Almost three years ago I wrote one of this blog’s most (un)popular posts of all time, about Bard’s Gluten Free Sorghum beer. Since returning to Vancouver, I’ve noticed that gluten has fallen considerably farther out of favour. I cannot stand for this; I must defend the merits of my dear friend gluten.
SORRY COELIACS, YOU POOR BASTARDS
To sum up my previous post, gluten free beer is not good and I feel sad for people with coeliac disease. Yes, I’m aware that a small percentage of the population (far less than 1%) can not consume gluten because of this terrible affliction. I’m also aware that there are others who are so intolerant of gluten that the resulting discomfort caused by it’s ingestion makes avoiding gluten a prudent course of action. I also feel sorry for these people, though I feel they should make certain allowances for the finest beers and baked goods. So there you have it past commenters, I know that some people have severe problems with gluten. This time if you’d like to call me an idiot, please do so for reasons otherthan my assumed ignorance on this particular matter.
FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS
I recently read a book called the Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I found it to be a ridiculously good book and I highly recommend it to anyone that eats food. The idea behind the book is that people are omnivores and find ways to eat pretty much everything. Nowadays, at least in the modern western world, we have so much food and so much variety that choosing what to eat is much more of a problem than finding enough to eat. Talk about your first world problems. As such, we North Americans, who lack a traditional food culture, are easily absorbed into an obsession with health and eating the “best” food. This opens the door for food companies, who need to find new ways to sell more food at higher profit margins, to suck us in with clever marketing. Tell an Italian to stop eating pasta or a French person to stop eating baguettes and they’ll likely punch you in the balls.
WHAT IS GLUTEN ANYWAY?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. These are the grains we humans use to make bread, pasta, pizza, baked goods, breakfast cereal, and beer. It’s not bad for you in any way unless you are a coeliac or have a substantial intolerance. You can’t even be allergic to gluten. Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is not an allergic response. That’s not to say intolerance isn’t an issue, because it is. Symptoms can be painful and prolonged gluten consumption can lead to malnutrition because the body stops absorbing everything to keep out the gluten.
AM I GLUTEN INTOLERANT?
If you have the symptoms, take them to a doctor, she tells you to stop eating gluten, then your symptoms go away, then most likely. If not, then probably not. If someone is telling you that you have problems with gluten, ask yourself if this person has anything to gain from you financially. I sincerely doubt chiropractors can do anything about gluten problems.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me they felt better when they started eating gluten free. However, in some cases I don’t think their feeling better had much to do with cutting out gluten. Gluten is found in whole, nourishing grains. It’s also found in a lot of processed crappy food, like triscuits (what is a triscuit anyway?). Food scientists (yeah, that is a thing) take real food like wheat and make food that tastes perfect to us, then we eat too much, then we get fat. I’ve noticed a correlation between people who feel better after going gluten free, but are also making an effort to “be healthy” in the rest of their lives. Instead of going gluten free, why not try eating real food for a while?
Gluten doesn’t actually taste like anything, but it is found in a lot of tasty foods. What does it do for food, you ask? Well, it gives it body mostly. In bread, it contributes to dough elasticity, overall shape, and chewiness. The best breads and pizza crusts owe much of their finery to gluten. In beer, gluten contributes to body and mouthfeel, hence why many gluten free beers come off as watery.
HOW MUCH GLUTEN IS IN BEER?
Not very much actually. Beer is brewed, denaturing many of the gluten proteins found in barley. Beer is also naturally filtered during the fermentation process as the wort is drained through and out of the mash of barley husks. A beer contains around 10mg of gluten, whereas a piece of bread contains 5g. All but the most afflicted should be able to enjoy beer.
SOME GLUTEN FREE BEERS
I’ve seen quite a few gluten free beers in Vancouver recently. Bard’s, New Grist, and Green’s are a few to look out for Are they good? Well, taste is subjective, but no they are not. I really like this article about the 14 best and worst gluten free beers, complete with % like actual beer rating.
DEFENDING MY BUDDY GLUTEN
It really comes down to this, some people have a lot of trouble with gluten and I feel really bad for them. Gluten is in a lot of the best foods, not to mention beer, and I would be really sad if I couldn’t consume those anymore. I think a lot of people who think they have gluten problems don’t actually and I implore those people to open their minds. Most importantly, try drinking really good beer because gluten free beer is not as good.