The Best Gluten-Free Beers

(Image credit: PR)

Not long ago, few people knew what gluten was, but now most people know someone who has a reason not to eat this type of protein. There’s coeliac disease, allergies to gluten-containing cereals such as wheat, following a Paleo diet, not to mention the people who simply say they feel better when they avoid gluten: not as bloated, less fatigued, fewer headaches.

But whatever the reason, sacking off the gluten means that most beer – made with gluteny wheat and barley – is off-limits. Don’t despair, though, because the good news is the brewers have cottoned on to this in a big way. Both big and small beer companies are now using brewing wizardry to produce gluten-free drinks that are just as good as traditional beer, if not better.

Since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2017, I’ve been trying every gluten-free beer I can get my hands on – I’m up to around a hundred. It’s not quite the same as being able to walk into any pub and choose from all the beers on offer, but there are definitely options. At least it means I don’t have to suffer the fate of drinking cider all the time. Here’s my pick of the very best gluten-free beers.

Magic Rock Fantasma

IPA is the hero of the craft beer revolution and gluten-free drinkers can experience its majesty too thanks to this top-drawer beer from Huddersfield’s Magic Rock. Fantasma is a hoppy, smooth IPA with citrus and mango notes that’s delightfully easy drinking – a little too easy, perhaps, considering it’s 6.5% ABV. Pretty easy to find, too: it’s sold by Amazon as well as some of the UK’s leading online beer shops, although I get mine from my local M&S.

Buy from Magic Rock | £2.80 for a 330ml can

Firebird Festive 51

Fans of dark, malty beers aren’t that well served by gluten-free brewers, as opposed to lager and IPA drinkers. Thank goodness, then, for West Sussex brewer Firebird, which produces a traditional best bitter, Heritage, and this delightfully malty 4.8% ruby-red winner. It’s just one of Firebird’s ace range of GF brews, some of which come in cask and keg.

Buy from REDH | £2.75 for a 500ml bottle

Hepworth Prospect

Less than ten miles from Firebird is Hepworth, another Sussex brewer making a range of first-rate GF beers, from the Saxon lager to the toasty Old Traditional. Best of the bunch is this bottle-conditioned organic pale ale: tangy and refreshing at 4.5% ABV, it’ll satisfy any palate – and it’s vegan-friendly too.

Buy from Abel & Cole | £2.60 for a 500ml bottle

Daura Damm

The Barcelonian brewery that produces the popular Estrella Damm also makes this lager, which it says is the world’s most awarded gluten-free beer. It has claimed more than 40 international prizes and with good reason: it’s a classic lively, clean-tasting lager at 5.4% ABV, with a spicy edge. It’s an ideal summer drink in other words and available in many supermarkets.

Buy from Asda | £6 for four 330ml bottles (currently reduced to £5)

BrewDog Vagabond

Scotland’s self-described craft-beer “punks” may seem a bit less punk with all the private equity investment and smart new bars, but there’s no denying the impact BrewDog has had in the past decade on the beer scene in this country. It’s applied its impressive knowhow to gluten-free beers with Vagabond: pleasantly hoppy with caramel flavours and a distinct maltiness, it’s the best widely available GF pale ale, and squeezes into the session bracket at 4.5% ABV.

Buy from Sainsbury’s | £1.80 for a 330ml bottle

You can trust Coach We give honest reviews and recommendations based on in-depth knowledge and real-world experience. Find out more about how we review and recommend products.

The Free From Beer Co Pilsner

While it’s pleasing that the likes of Stella Artois, San Miguel and Peroni now produce gluten-free versions of their popular lagers, there’s nothing particularly special about them for the beer enthusiast. Not so this 4.8% pilsner from the Free From Beer Co, a Dorset brewer with a mission to make GF beer as widely available as possible. Crisp, smooth and lively on the tongue, it’s a real treat, as is the same brewer’s IPA.

Buy from Asda | £2 for a 330ml can

Brass Castle Bad Kitty

Based in Malton, a town known as Yorkshire’s food capital, Brass Castle is one of the UK’s best-known and most esoteric gluten-free breweries, creating an ever-changing range of beers that have been winning awards since its launch in 2011. Bad Kitty, one of the first beers BC ever brewed, is a 5.5% ABV vanilla porter that has won 23 awards on its own and no wonder. It’s a robust, full-flavoured porter with agreeably sweet notes that’ll give you a warm tingly feeling on the filthiest winter’s night.

Buy from Brass Castle | £2.50 for a 330ml can

First Chop HOP

It’s not often I’m glad I have coeliac disease – mostly it’s a giant pain – but without the diagnosis I doubt I’d have found my new favourite brewer, Manchester’s First Chop. Its range of outstanding three-letter GF beers contains everything from hoppy blonde AVA to grapefruit saison PIP to vanilla stout POD; but the very best is HOP, a 4.1% “ultra pale” ale that’s so subtly malty it’s almost smoky, and is dry-hopped with Citra, undisputed king of the hops. The deserving recipient of two stars at the 2018 Great Taste awards.

Buy from Beerwulf | £1.99 for a 330ml can

Wold Top Against The Grain

Another Great Taste award winner, Against The Grain is an ideal summer ale – light, lemony and refreshing at 4.5% ABV, with plenty of hops and a classic bitter finish. If you’re in the vicinity of Wold Top’s Scarborough base you should find it in the shops – or even as a cask beer – but outside Yorkshire the internet is, as ever, your friend.

Buy from Wold Top | £1.99 for a 500ml bottle

Chris Miller
Subeditor and contributor

As Coach’s subeditor, Chris is responsible for the accuracy and consistency of all the articles on the site, and occasionally contributes stories. Chris was managing editor on Men’s Fitness UKCoach’s former sister title – for 12 years, and is now a freelance writer and editor working on The Guardian, the i, Virgin Media’s TV Edit and more, alongside Coach.