As word has started getting out (particularly in Texas), we've been repeatedly asked how Kukko is any different than Omission, Redbridge, Green's, Stone Delicious IPA, Estrella Damm Daura or another gluten free or gluten reduced beer out there. So, what's the BIG GF DEAL with Kukko and why is it better? Well, it all boils down to two things: taste and process...
There are generally two kinds of gluten free or gluten reduced beers on the market today (Yes, there is a difference) - alternative grain beers and enzyme beers:
Beers brewed with alternative grains like sorghum, millet, buckwheat or rice are truly gluten free because they are not made with grains that contain gluten. Barring cross contamination from shared manufacturing equipment; these beers are completely devoid of gluten and safe for celiacs. However, while a laudable effort, the fact of the matter is that these products do not taste like beer, as most beer lovers know it.
Net: safe, but taste different.
Beers that use the new enzymes are brewed with barley for a more traditional flavor. However, while we believe the enzyme brewers have had the best intentions, leading voices in grain science and the federal government will tell you that these beers still contain gluten. In fact, many celiac bloggers have linked these beers with celiac symptoms. It seems that the enzymes are very effective in making smaller, hydrolyzed gluten protein chains, but that does mean the gluten is removed.
Net: taste better, but likely still have gluten.
So...what about Kukko?
Kukko is a truly unique beer. Since 2001, Kukko has been brewed with completely proprietary, but traditional brewing process using only locally sourced barley, pure Nordic water, hops and yeast, in an entirely wind powered facility. The new enzymes are not used, because they did not exist when the brewery discovered their gluten-reducing secret. In fact, the brewery's commitment to craft is such that only Beer Institute approved brewing aids are involved at all. No short cuts allowed. Net: uniquely brewed, great tasting beer, that just happens to be surprisingly low in gluten.
Now, savvy beer loving celiacs and gluten free watchers will rightly note that if Kukko is still made with barley, then it cannot be said to be said to be truly gluten free. And, this is true. However, Kukko does not use the new enzymes that reduce the efficacy of industry standard R5 Competitive ELISA test for gluten AND past tests have earned Kukko the Finnish Coeliac Society's certification as safe for gluten free diets. While it is true that there currently is no definitive gluten test for any fermented beverage acceptable here in the U.S., Kukko is better because it is made with the pure ingredients, no-short cuts, and has been safely consumed by gluten free Finns for nearly 15 years.
And, that's a BIG GF DEAL.