Sue Cane, Drinks Director at the Free From Food Awards and @gfbeerexpert, is our guest writer this edition. Here she talks about gluten-free beer and why stocking a range will
enhance your customers’ food and drink experience.
What are the benefits of stocking Gluten Free Beer?
Allergies, intolerances and auto-immune diseases mean that many people have to avoid gluten. Lifestyle choices can make gluten-containing grains off limits for both drinkers and diners, so a pint in a pub or a bottle of beer with a meal out are not an option unless the venue offers something gluten-free.
With 1 in 5 of us in the UK believing we have a food allergy or intolerance, the hospitality sector is working hard to accommodate us with menus that suit a growing range of dietary requirements.
But the world of gluten-free beer is not well-understood in the food and drink industry. Despite the growth of craft beer and the wide range of styles available at almost every venue, when it comes to gluten-free beer, the choice is usually a lager.
Gluten-free beer is made in one of two ways. Most commonly it’s brewed with barley and treated with an enzyme to make it gluten free, or it’s made from non-gluten-containing grains like sorghum and buckwheat. This distinction is one reason for confusion, but the reality is that almost all the beer sold in hospitality is the first type, beer brewed with barley and treated to make it gluten free.
Taste wise, this gluten-free beer is the same as ordinary beer, in fact in most cases it is ordinary beer. Because the use of the enzyme is now common throughout the industry for other reasons, brewers are able to capitalise on the extra benefit it brings and get their beer certified gluten free.
So from craft-beer brewers to the big brands, it’s usual to have at least one gluten-free beer in a range, and some brewers’ whole output is gluten free. If like me, you’re one of millions of people having spent lockdown enjoying any of the 500 varieties of gluten-free beer available online, it’s a shock finding there’s no choice when you go out.
Bellfield Brewery in Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most established gluten-free breweries and has an output that’s exclusively gluten-free. Set up in 2015, it sells online, and to a range of
pubs, bars, and restaurants. It has its own taproom and hosts regular food pop-ups. Their numerous awards attest to the claim that their craft beers stand up to any on the market.
- ‘Stocking a range of beers that are gluten free (and vegan) brings dividends – as we’ve found in our own taproom’, says Anna Orr, Bellfield’s Senior Sales & Marketing Manager.
- ‘People come to us because they like the beer and food offered regardless of whether it’s “free from”. After all, gluten adds nothing to the taste of beer!’
- ‘And because those with allergies or dietary preferences are often the decision-makers when it comes to choosing where a group goes out to eat and drink, you’ll find customers come back, especially if there’s a good range on offer.’
- ‘It’s no longer acceptable to ask “What have you got on tap that’s gluten free?” only to be told “Ah, we have a bottle of X in the fridge, or you can have a pint of cider,” when there are so many great, award-winning, free-from beers you could stock.’
How to maximise your returns on beer:
Check the beer on your menu. If you stock craft beer in cans and bottles, take your pick from the many hundreds that are gluten free. Make sure you offer a range of styles. Style, more than anything, governs craft-beer drinkers’ choice of beer, so without extra outlay you could be offering gluten-free drinkers your whole range of beer from lager to stout, via IPAs and wheat beer.
Buy local. There are brewers all over the country making outstanding gluten-free craft-beer. Choose one near you and stock their range. Good food cries out for good beer, and diners often match food and beer in the same way as they do wine. If you’ve spent time designing a great FF menu, make sure you offer a drink choice that matches up. Don’t forget low-alcohol beer either, particularly if customers drive to your venue. You want them to linger, not rush home.
Check out the range of award-winning gluten-free beer in the Free From Food Awards Drinks Category.
Find your local brewery. All these have a large range of gluten-free beer.
- Edinburgh Bellfield Brewery;
- Manchester First Chop;
- Midlands Birmingham Brewing Co;
- Northamptonshire Nene Valley Brewery;
- Scarborough Wold Top Brewery;
- Sheffield Abbeydale Brewery;
- Stockport Green’s;
- Suffolk St Peters Brewery;
- Sussex Gun Brewery; Hepworth Brewery;
- Yorkshire Brass Castle Brewery; Hambleton Brewery;
- Kent Westerham Brewery;
- Wales Monty’s Brewery
Don’t forget Skinny Lager, only 89 calories and with a loyal following.
Notes: Beer that’s labelled GF in the UK must be certified as under 20 parts per million
gluten (20ppm) by an accredited lab, using the approved test