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Gluten-free alcohol does not contain the protein, gluten. This protein can be found in cereal grains including all forms of wheat, barley, and rye. Oats, while not containing gluten themselves, have been cited as agitators of a gluten allergy.
For the healthy digestive system, the presence of gluten is not a problem. However, some suffer from Celiac Disease (also known as Coeliac Disease). Celiac disease, while often referred to as a gluten allergy, is actually an auto-immune disorder. That means, that when a person with Celiac disease eats gluten, their intestines react as if the gluten were attacking the body. This inflames the intestines making the body unable to absorb the nutrients in the food. Not only does this reaction cause discomfort, it can be very dangerous, and can cause anemia, chronic tiredness, diarrhea, irritable bowels, migraines, and severe weight loss.
For this reason, it is important for gluten-intolerant people to remain vigilant when eating and drinking, especially at restaurants and bars. Typically, restaurants will gladly ask the chef if a dish contains gluten. However, where drinking is concerned, Celiacs should be aware of what is gluten-free and what is gluten-full.
Alcoholic beverages are commonly made of grain, and thus, Celiacs should always carefully examine the contents before consumption. Generally, wines of all varieties (white, red, rose, and sparkling) are a safe, gluten-free alcoholic choice. Wine coolers, on the other hand, are not safe for the Celiac, as the barley-malt in them contains gluten.
Distilled liquors are generally gluten-free as well. For example, rum, brandy, vodka, grappa, cider, champagne, tequila, sake, and scotch whiskey, are all usually safe for consumption. The distillation process typically removes the gluten.
Beer is the most problematic beverage when looking for gluten-free alcohol options. More often than not, beers are made of barely malts, and are therefore very agitating. However, there are companies dedicated to brewing gluten-free beer substitutes. Bard’s Tale Beer™ produced in the United States, and Green’s in the United Kingdom, sell such products.
Though liquors can be named gluten-free, it is possible for the contents to change. For that reason, when looking for gluten-free alcohol, it is important to always check the ingredients before drinking. It is better to prevent than to wind up in pain.
Anheuser-busch now sells a gluten free beer made from sorghum. It is called Red Bridge. It tastes like any real beer.