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

Written by on August 24, 2011 in Beer, Gluten Free - No 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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No 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. 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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