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Gluten free grains and alternative ingredients used in gluten free beer

Gluten free grains and alternative ingredients used in gluten free beer

Gluten free beer. That's like beer with the gluten removed, right?

Negative. It's beer. It's beer like any other beer, brewed using the same methodology and techniques; brewed with malted grain, hops, yeast and water. Nothing is removed and there is no need to compromise on anything.

No compromise on flavour, style execution, body, mouthfeel, colour or presentation.

So what is the difference between gluten free beer and beer that contains gluten?

The difference is that the grains used in gluten free beer do not contain gluten.

Gluten is a protein naturally found in some grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. There are more grains available to us that do not naturally contain gluten, than grains that do – so gluten free brewers use those.

Grains containing gluten Grains that don't contain gluten
Barley  Millet 
Wheat   Buckwheat 
Rye  Rice 
Oats  Quinoa 


What is a gluten free malted grain?

Malting is the process of converting grains into malt for use in brewing, distilling, or foods. The malt is soaked and then dried, encouraging germination before it is heated in a kiln to stop germination. The final temperature will dictate the colour and flavour of the malt, with roasting often an additional phase for different flavours.

  • Low temperatures for pale-coloured beers, including pale ales and lagers. 
  • Moderate temperatures for amber-coloured beers, such as amber ales, Scottish ales, and Oktoberfest.
  • Higher temperatures for dark brown beers such as brown ales, ESBs and dunkels.
  • The highest temperatures are used to make the darkest, almost black, beers, such as porters and stouts.

Malting prepare the grain for fermentation when starches are converted to the sugars that become alcohol. This is no different for grains that do or do not contain gluten. But there is no part of this process that changes the gluten in the grain – unless a gluten free grain is cross-contaminated with a grain that contains gluten. At TWØBAYS, we use dedicated gluten free maltsters so that there is no risk of cross-contamination.

Is malt gluten free?

Barley malt is not gluten free. The word “malt” on a food label often indicates that there is gluten in the product – examples include malt vinegar, malted milk and malted syrup. But as we learned above, a malt is just a metamorphosed grain. If the grain contained gluten then the malt will. Barley, wheat and rye malts contain gluten. Millet, buckwheat and rice malts don't.

Is barley malt extract gluten free?

Barley malt extract is also not gluten free. It is an unrefined sweetener, processed by extraction from sprouted, malted barley, and thus contains gluten. We use sorghum malt extract in GFB Draught, which is gluten free, because it was extracted from sprouted, malted sorghum.

Do pulses or legumes contain gluten?

A pulse is the edible seed from a legume plant – legumes and pulses in their natural form are gluten free. We even use red lentils in some of our beers to add body and aid head retention thanks to high protein content.


Millet malts make up the base grain for most of our beers. It's the closest grain to barley we can use, although it's round rather than tear-dropped, and a lot smaller which causes challenges in the mash; to ensure we get maximum efficiency from the malt.

Pale, Goldfinch, Medium-roasted, Vienna, Cara Chocolate Roast, Griffin, Caramel, Dutch Roasted, Red Wing and Dark Munich are just some of the millet malt varieties we brew with.


As a grain (technically a seed) higher in protein and fibre than millet, buckwheat helps to add body and mouthfeel to our beers. Pale malt organic is the only buckwheat we use; also helping to improve head retention and creating those warm, nutty flavours in darker, malt-hero beers, such as ESB and Stout.


Many barley brewers use rice malts in lighter style beers as it has a neutral flavour making beers very sessionable. At TWØBAYS we use a variety of malted rice, which like millet, is malted at different temperatures for a variety of styles. From light brown biscuit and crystal rice malts, right through to pitch black rice malt, there is a rice malt for every style of beer. 

We also use rice hulls, which impart no flavour on the beer and are not malted. Rice malts and hulls play an important role in our mash, ensuring even and consistent flow of wort throughout the mash, ensuring we extract as much of the available sugars as possible for fermentation.


The use of sorghum in brewing beer is thought to date back as far as 4,000 BC (they're not called ancient grains for nothing), and is still commonly used in traditional brewing in Africa. In recent times it has been adopted by craft brewers looking to create alternative flavour profiles and of course in gluten free brewing. Malted in the same way as any grain, we use sorghum malt extract in GFB Draught to produce a clean, easy drinking Aussie style draught.


In recent years our brewers have been experimenting with corn malts to increase body and head retention, and offers warm, nutty flavours ideal for brown ales and West Coast IPAs. We've use blue corn and yellow corn malts with great results.


Quinoa is a flowering plant in the amaranth family with seeds rich in protein, dietary fibre, B vitamins and dietary minerals in amounts greater than in many grains. Quinoa is a good starchy grain for brewing, and has been found to improve head retention and foam stability when substituted into barley beers. The grains are small and fiddly to brew with so not commonly used outside of gluten free brewing (small and fiddle grains are "par for the course" for gluten free brewers). 


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