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Old 07-21-2010, 10:15 PM   #1
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Default The Lazy Man's GF Beer

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:

  1. This enzyme breaks down proteins in the beer, gluten just happens to be one of them.
  2. This means you can't just give this beer out to everybody and call it gluten-free, it's not it's 'gluten-reduced'
  3. 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.
  4. Very little science has been done yet on gluten-reducers, so enter at your own risk.

Gluten-Intollerant people typically fall into 4 camps:
  1. Gluten Allergic
  2. Celiac
  3. Gluten Sensitive
  4. 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.
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Old 07-21-2010, 10:45 PM   #2
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Nice write-up man!

I think I'll still make the completely GF beers, that's how I started anyways, but maybe I'll try a liquid yeast and throw that in there.

EDIT: I wonder how many commercial breweries might catch on and start adding this stuff to call one of their beers "Gluten Free"

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Old 07-21-2010, 11:31 PM   #3
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Hadn't thought of it as a way to use liquid yeast safely, but that sounds like a pretty good idea.

Plus this stuff is an excellent clarifier and should make for some clean non-hazy beer too.

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Old 07-22-2010, 03:35 AM   #4
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Very interesting.

Where do you find these 'gluten-testing kits'? It would be very interesting to get a PPM on one of these beers.

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Old 07-22-2010, 04:02 AM   #5
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http://api.ning.com/files/ENF-8DjKhv...ac_disease.pdf

Great reading on the subject. Most interesting is that barley based beers already come up as gluten free in the most common gluten testing method.
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Old 07-22-2010, 03:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkershner View Post
Very interesting.

Where do you find these 'gluten-testing kits'? It would be very interesting to get a PPM on one of these beers.
My mother-in-law has some cause she runs a GF bakery side business, so I'm going to buy a few off of her.

But you can find them online by just searching for "gluten test kit"
EZ Gluten is probably the brand I would get. Not cheap, but better than poisoning your own wife.
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Old 07-22-2010, 04:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aggieotis View Post
My mother-in-law has some cause she runs a GF bakery side business, so I'm going to buy a few off of her.

But you can find them online by just searching for "gluten test kit"
EZ Gluten is probably the brand I would get. Not cheap, but better than poisoning your own wife.
I would still worry somewhat about what that article talked about. That normal glutenous beer comes up as gluten free under some methods.
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Old 07-22-2010, 05:45 PM   #8
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Also from the article:
"In addition, brewers might wish to engage with the cereal science and medical communities as they seek to identify more exactly the offending molecules in wheat, barley and rye and develop ways to measure them. This is probably necessary if the definition of “gluten free” is to be other than “made without wheat, barley or rye.”"

Right now we're making guesses on a lot of this stuff, but the sad fact is, not enough research has been done to know what really causes the problems and how to fix them. I wish Celiac could get just a fraction of a percent of the funding that goes into cancer research.

Personally, my opinion is that while a zero-tolerance policy on any presence of gluten is the safest, that it's overly harsh, and that the poison is in the dose, so if you keep the dose low enough your body should be able to recover without issue (per the article <10mg per day). Then again, that's opinion and not science, which is about all any of us can have at this point. On the issue I tend to fall more in line with the European definition of gluten-free (<20ppm is ok) as they seem to have a much healthier response than that of the typical totalitarian US response (even undetectable things can harm you).

Overall great article and I hope that eventually we'll know more. In the meantime I'll stay away from any wheat-based beers as the gluten from wheat appears to be many times more harmful than barley gluten. So no using the Clarity Ferm on Hefeweizens, Wits, or American Wheat Ales.

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Old 07-22-2010, 08:07 PM   #9
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Those gluten free testing kits aren't very reliable.

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Old 07-23-2010, 02:58 PM   #10
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Brewers Clarex will definitely help with clarifying your beers. That was its original intent...to clarify barley beers. The fact that it "digested" proteins resulted in the convenient collateral effect of reducing the gluten present in beer as well.

Most gluten test kits available to consumers like us will NOT accurately measure the gluten content in beer. Tests such as EZ Gluten are not designed to look for barley-based hordeins in alcoholic liquids made from fermented cereal grains (aka beer).

There are many gluten-free beers in Europe made from barley, with the gluten removed through a variety of processes. You can find them in Germany, Finland, England, and Spain, just to name a few places.

Cheers, Pete

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