Gluten-Free Hard Cider and Other Alternatives to Beer

Possibilities Include Cider, Hard Lemonade

hard cider with apples
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Although gluten-free beer options are expanding and the selections are getting tastier, some of us simply want alternatives to beer. Fortunately for us, there are several options, including a wide variety of gluten-free ciders and at least one hard lemonade that's considered gluten-free.

You're not going to find some of these at your corner supermarket. However, you can order most of them online (depending on your state's laws), and you may be able to persuade your local liquor store to order them in for you to try.

In a few cases, you may even discover gluten-free cider on tap in one of your favorite hangout spots.

Here's the list of bottled and canned alcoholic beverages that are suitable for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, plus a list of unsafe beverages you should avoid. Cheers!

Alcoholic Beverages Considered Gluten-Free

  • ACE Cider. ACE Cider (also known as the California Cider Company) makes five different kinds of cider, including Apple, Apple-Honey, Perry (Pear), Berry and Joker. According to the company: "All our ACE ciders are gluten-free and suitable for consumers with celiac disease." ACE Cider has distributors nationwide.
  • Crispin Cider. Crispin makes seven different ciders: Original, Light and Brut, plus four other specialty ciders. All are gluten-free, according to the company.
  • Magners Cider. Magners bills itself as "the original Irish cider." The company makes two different ciders, Original and Pear, and both are billed as gluten-free. Magners is available in a majority of U.S. states.
  • Mike's Hard Lemonade and other beverages. There's some controversy over the gluten-free status of Mike's Hard beverages. The products contain malt, which is made with barley. However, according to Mike's, a proprietary filtration process removes the gluten.

    "Our products were put through highly sensitive tests that indicate they are gluten-free. The ELISA test, the most stringent test currently available for gluten quantification, indicates that they contain less than 5 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, meaning they can be considered gluten-free." Mike's also noted that the testing showed the products came in "well below" the then-proposed (now finalized) limit of less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Mike's hard lemonade products now include a label that reads "Crafted To Remove Gluten."

    However, some people have reported getting sick from Mike's products, just as people report getting sick from so-called "gluten-removed" beers (made from barley) and other forms of alcohol made from gluten grains. My bottom line: If you're one who gets sick from gluten-grain-based distilled alcohol, I'd steer clear of Mike's. If you can handle alcohol made from gluten grains, meanwhile, you may do okay with Mike's. Either way, it's your call.
  • Strongbow Cider. This English import is available in some outlets in the U.S. According to Strongbow, the ciders are considered gluten-free.
  • Woodchuck Cider. Vermont-made Woodchuck Cider makes a variety of regular and limited edition ciders, including Amber, Granny Smith, Dark 'N Dry, Crisp, and Raspberry. The company features a prominent gluten-free statement on its website: "We take Celiac Disease seriously, and since Woodchuck has always, and only, been made from apples (not wheat, barley or rye) none of our cider varieties have ever contained gluten. Further, we have all our ciders tested by an independent lab and we maintain a completely gluten free facility."

Alcoholic Beverages NOT Considered Gluten-Free

There are several brands of bottled and canned alcoholic beverages that are NOT gluten-free, generally because they contain malt. These include:

  • Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers and mixed drinks
  • Four Loko energy drinks
  • Smirnoff Ice malt beverages
  • Sparks energy drinks, and
  • Tilt energy drinks.

Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of assuming these are gluten-free since they're not beer — they're not safe for us to drink.

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