With the rising popularity of gluten-free diets and lifestyles, many people are looking for beer options that fit their dietary needs. Lite beers, which are lower in calories and carbohydrates than regular beers, seem like they may be a good option for gluten-free drinkers. But with so many different brands and varieties on the market, how do you know which lite beers are actually gluten-free?
The quick answer is that most major lite beer brands produced by large breweries are not gluten-free. They use ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains like barley and wheat. However, there are some specialty lite beers produced by smaller brewers that are explicitly brewed to remove gluten. So people following gluten-free diets do have lite beer options available.
In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the most popular lite beer brands like Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light and see why they contain gluten. We’ll also highlight some truly gluten-free lite beer options and discuss what makes them different. We’ll also provide tips on how to find and choose gluten-free lite beers.
Why Most Major Lite Beers Contain Gluten
The reason that most major lite beer brands like Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light contain gluten is because they are brewed using traditional ingredients that contain gluten.
Specifically, these lite beers are brewed using malted barley and sometimes wheat. Both barley and wheat contain gluten proteins. During the brewing process, the gluten from these grains ends up in the final beer product.
Here’s a bit more about why the most popular lite beers contain gluten:
Bud Light is the top-selling lite beer in the United States. It’s brewed by Anheuser-Busch and contains the following gluten-containing ingredients:
– Malted barley – Barley contains gluten, and the malting process does not remove the gluten.
– Rice – Bud Light also contains rice, which does not contain gluten on its own. However, the rice undergoes a brewing process in facilities that also process gluten-containing grains. So gluten cross-contact is likely.
According to Anheuser Busch, Bud Light contains 20-40 parts per million (PPM) of gluten. This is above the FDA limit of 20 PPM or less for foods to be labeled “gluten-free.”
Miller Lite is the second highest selling lite beer in the U.S. It’s brewed by Molson Coors and contains these gluten-containing ingredients:
– Malted barley – Like all barley, the malted barley contains gluten.
– Corn – Miller Lite also contains corn, which does not naturally contain gluten. But again, the facilities also process barley and wheat, causing cross-contact.
Miller Coors has not provided exact testing numbers, but they do not consider Miller Lite to be gluten-free.
Coors Light is the third best selling lite beer nationally. It’s made by Molson Coors and contains these gluten-containing ingredients:
– Malted barley – The main source of gluten again comes from the malted barley.
– Corn – Coors Light also contains corn, which picks up traces of gluten during processing.
Like Miller Lite, Coors Light also is not considered a gluten-free beer by its manufacturer. It contains similar amounts of gluten from the malted barley.
Other Major Lite Beers
Other popular lite beer brands like Michelob Ultra, Natural Light, Keystone Light, Busch Light and more are also brewed using malted barley. So they similarly contain gluten and are not safe for gluten-free diets.
The malted barley gives these light beers their classic taste, aroma and golden color that light beer drinkers have come to expect. But it also means they contain gluten.
Gluten-Free Light Beers
So which lite beers actually are gluten-free then? With so many major lite beer brands containing gluten, you have to look primarily at specialty beers produced by smaller breweries.
These breweries use alternative grains and ingredients to create light beers that have an experience similar to traditional lite beers, but without the gluten.
Here are some examples of lite beers that are produced to be gluten-free:
Omission beer is produced by Widmer Brothers brewery, which is part of the Craft Brew Alliance. Omission Light is brewed using traditional lite beer ingredients like malt, hops, yeast and water.
However, the malt used contains gluten-reduced barley. This proprietary process helps remove or deactivate the gluten so that the finished beer tests below 20 PPM of gluten.
Omission Light has a comparable nutritional profile to mainstream light beers. It contains about 100 calories, 3.2 g of carbs and 4.2% alcohol per 12 oz serving. It provides a familiar light beer taste and profile while remaining below the threshold for gluten content.
Glutenberg American Pale Lite
Glutenberg Brewing Company focuses exclusively on gluten-free beers. Their American Pale Lite is brewed from sorghum, buckwheat, corn and rice to create a gluten-free light lager.
With only 99 calories, 5 g carbs and 3.4% alcohol per 12 oz serving, it aligns closely with traditional light beer nutrition stats. And it offers a crisp, refreshing gluten-free beer option.
New Planet Pale Ale
New Planet Beer Company also specializes in gluten-free beer. Their Pale Ale offers a light, easy-drinking option at 110 calories, 7 g carbs and 4.5% alcohol per 12 oz bottle.
It’s brewed using gluten-free grains and ingredients like millet, sorghum, brown rice and tspirulina. The pale ale has citrus and hop flavors for a flavor profile closer to an IPA while still being light.
Stone Delicious IPA
While not marketed specifically as a light beer, Stone Brewing’s gluten-free Delicious IPA does have a lower calorie count. At 140 calories, 14 g carbs and 4.5% alcohol, it fits into the light beer category while offering robust hop flavor.
This popular gluten-free IPA uses malted millet, malted buckwheat and brown rice syrup to create its complexity and bitter hoppiness that IPA fans enjoy.
|Omission Light||100||3.2 g||4.2%|
|Glutenberg American Pale Lite||99||5 g||3.4%|
|New Planet Pale Ale||110||7 g||4.5%|
|Stone Delicious IPA||140||14 g||4.5%|
What Makes These Beers Gluten-Free?
These gluten-free light beers are specially formulated to remove or reduce gluten instead of using traditional barley malt. Here are some of the key ways they accomplish this:
– Use gluten-free grains like sorghum, millet, buckwheat and brown rice instead of barley malt.
– Use proprietary processes to deactivate the gluten in barley malt, like Omission beer.
– Adhere to strict production standards to avoid cross-contamination with gluten. Dedicated equipment and facilities help.
– Test finished beer to ensure gluten levels test below 20 PPM, the FDA standard for “gluten-free.”
– Clearly label beers as “gluten-free” so there’s no doubt about their suitability for gluten-free diets.
Following these practices allows smaller brewers to create lite beers using innovative techniques while ensuring the final product is gluten-free.
Finding Gluten-Free Beers Locally
The downside of these specialty gluten-free light beers is that they are produced in smaller batches and not as widely available compared to the major beer brands. So how can you find them locally?
Here are some tips for locating gluten-free light beers near you:
– Check the specialty beer section at your grocery store or neighborhood bottle shop. They sometimes carry brands like Omission, New Planet, Glutenberg and others.
– Search for gluten-free beers on delivery apps like Drizly or Minibar. You can enter your address and browse available options.
– Look for gluten-free beer menus at local restaurants and bars. As the demand increases, more places are offering GF beer options.
– Ask your regular craft beer store or taproom if they have or can order any gluten-free beers. Special requests help increase awareness and availability.
– Use beer finder tools on websites of brands like Omission and Glutenberg to search listings of bars and restaurants that may carry their beers.
– Search for dedicated gluten-free breweries in your region or state. They will always carry multiple GF options.
– Attend beer festivals and events in your area. Gluten-free beers are often highlighted at these types of events.
With some searching, those following gluten-free diets should be able to find light and flavorful beer options to enjoy in most areas. The selections will likely continue improving as demand increases.
Choosing Quality Gluten-Free Beers
Remember that “gluten-free” does not always equal “high quality” when it comes to beer. Some GF beers can have unusual flavors or textures compared to traditional beers.
Here are some tips for picking out the best tasting gluten-free light beers:
– Try various styles and brands – Each brewery will use unique recipes and ingredients, so the results can vary. Test different GF beers to find your preferences.
– Read reviews – Check reputable sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer to see actual gluten-free beer reviews from consumers. Higher rated ones likely taste better.
– Join gluten-free beer clubs – Join a subscription service like Craft Beer Box that sends different GF beers to try each month. Great way to sample many options.
– Consider certified gluten-free breweries – Breweries certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group follow best practices for avoiding cross-contamination during production.
– Check social media – Follow GF beer brands and breweries on Instagram and Facebook. Look for posts about new beer releases and availability events.
– Talk to staff – Discuss options with the staff at beer stores and taprooms. See if they have had the gluten-free beers and get their recommendations.
Taking the time to research and sample different options helps identify the gluten-free light beers that best match your personal preferences for flavor and experience.
Enjoying Gluten-Free Beers Safely
One final consideration is how to safely enjoy gluten-free beers if you follow a gluten-free diet:
– Verify gluten-free status – Only choose beers that are explicitly labeled as “gluten-free”. Do not just assume.
– Check for changes – Occasionally, beer recipes change. Make sure the brand and variety you are drinking is still gluten-free.
– Avoid questionable beers – Steer clear of beers labeled “gluten-reduced” or that seem questionable. Stick to confirmed GF beers.
– Inspect packaging – Make sure all bottles, cans and packaging appear properly sealed. Look for damage or anything that indicates possible contamination.
– Use dedicated glassware – Pour your GF beer into a clean glass to avoid possible cross-contact from shared tap lines or equipment.
– Ask about preparation – If enjoying a draft GF beer at a bar or restaurant, ask how it was poured and if the tap line was flushed to avoid cross-contact.
By taking these precautions, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should be able to safely partake in gluten-free light beers. Just be diligent, ask questions, and enjoy the beers responsibly.
The Bottom Line
While the most popular light beer brands like Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light contain gluten, there are specialty gluten-free light beer options available for those following GF diets. Brands like Omission, Glutenberg, New Planet and Stone brew gluten-removed and gluten-free beers that offer comparable nutritional stats and taste profiles to mainstream light beers without the gluten.
It may require some searching, but gluten-free light beers can certainly be found in most areas. Those wanting to drink gluten-free beers just need to be proactive about where to find them locally, how to identify quality options, and how to consume them safely. With the increasing demand, the options and availability will likely continue to grow over time as well. So for gluten-free drinkers, it is possible enjoy safely brewed lite beers that do not contain gluten.