Are rice Ales gluten-free?

Rice ales are beers made primarily from rice rather than barley or wheat. Many people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity wonder if rice ales are safe to drink, since they are made from rice instead of gluten-containing grains like barley. In this 5000 word article, we will thoroughly examine whether rice ales contain gluten and can be safely consumed on a gluten-free diet.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. The two main proteins that make up gluten are gliadin and glutenin. When flour from these grains is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form an elastic network that gives bread its chewy texture.

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten. When they eat gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies. The only treatment for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Many grains like rice, corn, buckwheat, and millet do not contain gluten. That is why gluten-free substitute ingredients like rice flour, corn flour, and buckwheat flour are often used to make gluten-free products. However, some grains like oats can become contaminated with gluten during processing. So checking labels for gluten-free certification is still important when consuming products made from naturally gluten-free grains.

Gluten Content of Rice

Rice is a naturally gluten-free grain. Pure rice does not contain the gluten proteins gliadin and glutenin that trigger a reaction in people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

There has been extensive testing on the gluten content of rice by laboratories specializing in gluten analysis. Multiple studies have consistently detected no gluten proteins in rice at the detection limit of 5 parts per million. This very low gluten content is well below the 20 parts per million cutoff used for gluten-free labeling in many countries.

Rice is considered a safe gluten-free food choice by organizations like the Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Support Association, Gluten Intolerance Group, and Canadian Celiac Association. Major gluten-free food certification programs also allow rice as an ingredient in certified gluten-free products.

So if you see an ingredient list that contains just rice or rice flour, you can be confident that product does not contain any detectable amounts of gluten from the rice. However, rice can become contaminated with gluten if it is processed along with gluten-containing grains. That’s why checking for gluten-free certification is still important.

Ingredients in Rice Ales

To understand if rice ales contain gluten, we need to look at the main ingredients used to brew them:


As discussed above, rice does not naturally contain gluten. So if rice is the only grain used in brewing, that greatly reduces the chance of gluten contamination.

Using gluten-free rice as the starting material is what allows breweries to produce gluten-free rice ales. Rice provides the starch that gets converted to alcohol during the fermentation process.

Some breweries state they use brown rice in their rice ales because it contains more protein, which can enhance head retention. But both brown and white rice are gluten-free grains.


Hops are the flowers from the hop plant Humulus lupulus that provide bitterness and flavor to beer. Hops are naturally gluten-free and do not contain any gluten proteins. Therefore, the addition of hops during brewing does not affect the gluten content of rice ales.


Brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) ferments the sugars from rice into alcohol and carbonation. Yeast is not a grain, so it does not naturally contain gluten.

However, yeast can be grown on media containing wheat or barley, raising concerns over gluten contamination. Most commercially available brewer’s yeast is grown on sugar-based media, not gluten grains. But breweries may specify no gluten ingredients are used in culturing the yeast to provide extra assurance.


The water used in brewing rice ales should not be a source of gluten. Plain water does not contain gluten. Unless a facility uses equipment that previously processed gluten and contaminated the water, the water itself will be gluten-free.


Some rice ales contain added flavorings like fruit, spices, or other gluten-free ingredients. As long as these additions are confirmed gluten-free, they will not affect the gluten content of the final product. But it’s worth checking labels for any ingredients derived from gluten grains.


Looking at the main ingredients in rice ales, only the rice provides any significant source of material from grains. Since rice is naturally gluten-free, that greatly reduces the risk of gluten exposure during brewing. The other ingredients – hops, yeast, water, and flavorings – do not naturally contain gluten. So there is little opportunity for gluten contamination just from the ingredients.

However, gluten could still be introduced during processing if equipment is not properly cleaned between batches. Proper procedures need to be in place to prevent cross-contact.

Risk of Cross-Contamination

Rice ales made from gluten-free ingredients could still pick up traces of gluten during production if they come into contact with gluten-containing grains. This cross-contamination can occur:

During Growing and Harvesting

Rice crops rotationally grown in fields previously used for wheat or barley could pick up gluten residues from the soil. Gluten contamination could also occur during drying and storage if rice is mixed with gluten-containing grains.

Using rice sourced from dedicated gluten-free fields and storage facilities reduces this risk. Some breweries state they use rice grown in California’s Central Valley where rice is typically the only crop grown.

During Malting

Some rice ales use malted rice. The malting process involves soaking and partially germinating rice grains to activate enzymes needed for fermentation. This is often done on equipment also used for malting barley. So shared equipment could introduce gluten unless thoroughly cleaned between batches.

Malting rice separately from gluten-containing grains avoids cross-contact. Some facilities have dedicated gluten-free malting operations to supply rice malt for gluten-free brewing.

During Brewing

Most commercial beers, including rice lagers, are produced in facilities that also brew beers using gluten-containing grains. Making both gluten and gluten-free beers on shared equipment raises the risk of cross-contamination.

Using dedicated equipment just for gluten-free brewing prevents this issue. Some breweries operate distinct gluten-free brewhouses segregated from those brewing with barley and wheat. This eliminates the chance of gluten exposure during the brewing process.

During Bottling/Packaging

Bottling and packaging on shared lines may expose finished beer to traces of gluten. For example, gluten residues could be introduced from contact with equipment previously used to bottle barley-based beers.

Dedicated bottling/packaging operations for gluten-free products avoid this problem. Alternately, thorough cleaning procedures between product changeovers can minimize the chance of cross-contamination.


While the ingredients may be gluten-free, brewing processes using shared equipment elevate the risk of cross-contact with gluten. Mitigation strategies like sourcing certified gluten-free rice, operating dedicated gluten-free malting and brewing facilities, and thorough cleaning procedures can reduce the potential for contamination.

Testing for Gluten

The most definitive way to verify the gluten content of rice ales is by testing finished products. There are validated testing methods available to detect gluten down to very low levels (5-10 parts per million):

ELISA Testing

The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) uses antibodies that bind to gluten proteins. This allows detection down to 3-5 ppm, suitable for certifying gluten-free status. Some breweries state they test every batch using ELISA to ensure no detectable gluten.

PCR Testing

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplifies any gluten DNA present. PCR can detect gluten residues down to 10-15 ppm. Periodic PCR testing provides additional verification of procedures to prevent cross-contact.

Mass Spectrometry

Using mass spectrometry to identify gluten peptide markers is an emerging method to detect gluten down to 5-10 ppm. Mass spectrometry provides precise gluten protein identification at very low levels.


There are several accurate laboratory methods to analyze rice ales for traces of gluten from grains like barley and wheat. Testing provides quantitative verification of gluten content within accepted limits for gluten-free labeling. This gives consumers definitive assurance of the product’s gluten-free status.

Certifications for Gluten-Free Rice Ales

Many rice ales display seals from recognized gluten-free certification programs to validate their gluten-free claim. Obtaining third-party certification requires meeting defined standards for gluten-free production, testing, and proper documentation.

Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)

The GFCO is the leading gluten-free certification program in North America. GFCO certification requires facilities to follow procedures that limit gluten exposure. Products must test at 10 ppm or less of gluten. The GFCO symbol gives consumers assurance of verified gluten-free status.

Australian gluten-free certification

Food Standards Australia New Zealand oversees gluten-free certification in Australia. Certified products must not have any detectable gluten and be made under a documented gluten control system. Look for the “Gluten Free” label with the ear of wheat crossed out.

Crossed Grain Symbol

The Crossed Grain symbol indicates certification to the gluten-free standard enforced by the Canadian Celiac Association. It verifies gluten-free production procedures and finished products testing below 20 ppm gluten.


Gluten-free certifications require adherence to stringent standards and testing to ensure absence of gluten at very low levels. Rice ales displaying reputable gluten-free symbols provide extra assurance of compliance with program requirements.

Labeling of Rice Ales

Checking the label is important when evaluating if a rice ale is gluten-free. Relevant information to look for includes:

List of Ingredients

Rice ales brewed only from gluten-free ingredients like rice, hops, yeast, and water should not contain any gluten sources. Avoid products listing wheat, barley, rye or ingredients derived from these prohibited gluten grains.

“Gluten-Free” Claim

Manufacturers should clearly label rice ales as “gluten-free” if they are produced and tested to meet regulatory standards for a gluten-free claim. This provides consumers clear guidance.

Contains Statement

Any potential gluten sources present should be declared in a “contains” statement per food labeling regulations, e.g. “Contains: Wheat.” Absence of such statements provides assurance no gluten ingredients are used.

Allergen Advisory

Rice ales not using any wheat in production should not have to declare wheat as an allergen. Presence of wheat in the allergen statement would indicate potential for gluten.

Shared Facility Warning

Rice ales bottled on shared lines with gluten-containing beers commonly bear an advisory such as “Processed in a facility that also processes wheat.” This indicates potential cross-contact with gluten.


Carefully reading the label provides useful information on whether gluten sources are present and where there may be risk of gluten cross-contact during manufacturing. A “gluten-free” claim and certification seal provide the highest level of assurance.

Examples of Gluten-Free Rice Ales

Many breweries now produce dedicated gluten-free rice ales verified to be gluten-free through testing and certification:

New Planet Beer

New Planet Beer was one of the first U.S. craft breweries to specialize in gluten-free beer. Their rice ales are made from gluten-free ingredients in a dedicated facility and lab tested to ensure undetectable gluten levels.

Ghostfish Brewing

Ghostfish Brewing in Seattle operates an entirely gluten-free brewery making ales and lagers from grains like rice and millet. Their beers are GFCO certified gluten-free to 10 ppm.


Glutenberg crafts gluten-free beers like Glutenberg American Pale Ale using 100% millet and rice. Their facility is dedicated gluten-free and products are tested to ensure no detectable gluten.

Estrella Damm Daura

Daura is a gluten-free barley malt beer from Spanish brewer Estrella Damm. Daura is made from rice and millet alongside their regular barley malt beers but guaranteed gluten-free through GFCO certification.

Omission Beer

While marketed as “crafted to remove gluten,” Omission beers are NOT gluten-free according to labeling laws since they contain barley. Omission should be avoided by those with celiac or gluten sensitivity.


There are many excellent dedicated gluten-free rice ale choices verified through certification and testing to contain undetectable levels of gluten. Just be sure to read labels closely and avoid beers like Omission that contain gluten grains.

Are Rice Ales Gluten-Free? Conclusion

In summary, most rice ales produced from gluten-free ingredients using proper procedures to avoid cross-contact can be considered gluten-free:

– Rice does not naturally contain gluten, providing a gluten-free base grain for brewing.

– Other standard ingredients like hops, yeast, and water do not contain gluten.

– Facilities using dedicated equipment just for gluten-free production eliminate the risk of contamination.

– Finished products are tested using sensitive methods to confirm no detectable gluten.

– Third-party certification programs verify adherence to gluten-free production standards and testing requirements.

– Labels clearly indicate gluten-free status and absence of any gluten-containing ingredients.

So checking for gluten-free certifications, claims, and advisories provides assurance that a rice ale is gluten-free as produced. However, those highly sensitive to gluten should be cautious, as full exclusion of trace gluten residues may not be guaranteed. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer directly to understand their production procedures and testing protocols. Overall, rice ales represent a tasty gluten-free beer option that can be enjoyed safely by most gluten-free consumers.

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