-reducers, so enter at your own risk.
Gluten-Intollerant people typically fall into 4 camps:
- Gluten Allergic
- Gluten Sensitive
- Gluten Pariticipant (wags and bahs)
If you fall into group 1 or 2 and are pretty sensitive, then do NOT toy around with your health. If you fall into group 3 & 4 or are not super sensitive and are in group 1 or 2, then this might
be an option for you. But know your risks before giving it a go.
Since my wife fits into Group 2, and is sensitive, but not terribly so, we're going to try this with my future non-GF beers. I'm also going to get some gluten-testing kits to make sure it's at least below European-accepted threshhold of 20ppm before even letting her try a sip. Even if it works though and never causes an issue, I'll still be making 'real' GF beers because I like the challenge, this community, and the knowledge that I'm doing it right.
Once again remember, that there is still a LOT of actual science that needs to be done in this field to truly figure out what is safe and isn't. Unfortunately a lot of the information out there is hear-say and annecdotal. So as a final word, I would encourage you to support research for celiac and gluten-intolerance in general so that we can know what exactly is really happening and with exactly which proteins (e.g. wheat gluten appears to be much more problematic than barley gluten) and parts of the proteins are the culprits of our woes.
*Note there is actually a beer in Germany sold as being Gluten-Free that uses barley and then Brewers Clarex to get the gluten out. I can't find it now, but will post a link when I do.