One in a hundred people worldwide have coeliac disease, which means they cannot eat gluten without causing intestinal damage. Many people are also intolerant of gluten, which can cause similar symptoms to coeliac diease, but with different effects. In addition to gluten intolerance and coeliac disease, it is also possible to have a wheat allergy, where consuming wheat can actually be life threatening. It therefore goes without saying that labelling of our beers is very important business.
Here at Thornbridge, we now produce two ‘gluten free’ beers – AM:PM and Satzuma. You may have noticed from the back label that the beers were produced with barley and wheat and didn’t use non-gluten cereals such as sorghum or millet. So how do we do it?
We actually add a proline-specific enzyme called Brewers Clarex at the start of fermentation, which breaks down the gluten proteins into harmless peptides. It only attacks the gluten proteins and doesn’t affect the more desirable proteins such as those responsible for head retention. In fact, the enzyme has no effect on the flavour or the quality of the beer. With the correct process of addition and addition rate, the enzyme reduces levels of gluten to below 20ppm, so it complies with the law on gluten free labelling. Every test we have carried out on Satzuma and AM:PM has come in under 10ppm, so we can confidently label these as ‘Gluten Free’. We continue to test these beers regularly using an accredited laboratory and carefully assess how we produce them, so we can be confident they are safe as possible for coeliacs. It is worth noting that some coeliacs cannot consume even beer labelled as ‘gluten free’, as even anything under 10ppm can still cause them problems, whilst some people who are gluten intolerant can consume as much ‘gluten free’ beer as they like without suffering any symptoms. It all depends on the individual.
We have also had some of our other beers tested, namely Jaipur and Lukas. They also came under 20ppm! We have found, that with the correct recipe formulation and optimisation of the process, that it is possible to make legally ‘gluten free’ beer without using Brewers Clarex. This is likely to be because we brew these beers to be as bright as possible – we optimise the copper finings process, lauter as carefully as we can and basically produce the beer to be clear in the glass. However, it’s important to note that we are not declaring these beers to be ‘Gluten Free’, as we do not test them regularly or use Brewers Clarex in their production.
Dominic Driscoll, Production Manager