A few friends of mine have Celiac Disease. They've all told me that the commercial gluten free beers they've tried have been terrible. Can I brew something at home that's tasty and something they can drink?
There are basically two ways of making gluten-free beer:
- Use gluten-free ingredients, like sorghum, buckwheat, millet, quinoa etc. It's doable, but it's likely it won't taste quite like "regular" beer.
- Use enzymes to break down the gluten, something like Brewers Clarex, which is sold by White Labs as "Clarity-Ferm". This stuff is added with the yeast and is designed to break down proteins and clarify the beer, but it also breaks down gluten as a "side-effect".
There's a ton of information on gluten free brewing over on the Homebrew Talk Gluten Free Forum. One of the more interesting things I saw over there was the use of roasted chestnuts to replace the malt extract when making gluten free beer. I tried it last fall, and while it wasn't perfect, it was much better than any of the commercial sorghum beers that I've tasted. I can't wait to try it again. Here's the basic process.
- 12 to 24 hours prior to brewing, soak chestnuts in the oven overnight with some Amylase Enzyme to break down the fermentable sugars.
- Strain the liquid removing the chestnut chips, and use this as the basis of your wort. If needed add water to bring up the volume to at least 2 gallons. (From here it's pretty much a normal brew process)
- Bring the wort to a boil.
- Add 4 to 5 lbs of fermentable sugars such as honey or corn sugar.
- Bring back to a boil and start a 60 minute timer.
- Add hops as needed according to the type of beer you're making.
- With 15 minutes left in the boil, add 8 to 12oz of maltodextrin. Since most of the sugars produced by the chestnuts are fermentable, these beers can have a bit of a "thin" mouthfeel.
- When the boil is completed, chill the wort, transfer into the primary fermenter, and add water to bring the volume up to 5 gallons.
The beer will be cloudier than a normal beer, so here are a couple of optional steps that you can use to clear up the beer.
- Add Irish Moss during the last 2 minutes of the boil.
- After 10 to 14 days of fermenting rack it to a secondary for further clarification.
- Cold crash the beer for 24 hours or so prior to bottling or kegging.
Enjoy! Here are some additional resources.