Craft breweries are bringing new passion and fresh choices to beer drinkers in the United States. However, as a person with Celiac Disease keeping a gluten free diet, choice has been harder to come by.
It seems two distinct categories of gluten free options have emerged to meet demand: alternative grain beers brewed with sorghum, rice and millet; and Brewers Clarex beers brewed with malted barley, but finished with a clarifying enzyme to hydrolyze the gluten protein.
The alternative grain beers have a unique flavor that is similar to, but not the same as traditionally malted barley beers. The Clarex beers use malted barley, but the finished product is the subject of some disagreement regarding its safety for Celiacs.
The good news is that there is a third category of gluten free beer coming to the United States: pure craft gluten free beer.
Laitilan Wirvoitusjuomatehdas Kukko brand of beers have been brewed gluten free since 2001 with 100% barley malt and have received the award for best beer in Finland multiple times. They have tested below 10 ppm of gluten by independent laboratories without the use of Brewers Clarex and earned the Finnish Coeliac Society’s certification as safe for gluten free diets. As an added benefit, the brewery is entirely wind powered, the grains are locally sourced and the spent ingredients are recycled back to local farms as feed.
Simply put, pure craft gluten free means: a traditionally brewed 100% barley malt beer, made with all-natural, locally sourced grains, trusted ingredients and responsible brewing practices to yield a great tasting beer that tests surprisingly low gluten.
Next week I will attend the National Beer Wholesaler Association’s (NWBA) annual convention in Las Vegas to continue discussions and spark new ones with distributors regarding Kukko as a pure craft choice for the rapidly growing number of gluten free consumers like me. My question is this:
How does a pure craft gluten free import gain more attention from U.S. distributors?
Early feedback from distributors has been very positive, but this is a tough space to stand out in. Anyone out there interested in seeing a small craft brewery from relative obscurity have a shot at the American craft beer dream?
I promise, there’s a GREAT gluten free beer in it if you do…