Beer for All: What’s in a label?
Since we switched to canned beer, you might have noticed a couple of new images crop up on the design. Specifically, the internationally recognized wheat symbol, indicating a gluten free product. This sits between our recycling symbol (recycle can today, for a better tomorrow) and the vegan leaf sign. All three of these statuses? Important to us, important to the people who drink our beers.
Going gluten free and vegan were pretty high up on the ‘pros’ list when we started talking about cans. It’s not about being able to fling around buzz-words, it’s about one of the core principals we have here at Bristol Beer Factory: making beer for all, without compromising quality.
The most commonly asked question here at BBF: if beer contains barley and wheat, how can it be gluten free? It is an excellent question. To answer it, we need a chef, a brewer, and a scientist. No joke, they walked into a bar. Sat in the Tap Room, we got the answers to all your FAQs.
What is gluten?
Scientist: It is a composite of storage proteins termed proamylins (hordeins) and glutelins in stored together with starch in the endosperm of grains.
Chef: When making bread, it is the kneading process that aligns these proteins, to give dough elasticity and bread it’s structure.
Brewer: In the brewery, you find it in wheat, barley, rye and oats.
What makes a gluten free beer?
Chef: For food to be classified as “gluten free” it needs to contain 20ppm or less of gluten.
Brewer: The same goes for beer!
Scientist: This is required by law, so BBF send me their beer to be tested at the lab for confirmation.
How do you make things gluten free?
Chef: Usually excluding wheat, rye, oats, etc.
Brewer: We can tweak recipes and the brewing process to reduce the gluten, and we add Clarex, which breaks down the structure of gluten.
Scientist: You need good, thorough, consistent brewing. And regular testing, of course.
Are all your beers GF then?
Scientist: We have currently tested and verified almost all BBF can and keg beers as being GF.
Brewer: We want to make as much of our beer accessible to all without compromising quality or consistency. There are additional considerations with cask and so our cask is not currently GF.
Chef: Remind me, the cask beer is on pump, right?
Brewer: That’s right. But, when it comes to keg and can and making them gluten free, there’s stuff we can do easily: for example, we have perfected our finings and mashing regimes.
Scientist: Specifically, by using copper finings. During mashing, the brewers look to increase protein breakdown. All of these techniques work together resulting in the end product, which I test.
So that’s Gluten Free. What about Vegans?
Chef: You’re talking no animal products at all. Meat, cheese, milk, egg… you get the idea.
Scientist: Sometimes it isn’t that obvious. Certain finings use animal products, and some beers contain lactose, a sugar molecule that is naturally present in milk.
Brewer: Right, like our Clear Head and Milk Stout. Both use lactose to give incredible body to the beer. Well Above Sea Level has it too. But we only use it in beers that will really benefit; as we talk about in Clear Head, that’s how you get a feeling of a real IPA on the mouth, but with only 0.5% ABV.
Go back to the bit about finings?
Scientist: Many beer finings – agents used to drop particulates and other haze forming particles out of beer – are not vegan friendly.
Brewer: We use vegan-friendly Super-F where possible. That’s why you’ll find all our keg and canned beer, except the ones I mentioned containing lactose, are suitable for vegans.
Chef: Let’s talk about cask again.
Scientist: You really love cask, don’t you?
Brewer: Amen! Cask is a BBF staple. Much like making cask beer gluten free, we need to keep testing cask with vegan-friendly finings. We’re not satisfied with the result yet, but that’s where it’s heading.
How can I tell which beers are vegan and gluten free?
Scientist: The labelling – it’s all there, I’ve verified it myself.
Brewer: Right! Check the cans, the pump clips, or on the individual listings for each beer online.
Chef: Or, just grab a case of Beer for All. I’ve got one coming home with me tonight. Cheers pals!