Since learning of my celiac status, I have all but stopped drinking beer. I don’t drink the stuff because there are few gluten-free options and it just became a hassle. Little did I know that my beer might contain dairy, corn, GMOs or animal products.
The fact that a lot of wine is not vegan is relatively well known at least among the vegan community. I was aware that wine was often clarified with gelatin or isinglass (fish gelatin) but was not aware that it can also be clarified with casien. Nor was I aware that beer often shared this fate.
How is this possible? Why don’t these manufacturers need to tell us when our beverages contain a major allergen?
Well as it turns out alcoholic beverages are not regulated by the FDA. Whatever you may think of the FDA they do employ many well trained and highly qualified food scientists and they have actually made rules that say that you can’t call something gluten-free unless it contains less than 20ppm of gluten and that you have to label food that contains a major allergen.
Alcoholic beverages are improbably regulated but the Treasury Department. I don’t know how many chemical engineers are working in the Treasury Department, but I am willing to bet that they are not running the show.
Whether it is the result of neglect or lobbying by the makers of alcoholic beverages, the makers of alcoholic beverages don’t have to list their ingredients. They don’t have to follow the same warning systems put in place for food. So a drink like Irish Cream. which will proudly state that it contains dairy on its website, does not need to disclose this on the label.
So what is a food allergic person to do at a cocktail party when she tires of club soda?
Interestingly, the one beverage that is safe for food allergic people most of the time and which is almost always vegan is hard liquor, even though most of it is indeed made from grains. The reason for this anomaly is that proteins are what trigger allergic reactions. The body is reacting to a protein. Proteins don’t survive distillation. So a celiac like me can drink a wheat based vodka and suffer no more ill effects than if I drank a potato based vodka. Clarifiers are not needed as distillation clarifies the drink.
Food Babe did a list of beer with decent ingredients which is listed at the end of her long blog post on this topic. Unfortunately none of the listed beers is gluten-free.
So if you are going out with me for a drink, the odds are pretty good I will be having a scotch or a margarita.
Tequila is, of course, gluten, dairy, corn and nut-free.