The search for gluten-free beer gets easier for drinkers this week as Anheuser-Busch releases Redbridge, the first nationally distributed sorghum-based beer.
The beer has been in testing for more than a year and many A-B distributors have already lined up placements in stores, such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats, featuring organic and other speciality foods.
A few regional brewers cater to those seeking gluten-free beer. Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee won a gold medal at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival with New Grist Ale, while contract-brewed Bard’s Tale Ale now ships to 18 states. Ramapo Valley Brewery in New York also makes a honey-based beer, and Saint Louis Brewery (Schlafly bees) produces a sorghum beer sold only in it Bottleworks brewpub.
Two women in Arkansas are seeking investors for a brewery that would produce only gluten-free beers and hope to be shipping Dark Hills Brewery products within a year.
Sorghum beers serve first those with celiac disease, although those allergic to wheat may also drink them. According to government statistics, more than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease. The genetic disorder causes stomach cramps and digestive problems and can lead to other serious health risks. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. Those are the grains traditionally used to brew beer.
Anheuser-Busch worked closely with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) during the development of Redbridge. It is brwed at A-B’s Merrimack, N.H., brewery, contains 4.8% abv and has a suggested retail price of $7.99 for a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.