It's been a little over two months since I decided to donate my body to science and start drinking beer again. How does that work, exactly? I've been off beer since I gave up gluten years ago, as my stack of books on the subject instructed me to do. My gin game was upped substantially. Then I read a Chowhound thread that changed my life, because I really, REALLY liked beer.
Now I've been writing about gluten freedom for quite some time (so kindly hold comments to the tune of I'm not really allergic to wheat or I'd be in bed for days after drinking a beer and so on and so forth about your dairy, soy and corn allergies). I know those symptoms like the back of my super-itchy hand when I eat gluten, and I experience none of them when I drink beer, which usually just contains barley, not wheat, so yay for donating my body to science! With all the brouhaha about GMO ingredients, what constitutes gluten-free beer and which gluten-free beers are actually good to drink (it's these 5 we hand-selected for your convenience), I had to make my own decision.
I started out easy with Heinekens and Guinnesses, which, while not certified gluten-free or even certifiable, are most certainly safe for all but severe allergies at under 20 ppm. One week after having a Heinie or Guinny (or two) a day, I was symptom-free and SO happy to be back on beer. I moved on to other lagers and stouts and was fine. Ditto IPAs, pale ales and lambics. By the way, did you know that Bronx Brewery's pale ale is delicious? I feel so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, another abundantly clear sign I don't have gluten poisoning.
Then I messed up. Perusing Jon Katz's list of summer beers you need to drink (and you do), I ended up pounding a remarkably delicious 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon before realizing it was a wheat beer, which I knew to steer clear of during this experiment. Guess what? My allergy kicked in, fast: nose stuffed up, body felt like a fat sack of warm garbage, brain flatlined. And I concluded, with no medical training whatsoever, that I'm only allergic to wheat, not barley, whose protein molecule, hordein, is similar but not identical to gluten. (Plus I spent no dollars on a gastroenterologist).
If you have a food allergy that isn't life-threatening, try carefully fiddling with it like one lactard friend of mine does with aged cheese — cream cheese would bring her right down, but a little grated parmesan on her pasta is fine. Another friend who's allergic to most fish discovered that salmon doesn't affect him the way shrimp would, due to its lower iodine content. Now his hair is super shiny from all the salmon he's been eating. You're stuck this way for life, friends, and allergies have their quirks, so find a silver lining. Or in my case, a silver bullet or six.
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