Beer is a popular alcoholic drink that people worldwide have been enjoying for thousands of years (1).

In fact, it’s the third most popular beverage behind water and tea (2).

Typically, beer is made using water, hops, yeast, and barley — a grain that contains gluten (3).

This article examines the gluten content of beer and how much gluten is in several main types, as well as whether any are safe for individuals with celiac disease.

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Brewing beer is a complex process involving fermentation.

It’s made by fermenting sugar from grains using yeast, which is a living organism. The yeast digests the sugar to produce alcohol (4).

Beer brewing usually involves four main ingredients (5):

  • Water. Typically comprising more than 90% of the final product, water is the main ingredient.
  • Hops. This special flower is traditionally added to provide a unique, bitter taste.
  • Grain. Serving as a source of sugar for fermentation, the most commonly used grains are barley, wheat, and rye — all of which contain gluten (6).
  • Yeast. This live, single-celled organism digests sugar to produce alcohol.

Breweries may also use other grains, flavorings, and additives to give their beer unique colors, tastes, and aromas. Some of these may also contain gluten.

Types of beer and gluten content

Individuals with celiac disease must completely exclude gluten from their diets. In these people, it can damage the intestines, as well as cause stomach pain, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, and poor absorption of nutrients (7).

That’s why it’s critical for anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to be aware of the gluten content of their foods and beverages, including beer.

The amount of gluten in beer is measured in parts per million (ppm).

In most countries, food and beverages must contain fewer than 20 ppm of gluten to be considered gluten-free (8).

Most conventionally brewed beer contains far more than 20 ppm of gluten, though the exact amount varies depending on the brewing process and ingredients used.

Here is the average gluten content of common types of beers (9, 10):

  • Lager: 63 ppm
  • Stout: 361 ppm
  • Ales: 3,120 ppm
  • Wheat beer: 25,920 ppm

As you can see, the most common types of beer contain levels of gluten that are unsafe for people with celiac disease.

Summary

Most beer is made using grains and other additives that contain gluten, which makes it unsafe for individuals with celiac disease.

In most countries — including the United States, Canada, and many European countries — beer must have fewer than 20 ppm of gluten to be labeled gluten-free (11).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests most individuals with celiac disease can consume this level of gluten without adverse effects (12).

To meet this standard, some breweries make the beverage from naturally gluten-free grains, such as rice, corn, sorghum, and millet (13).

Additionally, some breweries are dedicated gluten-free facilities to help avoid cross-contamination with gluten during the brewing process.

Other breweries have developed techniques to reduce gluten in traditional, barley-based beer, producing gluten-removed beer (14).

However, there is no guarantee that gluten-removed beer is safe for individuals with celiac disease. Though it has been processed to help reduce the gluten content, there is no reliable test to verify the amount of gluten they contain (15).

For individuals with celiac disease, it’s best to stick with varieties labeled gluten-free.

summary

Beer labeled gluten-free is likely safe for individuals with celiac disease. These varieties are made using gluten-free grains in facilities that prevent cross-contamination with gluten.

Gluten-free beer is increasing in popularity (16).

Ask your local beer vendor to show you their selection of gluten-free beer, then make sure you’re buying the right product by reading the packaging carefully.

Look for phrases or symbols indicating the product is gluten-free. Keep in mind that labeling standards vary by country.

If it’s not clear whether your beer of choice contains gluten, it may be beneficial to contact the manufacturer directly or choose a different variety with straightforward labeling.

Alternatively, consider opting for wine or distilled liquors, as these are typically gluten-free. However, keep in mind that products vary. Regardless of the beverage you choose, it’s best to examine the label carefully.

Summary

To make sure you’re buying gluten-free beer, carefully read the packaging for regulated phrases or symbols that indicate the product is gluten-free. Many brands will say this explicitly on the label.

Most beer contains gluten, as it’s traditionally brewed using gluten-containing grains — usually barley, wheat, or rye.

However, there are plenty of gluten-free options. Several varieties are made using gluten-free grains, and many breweries are dedicated gluten-free facilities.

Since most countries abide by strict labeling standards, varieties that bear a regulated gluten-free label are likely safe for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.