Seltzer beers, sometimes called hard seltzers, have exploded in popularity in recent years as a lower calorie and gluten-free alternative to traditional beers. But with the word “beer” in the name, many people find themselves wondering – are seltzer beers really gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.
Quick Answer: Yes, most seltzer beers on the market today are gluten-free. They are made from fermented cane sugar, fruit flavors, and carbonated water rather than grains containing gluten. However, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should still exercise caution and double check the label.
What Makes a Beer Gluten Free?
For a beer to be considered gluten-free, it must not contain the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye – staple ingredients in traditional beer recipes. Gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction in those with celiac disease and can cause gastrointestinal distress in those with gluten sensitivity.
Beers produced from ingredients that do not naturally contain gluten, like sorghum, buckwheat, rice, corn, honey, fruits, and sugar cane can be labeled as gluten-free, provided no gluten-containing ingredients are added during processing. Most hard seltzers fall into this category.
Common Gluten-Free Beer Ingredients
- Sugar cane
So long as the base ingredients are naturally gluten-free and no gluten-containing additives are introduced, the resulting beer can be considered gluten-free.
How Seltzer Beers are Made
Unlike traditional beers which use malted barley as the primary ingredient, most seltzer beers are made by fermenting cane sugar and mixing in natural fruit flavors and carbonated water. This results in a gluten-free beverage.
Here is a quick overview of the seltzer beer brewing process:
- Cane sugar is fermented into alcohol using yeast.
- Carbonated water is added for effervescence.
- Natural fruit flavors are mixed in for taste.
- The beverage is packaged and ready to drink.
Because the ingredients and brewing process do not introduce any gluten, the resulting product can be considered gluten-free.
Watch Out for Added Gluten
While the base ingredients of most hard seltzers are gluten-free, some brands do add wheat or barley for flavoring. Be sure to still check the label carefully for any gluten-containing additives like malt or wheat before consuming. Those with an intolerance should steer clear of any brand that uses gluten ingredients.
Are All Seltzer Beers Gluten Free?
While most seltzer beers on the market are gluten-free, there are some exceptions:
- Some seltzer beers are made with wheat or barley for flavor. These contain gluten.
- Malted barley may be used in the fermentation process for some brands. This introduces gluten.
- Some fruit purees added for flavor can contain gluten as a stabilizer.
- Cross-contamination is possible during manufacturing in shared facilities.
So while gluten-free seltzer beers are widely available, double checking the label is still important, especially for those with celiac disease who must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer for more details.
How to Check if a Seltzer Beer is Gluten-Free
Here are some tips for evaluating if a seltzer beer is gluten-free:
- Check the ingredients list for wheat, barley, rye, malt, or other gluten-containing grains.
- Look for a clear “gluten-free” label on the packaging.
- Call or email the manufacturer and ask about their gluten-free certification process.
- Research the brand online to see if other reputable sources have confirmed it is gluten-free.
- If dining out, ask your server to confirm the seltzer beer is gluten-free.
Following up provides that extra assurance for those that absolutely require a gluten-free option.
Most Popular Gluten-Free Seltzer Beer Brands
Many trusted seltzer beer brands clearly label their products as gluten-free. Here are some of the most popular gluten-free options:
|White Claw||Labeled gluten-free|
|Bon & Viv||Labeled gluten-free|
|Smirnoff Seltzer||Labeled gluten-free|
This table shows some popular seltzer beer brands that clearly label their products as gluten-free. However, always advise checking the label on new flavors or seasonal offerings that many brands rollout.
Smaller Craft Seltzer Beer Brands
In addition to the major national brands, many smaller craft seltzer beer producers are entering the market. Some focus on using gluten-free ingredients and prioritize transparency on their brewing process.
When trying a new craft seltzer beer, be sure to check the packaging carefully for an ingredients list and gluten-free label to confirm it is safe for those with intolerance. Reaching out to the brewer directly can also provide assurance.
Are Flavored Seltzer Beers Gluten-Free?
Most flavored seltzer beers are gluten-free, but it depends on the type of flavors added:
- Fruit purees are typically gluten-free and safe.
- Natural fruit flavors are also typically fine.
- Watch out for malt or wheat based flavors which do contain gluten.
- If unsure, check the ingredients list for potential sources of gluten.
The same general rules apply to flavored seltzers – look for gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye in the ingredients list or labeling. Many brands use natural fruit flavors to create variety, allowing the end product to remain gluten-free. But flavors like black cherry, which can derive from wheat, may contain traces of gluten.
Most Common Gluten-Free Seltzer Beer Flavors
These popular seltzer beer flavors typically use natural fruit flavors and purees, allowing the end product to remain gluten-free. But check for new limited edition or seasonal flavors that may contain malt barley or wheat.
Risk of Cross-Contamination
Even if a seltzer beer checks all the boxes for gluten-free ingredients, there is still a risk of cross-contamination occurring during the manufacturing process.
Factors that increase the risk include:
- Shared equipment – Used to brew gluten-containing beers
- Shared facilities – Gluten products made in same building
- Shared lines – Shared pipes and tanks
To avoid this issue, some brands produce their gluten-free seltzer beers in completely separate facilities from their traditional beers. Others implement thorough cleaning protocols in between production runs.
Those with celiac disease should look for brands that specifically advertise having no risk of cross-contamination. Individual tolerance levels vary, so each person must evaluate their own level of risk.
Certified Gluten-Free Manufacturing
The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) audits and certifies facilities as gluten-free. Brands that achieve this certification adhere to strict standards limiting gluten exposure to less than 10ppm. GFCO certification provides added assurance.
You can identify GFCO certified products by looking for their certification logo:
However certification is voluntary, so not all gluten-free brands pursue it. Many establish their own protocols to avoid cross-contact instead.
Seltzer Beers and Celiac Disease
Those with celiac disease must follow a strict lifelong gluten-free diet with zero exposure to gluten. While most seltzer beers are gluten-free, the risk of trace exposure from cross-contamination must be considered.
Factors for those with celiac to consider when selecting a seltzer beer include:
- Stick to brands with clear “gluten-free” labeling
- Contact manufacturer to understand their brewing process
- Look for GFCO certification or brands brewed in dedicated gluten-free facilities
- Start with a small serving size to gauge reaction
The degree of caution taken by each individual depends on the severity of their celiac condition. Some may tolerate occasional trace amounts, while others require 100% certainty from a GFCO-audited facility.
Seltzer Beers and Gluten Sensitivity
Those with gluten sensitivity or intolerance also need to avoid gluten exposure from seltzer beers. However, small amounts may be better tolerated compared to people with celiac.
Factors for those with gluten sensitivity include:
- Check for clear gluten-free labeling
- Evaluate manufacturing practices
- Try brands safely consumed by others with gluten intolerance
- Start with one serving and monitor symptoms
Gluten sensitive individuals can be more flexible in options, but should still take care to understand the particular gluten-free practices of any brand they choose to consume.
Drinking Seltzer Beers on a Gluten-Free Diet
Here are some tips for enjoying seltzer beers while maintaining a gluten-free diet:
- Vet brands carefully and look for “gluten-free” labeled options.
- Check repetitive for new flavors which may differ.
- Consume gluten-free foods before and after to limit potential exposure.
- Avoid beer taps at bars unless confirmed GF. Opt for canned or bottled options.
- Inform friends and family about your gluten-free needs.
- Travel with preferred gluten-free seltzer beer brands.
- Check labels every time, even on go-to brands.
With proper precautions, those adhering to a gluten-free diet can still enjoy the light and refreshing qualities of most seltzer beers. Just take extra care in confirming the gluten-free status before consuming.
Low Gluten Seltzer Beers
Some seltzer beer brands advertise themselves as “low-gluten” rather than gluten-free. These products still contain some level of gluten, usually less than 20ppm.
While marketed to gluten-sensitive individuals, low-gluten seltzer beers are not suitable for those with celiac disease who require complete gluten avoidance. Those with celiac should only consume truly gluten-free seltzer beers.
Others on a gluten-free diet may be able to tolerate low-gluten seltzer beers in moderation. However, caution is still advised.
Making Your Own Gluten-Free Seltzer Beers
Another option for guaranteeing a gluten-free seltzer beer is to brew your own at home. This allows complete control over the ingredients and avoiding cross-contamination.
Here is an overview of the homebrew process:
- Obtain a gluten-free brewing kit – Many kits are designed for gluten-free brewing.
- Choose gluten-free ingredients – Such as buckwheat, sorghum, rice, millet or corn.
- Sanitize equipment – Thoroughly clean equipment to avoid residues.
- Brew seltzer beer per kit instructions.
- Bottle and allow to ferment.
- Serve and enjoy your custom gluten-free creation.
While more labor intensive, homebrewing allows anyone adhering to a strict gluten-free diet to craft their ideal seltzer beer.
Seltzer Brewing Ingredients
|Honey||Flavor and fermentation|
This table shows some naturally gluten-free ingredients that can be used to brew your own seltzer beers at home. Get creative with combinations of flavors and bases.
Going Gluten-Free? What to Know About Seltzer Beers
For those newly embarking on a gluten-free diet, seltzer beers can seem confusing at first. Here are some key takeaways:
- Look for “gluten-free” clearly labeled on the packaging.
- Base ingredients like sugar cane and fruit are gluten-free.
- Watch out for barley, wheat or rye based flavors.
- Contact brands about their brewing process.
- Seek third-party certification for added assurance.
- Start with one drink and monitor symptoms.
- Select mainstream brands labeled GF to be safe.
- Avoid beer taps unless confirmed gluten-free.
While it may seem daunting at first, with care and awareness, those adhering to a gluten-free diet can safely enjoy the perfect refreshing seltzer beer.
The Bottom Line
So are seltzer beers gluten free? The answer is yes for most brands – but individuals should still verify based on their specific needs and sensitivities. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer for details.
Look for clear “gluten-free” labeling along with information on manufacturing practices to minimize cross-contact risks. While most major brands are safe, those with celiac disease should take extra precautions. With the proper diligence, seltzer beers can be enjoyed as part of an otherwise strict gluten-free diet.
In summary, seltzer beers represent a tasty gluten-free beverage option for many adhering to gluten-restricted diets – but care must still be taken. Always read labels thoroughly, research manufacturing processes, and check on potential new ingredient sources like flavor extracts. While most seltzer beers are formulated to be gluten-free, individual sensitivities can vary. Approach with caution, and contact manufacturers whenever uncertainty exists. With the proper understanding and precautions, the majority of seltzer beers can be enjoyed gluten-free.