The most important and fundamental step is to ask oneself this question. Quite obvious, some will say. But it wasn’t quite so obvious 10 years ago. At that time a friend of the Aragon Coeliac Association knocked on our door. She wanted beer that could be enjoyed by all. The goal was clear, but now came that thorny question.
How do we make gluten-free beer?
There are two clear routes one can take in making gluten-free beer. The first one is to make it from a cereal that can be malted and does not contain gluten (quinoa, millet, etc.) and the second one is to break down the gluten in barley or wheat through an enzymatic process to make it suitable for consumption by people who do not tolerate it. The problem with the former, which in principle may seem the simpler one, is that the body and flavours provided by other cereals are substantially different and so the final product would not have the flavour of traditional beer. So let’s look at the second route.
Antonio Fumanal, our master brewer and responsible, among others, for developing Ambar Suitable for Coeliacs, has explained how this process is undertaken in order to retain as many characteristics of Ambar Especial beer as possible in terms of flavour, appearance and aromas.
“First we make use of the enzymes (proteases) that the actual barley grain develops during germination. Also of other traditional procedures that eliminate a substantial part of the proteins by precipitation during the cooking process. And lastly we resort to enzymes capable of eliminating any traces of gluten that may remain after fermentation. We choose specific enzymes that act on the gluten while leaving the rest of the components intact, without affecting the flavour or other properties of the beer. The only drawback is some reduction in generating the frothy head typical of beer.”
One of the most important challenges when developing this beer that finally saw the light in the year 2008 was the exhaustive control required to ensure that the consumption of this beer would not entail any kind of risk for those who drank it.
Ever since, luckily, there has been unceasing growth in demand and in the awareness of this collective’s needs. It is increasingly commonplace to find gluten-free beer in supermarket chains and in bars and restaurants.
We brewers are also developing more and more products. In the year 2011 we added an alcohol-free alternative to Ambar Especial Suitable for Coeliacs: Ambar 0.0 Suitable for Coeliacs. That same year, in response to wide demand, we launched a can format to provide coeliac beer lovers with more enjoyment options.