Cara Investigates: Gluten Free Beer Made from Barley?
It's true. Sir Benjamin came across a 4-pack of bottles of Estrella Damm Daura from Barcelona at the local grocery, priced at $6.99, then "looseys" (I didn't realize this term applied to beers as well) for $1.79 at the local European market. The only gluten free beer I'd tried up to that point was Redbridge, a sorghum-based domestic beer - it's not bad and not terribly difficult to find, but the taste is a little too light and sweet for me.
I was never a serious beer drinker, but the occasional Stella or Franziskaner Weissbier was always a welcome switch from wine, and I'm pretty sure I drank more beer than water in Germany and Austria, since it tends to be cheaper at restaurants. If I want something carbonated, I'll usually stick to cider - Original Sin and Badger are two of my gluten free favorites, but they can be hard to find. So imagine my surprise when Sir Benjamin excitedly showed me to the beer aisle, claiming to have found another gluten free beer!
Estrella Damm Daura IS made from barley, which I was wary about at first. But printed right on the label, and explained on the box, is the fact that the beer tests at 6 ppm of gluten, which just over half of the 10 ppm that's considered gluten free and celiac-friendly in the US. On a side note, Europe seems to be a bit ahead of us on the celiac awareness front, since many or most food labels carry some indication of the gluten free status of the product, and have for several years. I checked out the site, where Estrella Damm details the development and certification of the beer, having collaborated with the National Scientific Research Council for the r&d.
This seemed reasonably sound to me, and so did the $1.79 to try a bottle. Served cold from the fridge, it tasted much like how I remembered a golden lager - somewhat light, slightly rich, and just a little bitter, like a darker, more bitter Stella, and even a bit like an Anchor & Steam. It's not an amazing beer, but I do like the taste in comparison to the rice and sorghum-based beers I've tried - they're much sweeter, and at that point, I'd rather just drink a cider over ice.
I will buy it again, probably in the summer en route to a cookout, so I don't feel so left out when everyone else is enjoying a beer. For the record, I had none of the typical contamination issues with this beer and felt confident trying it, considering the ppm rating is well below what's considered gluten free in the US. If you're ultra-sensitive or afraid, it's probably not worth the risk. But if you can tolerate typical "certified gluten free foods" with a <10ppm rating, then you'll probably be fine. I read a few other reviews by fellow gluten intolerants, and they seemed to tolerate it just fine. BUT, at your own risk and discretion.