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The 14 Best (and Worst) Gluten-Free Beers

March 2, 2012  |  5:41pm

For beer lovers, getting diagnosed with a gluten allergy or intolerance used to be like a music fan losing his hearing. But several breweries are doing their best to create products that those who can’t (or choose not to) consume gluten, which is found in crucial beer ingredients like barley and wheat.

We tracked down every style of gluten-free beer we could get our hands for what is the most comprehensive gluten-free-beer tasting we’re aware of. We invited a couple of our gluten-avoiding friends, including Paste games editor Garrett Martin.

Here they are, from worst to best, judged on taste and beer-like-ness.

The Worst Gluten-Free Beers

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14. St. Peter’s Sorgham Beer
Style: German Pilsner
City: Bungay, Suffolk, UK
ABV: 4.2%
Key Ingredients: Sorghum
Like Beer: 50
For Fans Of: All the wrong kinds of bitter
The verdict: One of the things we realized during our tasting is that it must be difficult to make a hoppy gluten-free beer, but St. Peter’s was one of two that pulled it off. Unfortunately, the bitter flavor was just all kinds of wrong, leaving a funky aftertaste. We’re kind of wondering if we just got a bad bottle

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13. New Planet 3R Raspberry Ale
Style: Fruit Beer
City: Boulder, Colo.
ABV: 5%
Key Ingredients: Raspberries
Like Beer: 0
For Fans Of: Izze and champagne
The verdict: We didn’t think this tasted too bad, but it was the most un-beer-like of the bunch—all fruity effervescence. The only way to identify this as beer is because it says so on the label.

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12. New Grist Sorghum Beer
Brewery: Lakefront
Style: Fruit beer
City: Milwaukee, Wisc.
ABV: 5.75%
Key Ingredients: Sorghum
Like Beer: 40
For Fans Of: PBR
The verdict: The words PBR appeared on a couple of different ballots, along with comments like “lacking in taste.”

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11. Daura
Brewery: Estrella Damm
Style: Lager
City: Barcelona, Spain
ABV: 5.4%
Key Ingredients: Gluten-free barley malt
Like Beer: 60
For Fans Of: Bud
The verdict: Another offering that tasted like a fairly weak lager, this Spanish beer is priced like Chimay but tastes like Budwieser.

The Best Gluten-Free Beers

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10. Redbridge
Brewery: Anheuser-Busch
Style: Red Lager
City: St. Louis, Mo.
ABV: 4%
Key Ingredients: Sorghum
Like Beer: 80
For Fans Of: Yuengling
The verdict: We don’t have much love for Anheuser-Busch, but they’ve at least produced a gluten-free beer that tastes as good as their other lagers.

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9. New Planet Tread Lightly
Style: Blonde Ale
City: Boulder, Colo.
ABV: 5%
Key Ingredients: Sorghum, corn, orange peel, hops, yeast
Like Beer: 40
For Fans Of: Hard cider
The verdict: A tasty crisp cider/beer hybrid with much more flavor than New Grist or Daura. Still not hitting that “beer” target in the dead center, but a good option nonetheless.

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8. Bard’s Tale Dragon’s Gold
Style: Brown Ale
City: Buffalo, N.Y.
ABV: 4.3%
Key Ingredients: Sorghum, yeast, hops and water
Like Beer: 75
For Fans Of: Newcastle
The verdict: A reasonably bold flavor and a good option for a gluten-free session beer. This had few passionate fans but also few detractors.

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7. Dogfish Head Tweason’Ale
Style: Fruit Beer
City: Milton, Del.
ABV: 6%
Key Ingredients: Strawberries, sorghum, honey
Like Beer: 35
For Fans Of: Lindeman’s Framboise
The verdict: The fruitiness of the strawberries is balanced by mild hoppy tones. Leave it to Dogfish Head to create an “off-centered” ale without gluten. One of the most interesting of the bunch, if not the most recognizably beer-like.

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6. Green’s Discovery
Style: English Strong Amber Ale
City: Baildon Shipley West Yorkshire, UK
ABV: 6%
Key Ingredients: Sorghum, rice and buckwheat
Like Beer: 85
For Fans Of: New Belgium Fat Tire
The verdict: Here we’re starting to find viable alternatives for lovers of craft beer. Even our least favorite from Belgian brewer Green’s outclassed most of the domestic competition.

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5. New Planet Off the Grid Pale Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
City: Boulder, Colo.
ABV: 5%
Key Ingredients: Hops
Like Beer: 85
For Fans Of: American-style IPAs
The verdict: For IPA and pale ale lovers, New Planet’s Off the Grid is the clear choice. Hoppy and crisp, it delivers on the promise of American craft-brewed ales.

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4. Green’s Quest
Style: Belgian Tripel
City: Baildon Shipley West Yorkshire, UK
ABV: 8.5%
Key Ingredients: Sorghum, rice, buckwheat
Like Beer: 90
For Fans Of: Belgian beers
The verdict: A good example of a mellower, low-ABV Belgian Tripel. Spiced, sweet and aromatic, this has already made many a Celiac happy.

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3. Brunehaut Ambrée
Style: Amber Ale
City: Brunehaut, Belgium
ABV: 6.5%
Key Ingredients: Barley (with gluten-extracted)
Like Beer: 100
For Fans Of: Ommegang Abbey Ale
The verdict: Belgian brewery Brunehaut has figured out how to use barley in its ales and extract the gluten after the fact. Though it measures at the same “less than five parts per million” of gluten that non-barley beers do, it’s regulated by a different government agency in the U.S. and can’t use the “gluten-free” tag. But it’s the best solution we’ve seen yet for those with gluten allergies.

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2. Green’s Endeavor
Style: Belgian Dubbel
City: Baildon Shipley West Yorkshire, UK
ABV: 7%
Key Ingredients: Belgian candi sugars, Belgian yeast
Like Beer: 100
For Fans Of: McChouffe
The verdict: The Green’s Belgian Dubbel was rich and flavorful—I’m personally okay with gluten, but I’d order this over a lot of “regular” beers. If you love sweet, dark, malty beers, this one is for you.

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1. Brunehaut Bio Blonde
Style: Belgian Tripel
City: Brunehaut, Belgium
ABV: 5%
Key Ingredients: Barley (with gluten-extracted)
Like Beer: 100
For Fans Of: Maredsous 8
The verdict: Not just a great gluten-free beer but a great beer, Brunehaut’s Blonde is a well-balanced Tripel and a wonderful step forward in the world of gluten-free beer. Starting with barley and extracting gluten from it seems to be the best way to go.

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