Gluten is a protein naturally found in many grains, including wheat, rye and barley. It is also added to foods as a thickener. After sugar, gluten is the second-most commonly consumed ingredient in American food, according to KidsHealth. If you have conditions such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you may not be able to consume foods that have gluten. While many alcoholic beverages do not have gluten, some do. Knowing the difference can prevent you from experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
Beer is frequently made from malt, which is a component of barley. Because barley naturally contains gluten, beer frequently has some gluten and should be avoided, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other beer-like products include ale, lager and stout. Some brewing companies do produce beer that is gluten-free. Look for the nutrition-facts label, which may indicate whether the beer contains gluten.
Also known as spirits or liquor, distilled alcoholic beverages are those that are concentrated to produce ethanol, a form of alcohol. These spirits tend to have higher alcoholic contents than wine or beer. While distillation begins with yeast and carbohydrates, which can contain gluten, the process removes the gluten protein from wheat. Examples of distilled spirits include brandy, whiskey, rum and arrack.
Other Alcoholic Beverages
Wine lovers rejoice -- wine is a gluten-free alcoholic beverage. Sparkling wine varieties also are gluten-free -- as are liqueurs, champagne, port and sherry, according to Coeliac Australia, a health and wellness resource for those with celiac disease. Those who suffer from gluten intolerance can consume most ciders, which are similar in alcoholic content to beer but may have an apple or pear flavor.
In rare instances, caramel color can be added to cider, fortified wines and some spirits to enhance the beverages' appearance. Manufacturers may sometimes produce caramel color from gluten-containing malt syrup. If you are consuming a caramel-colored beverage, read the ingredients label to ensure that no caramel color has been added. If it has, look for labels that indicate the product is gluten-free before consuming it. Most American manufacturing companies use gluten-free corn in producing caramel color, according to “Gluten Free Living.”
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.