There may have been a time when "gluten-free beer" was an oxymoron -- when the only option for someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity who had a hankering for a moderately alcoholic carbonated beverage was hard cider -- but that time is not 2015. At least a third of Americans are now trying to avoid gluten, and beer companies, not wanting to lose out on a huge share of their customer base, have rushed to develop a host of gluten-free beers, across all styles, over the past few years. So at this point, "gluten-free beer" is almost as well established a category as "decaf coffee" or "diet soda."
But among beer aficionados, gluten-free beers still get a pretty bad rap. When asked for a recommendation for a good beer for someone trying to avoid gluten, many of them would still recommend cider.
With that in mind, we decided to give gluten-free beer a chance by conducting a taste test of as many brands as we could find (in southern California) in an effort to identify at least one that actually tastes great.
We tried a dozen beers -- and, sadly, that experience mostly reinforced our negative impressions of gluten-free beer. Almost all the beers we tried had strange textures: fizzier and less substantial than you'd expect from a beer. And many also had flavor profiles that were, in one respect or another, seriously flawed. There was a preponderance of unpleasant piney, honey-like and tropical fruit flavor notes, and few of the beers struck the right balance between bitterness and sweetness.
Still, we found several beers that, even if they won't make our personal lists of favorite beers anytime soon, were completely acceptable. Even good! Scroll down to see which ones we liked -- and which ones we completely hated.
As always, the brands included did not in any way sponsor or influence the outcome of this taste test.