Gluten Free and Thirsty: Beer + Science = Estrella Damm’s Daura

Written by on August 24, 2011 in Beer, Gluten Free - 17 Comments

Gluten Free and Thirsty is an ongoing series by Drink Up Columbus’ favorite glutard (that’s the probably-not-PC way to say “has a gluten allergy). For previous Gluten Free articles, click here.

We think this article translates to "Yum" in English

You won’t find me reviewing many gluten free beers. If it’s made from rice or sorghum, forget it, I don’t hate myself enough to trick my brain into thinking I’m drinking beer when I’m actually drinking day-old urine (or something that closely resembles day-old urine). Inflammatory degradation of gluten free beer aside, what I’m trying to say is I’m really not a fan of traditional gluten free beers. Although I appreciate the efforts of brewers who attempt to make tasty alcoholic beverages suitable for the gluten intolerant population, the beer enthusiast within me is usually depressed by the actual taste of the brews. To say the least, there’s a lot left to be desired in the gluten free beer world.

…and along came Daura

Spanish brewery, Estrella Damm, has been doing something special–making gluten free beer from barley malt. They make the beer called Daura “Celiac safe” by reducing the gluten content to an acceptable level, which in this case is 6ppm (<20 ppm of gluten is considered safe for Celiac patients). Their secret process is speculated to be as simple as adding an enzyme to a traditional barley-based beer that breaks down the protein, an enzyme that may or may not closely resemble Brewer’s Clarex, a popular add-in sold to homebrewers to clarify beer.

The best thing about Daura is it tastes like beer. More specifically, it tastes like a boring old lager, but it certainly does not resemble the gluten free beers that make me wretch from the aftertaste of soggy socks. It pours a medium gold with a decent but small head, is slightly hoppy and musky smelling, and tastes exactly like a lager should taste. It tastes like beer, a mediocre beer, but it tastes like actual beer, which is a big step up for glutards in search of brewskies. You can pick Daura up in Columbus at Whole Foods, Giant Eagle Market District, Gentiles, and Weilands. I’ve seen it pop up occasionally in Columbus bars, too.

…the problem with beers which “remove gluten”

You won’t find Daura with a big sign boasting its gluten free properties though. Federal regulations are murky as to whether or not products can be labeled “gluten free” if they’re not made from actual, naturally gluten free ingredients. So even if you science the shit out of your beer and remove all of the hordein (the specific name of the gluten protein found in barley), it still may not be labeled gluten free, pending proposed changes to FDA regulations.

…the reality of beer and gluten

One of the most important things to know about beer and gluten is that gluten testing of beers made in the states is almost unheard of because even if a brewery’s beer is safe for the gluten intolerant, they can’t label it that way due to FDA limitations so there’s no point in paying money for the test. The amount of gluten in barley-based beers may actually be extremely minimal because much of the protein hordein is removed during the brewing process, but nobody really knows for sure how much of the protein is in the finished product. There are studies which argue that, in general, most barley based beers are safe for those seeking to maintain a gluten free diet, while other studies debunk this claim, saying that there remains an unacceptable level of gluten protein in beer after the brewing process is finished.

…the verdict?

Estrella Damm and a few other breweries like Sinebrychoff/Carlsberg breweries of Finland are doing a good thing by using science to make beer that tastes like beer which certifiably is safe for those who have a gluten intolerance. But this process is only just now starting to gain traction in Europe, and not at all in the states. Until the label “gluten free” is well defined and consistently regulated, we likely won’t see any improvements in the gluten free beer market.

As a glutarded beer geek, there’s only one thing I can do about this in the meantime and that’s to go all Bill Nye on some beer and use myself as a guinea pig. Armed with some gluten testing kits, my defunct digestive system, and a sleep deprived brain, I’m going to embark on a beer adventure and find out how much gluten is in my most beloved beers, how I react to them, and do a homebrew experiment with Brewer’s Clarex to see what I can do to rectify this ambiguous yet optimistic situation. Because no matter how much my body protests, I’ll always be a hophead and a lover of beer.

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17 Comments on "Gluten Free and Thirsty: Beer + Science = Estrella Damm’s Daura"

  1. Ryan Bell August 24, 2011 at 12:36 PM · Reply

    I’ve been interested in trying the Clarex, too. For Chrissy, most beers don’t bother her all that much, but she stays clear of wheat beers. Have you done homebrewing before? I’d be interested in collaborating on a GF beer done with Clarex.

    • Debbie Bitzan August 24, 2011 at 12:52 PM · Reply

      I’ve homebrewed before. Boyfriend and I keep coming up with ideas that never come to fruition. I figured I’d commit to it on the blog, then have to do it :) We should chat about the Clarex project for sure.

  2. Ryan Bell August 24, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Reply

    Also, if you haven’t tried stuff from Green’s Chrissy likes those, the Belgian tripel the most so far…

    • Debbie Bitzan August 24, 2011 at 12:48 PM · Reply

      I’ve heard Green’s does some stuff with gluten removal as well but I haven’t read much about it. I have had their brown ale which is pretty good. The whole de-glutenizing thing has taken off in Europe but not so much here unfortunately.

  3. Ryan Bell August 24, 2011 at 12:43 PM · Reply

    I’ve also hear good things about New Planet Brewing, but they aren’t out this far yet.

  4. Peggy September 19, 2011 at 12:43 AM · Reply

    I drank my first bottle of Daura g-f beer tonight and thought it was very decent for a g-f brew. As you say, it sure beats stinky sock juice. I have been trying to find the carbohydrate content in a bottle of Daura but the information just isn’t there. Any chance you know what it is, or could find out? Thanks!

    • Debbie Bitzan September 21, 2011 at 9:53 AM · Reply

      I’m sorry Peggy, but I don’t know the carb count for Daura. I did a brief Google search and also can’t find it anywhere. If I find out, I’ll let you know!

  5. Todd P. September 21, 2011 at 12:03 AM · Reply

    I bought Daura for my Fiance’ and she thought it was quite good as did I. Tasted like a “Real” Beer.
    She was recently diagnosed with Celiac and was saddened by the thought of not being able to enjoy a Cold one on the weekends, or during cooking outs and during Football games. Still I’m a little concerned about the trace amounts of Gluten in the beer, 6 PPM may not seem like much but a trace amount is a trace amount.
    I’d also be interested in the results of your Home Brewing experiments and the results of exactly how much actual Gluten is left in the final product of both commercially available Beers and Ales (Including Micro-Breweries) and the “Home Brewed” varieties.
    Its a shame that only a handful of micro brewers are taking up the challenge of producing a decent tasting GF Beer or even looking into the technology to remove the Gluten from conventional brews. Hats off to Estrella Damm Daura for breaking new ground.

    • Debbie Bitzan September 21, 2011 at 9:55 AM · Reply

      The home brewing experiment is on hold until October but as soon as we commence I’m sure I’ll be updating on Drink Up Columbus regularly. I urge you and your fiancee to Google, Google, Google, and read as many personal blogs of Celiac patients as possible. Articles by health and science writers are helpful but personal blog accounts regarding food, drink, home life, etc. are what helped me figure out my own routine after I was diagnosed.

  6. Peggy September 22, 2011 at 9:50 AM · Reply

    Thanks for keeping an eye out for the carbohydrate content of Daura beer. That’s the only macronutrient that I restrict. Best of luck in your experiments!

  7. gordsellar May 6, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Reply

    If you know any homebrewers in your area, you might try talking them into an experimental brew with chestnuts. I’ve tasted beers made partly with chestnuts — we have some experimental brewers over here in Korea — but I’ve also read of people making 100% chestnut brews. You will, of course, need some alpha amylase enzyme powder (which is usually available from brewing shops, or at least the big online ones) and apparently dried chestnut flakes can substitute pound for pound for barley or wheat. It’s supposed to result in a rich beer, something like a wheat beer. (And you can get the chestnuts roasted, or roast the flakes yourself — and then let a week or two pass before brewing, to let the nasty volatiles from roasting go away — if you want something darker.

    You could also use chestnuts as an adjunct, along with other non-glutenous grains, like quinoa or oats or whatever.

    Disclaimer: I’ve only made one GF beer, and it was with sorghum, rice extract, flaked rice, Belgian candi sugar, and maybe one or two other things. The celiac friend I made it for seemed happy with it, I wasn’t a big fan of the sorghum. I wish I’d had more time to experiment but he left Korea (and alerted me to this post, in fact.)

    In my experience, we homebrewer types are often passionate about beer and feel keenly the pain of someone who cannot enjoy it as we can, and as long as you get the ingredients (and bottles?) we’re usually happy to brew up a batch of something just to see if it’s possible, and how it turns out! So anyway, if you know any homebrewers in your area, hit them up with the idea of a chestnut Weizen or Wit, or something else — maybe a Chestnut Saison beer — something where the yeast gives a lot of character to the beer is a good idea.

  8. gordsellar May 6, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Reply

    Ooops, though, now that I think about it: if you’re GF and interested in “brewing” yourself, mead is a wonderful, amazing hobby with so much you can do. All you need is honey, yeast, water… but your imagination’s the limit to what you can add to that list. Ken Schramm’s book THE COMPLEAT MEADMAKER is a wonderful guide. And it’s easy! :)

  9. Ryan Bell May 9, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Reply

    There was a recipe for a chestnut beer in the latest issue of Zymurgy (the publication of the American Homebrewer’s Association for anyone who is unfamiliar), and the local homebrewing shop does carry amylase enzyme powder. Deb may have to talk someone into trying this brew….

  10. gordsellar May 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM · Reply

    Ryan,

    You wouldn’t have that recipe on hand, would you? I can’t find it online (too recent, maybe) but I can get chestnuts and have the amylase powder on hand. I was planning on just subbing chestnuts for grain, roasting some lightly and some more heavily, resting the nuts for a while, and then crushing them and “mashing” overnight with a good helping of the amylase powder. I’m just wondering if that’s roughly what’s suggested in the recipe.

    I’ll happily report my results back, though it’ll be a while till I can get the nuts cheap enough to do a proper full batch. (Thinking of a one-gallon test batch in the near future though.)

  11. Ryan Bell May 9, 2012 at 11:33 PM · Reply

    For 5 gal:
    5lb roasted, dried chestnut chips
    5lb dextrose (corn sugar)
    1.0 oz 5% Fuggles (30 min)
    1.0 oz 6% Cascade (flameout)
    Windsor yeast
    Amylase powder
    Gelatin

    OG 1.049-1.053
    FG 1.012-1.016

    5 gal of room temp water, add 1 tbsp amylase (dissolved in water separately). Chips go in grain bag and soak for 12 hours agitate frequently . Remove and drain, add water to 5 gal. Bring to boil, add Fuggles at 30 min, add dextrose at 15 min. At 0 min, cut heat and add Cascade, let steep for 30 min. Chill, pitch, ferment. Use gelatin to clarify after fermentation is done.

    • gordsellar August 27, 2012 at 10:46 PM · Reply

      Ryan,

      Thanks for the recipe — I don’t know how I missed your posting it back in May.

      I suppose since I’ll be using fresh-roasted chestnuts I’ll have to calculate the water weight and scale up, but that shouldn’t be too hard. I’d probably vary the hop schedule, too… The Windsor yeast is an interesting choice, and I have to wonder why it is specified. Maybe just because it’s dry, and easy? Windsor sometimes conks out early, though, so I wonder whether it’s not to prevent the beer from being “too dry” or something. Interesting!

      I figure I’ll brew up a smallish batch of 100% chestnut and East Kent Goldings bitter this fall sometime…

  12. Borgford August 27, 2012 at 3:47 PM · Reply

    My husband loved this beer, but guess what… he had symptoms the next day after drinking two. IS any amount of gluten safe… even less than 6ppm? He has not had symptoms after the other ones, but didn’t really enjoy them as much either, but mind you he didn’t enjoy the “day after” Estrella Damm Daura either.

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