Low Gluten in Beer

test the gluten content of your beer

Author: big in japan

Kirin Heartland Gluten Test

kirinheartlandbottleI discovered Kirin Heartland about ten years ago, and it instantly became my favorite Japanese beer. I even conducted a blind taste-test with 8 other Japanese lagers, and I was able to identify it instantly. Although it’s brewed by Kirin, it’s not very easy to find in Japan. I’ve only seen it on tap in four or five places, it’s rarely found in supermarkets, and I’ve never seen it in a convenience store. In fact, most liquor shops don’t even carry it.

Naturally, I got excited when I read that Steffen’s GlutenTox test detected no gluten above 5 ppm. Since I like it so much, I decided to “spend” one of my remaining Imutest kits to see what the result would be.

kirinheartlandingredients

 

Beer: Heartland (キリンハートランド)
Producer: Kirin
Originating country: Japan
Brewing location: Japan
Bottle size: 500ml
Alcohol by volume: 5.0%
Ingredients: malt, hops

Test kit: Imutest Gluten-in-Food Kit

kirinheartlandresultTest result: There is a very faint, but visible, pink spot on the left side of the testing area, which is an indication of the presence of gluten… but not much. The pink spot on the right test area (C) is a control spot and indicates that the extract/sample is suitable, the test has been performed correctly, and all reagents are active.

Of all of the Japanese beers I’ve tested so far, Kirin Heartland appears to have the lowest gluten content… and the highest flavor content. Kanpai!

Kirin Hard Cidre Gluten Test

kirinhardcidrebottleAs the name suggests, Kirin’s Hard Cidre isn’t a beer, but rather a carbonated apple cider with an alcohol content of 4.5% by volume.  Looking at the ingredients listed on the label, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t detect any gluten, but I decided to check for cross-contamination.  As far as the taste goes, I don’t have much experience with ciders, so I can’t say much about the taste, except that it’s rather dry.  But in the words of Marc Antony, I have come to test Hard Cidre, not to review it.

Beverage: Kirin Hard Cidre (キリン ハードシードル)
Producer: Kirinkirinhardcidreglass
Originating country: Japan
Brewing location: Japan
Bottle size: 290ml
Alcohol by volume: 4.5%
Ingredients (translated from Amazon Japan): Apple juice, fermented apple juice, acidulant, antioxidant (sulfite)

Test kit: Imutest Gluten-in-Food Kit

Test result: There is no indication of the presence of gluten. According to the instructions there should appear a clearly visible pink test spot on the left of the test area (T) to indicate the presence of gluten. There is no visible spot, so this test is negative. The pink spot on the right testarea (C) is a control spot kirinhardcidre-capandresultand indicates that the extract/sample is suitable, the test has been performed correctly, and all reagents are active. Even though the detection limit in this kit is very low (1-2 ppm) and the test is negative, please note this result does not constitute medical advice – please see Steffen’s facts page.

I’ve mixed this a few times with Asahi Dry Zero non-alcoholic “beer”, and the mixture didn’t taste too bad.  Call it a gluten-free snakebite… or fakebite!

Sapporo Black Label Gluten Test

Sapporo Black Label is a typical Japanese lager, and one of the top-selling beers in Japan.  It contains not only malt and hops, but rice, corn, and starch, which gave me hope for a low- or no-gluten test result.  I had also encountered anecdotal claims on the Web that Sapporo (no variety specified, just “Sapporo”) was gluten-free. Indeed, if you order a “Sapporo” in Japan, you can expect to get Black Label.  Let’s see how it tested. NOTE: this beer is completely different from the Sapporo Black product.

Beer: Sapposapporoblackcanro Black Label (サッポロ黒ラベル)
Producer: Sapporo
Originating country: Japan
Brewing location: Japan
Can size: 350ml
Alcohol by volume: 5.0%
Ingredients: malt, hops, rice, corn, starch (unspecified)

Test kit: Imutest Gluten-in-Food Kit

Test result: There is a not-so-faint pink spot on the left side of the testing area, which is ansapporoblackcanandresult indication of the presence of gluten. The pink spot on the right test area (C) is a control spot and indicates that the extract/sample is suitable, the test has been performed correctly, and all reagents are active. The gluten content of the sample can be estimated according to the intensity of the pink test spot. Despite the use of rice and corn in the brewing process, this sample of Sapporo Black Label seems to have a relatively high gluten content compared to other Japanese lagers I’ve tested.

Kirin Nodogoshi Nama (のどごし生)

Kirin Nodogoshi Nama (のどごし生)

kirinnodogoshinama-can

The Japanese government taxes beer very heavily. The tax rate of is based on the percent of alcohol which is generated from malt fermentation. To get around these taxes, Japanese breweries first created happoshu (literally “sparkling liquor”), then the new (or third) genre, neither of which can technically be called beer.

They don’t taste quite like beer, (maybe a bit sweeter, more like American malt liquor), but they are very popular in Japanese homes because they are much cheaper than beer (about US$6 per six-pack, vs. $10 for real beer) Nodogoshi is kirinnodogoshinama-ingredientsthe top-selling new-genre “beer” in Japan, and from reading the ingredients, there doesn’t appear to be any gluten-containing ingredients in Nodogoshi. It has found its way onto quite a few Japanese gluten-free blogs for this reason. Unfortunately, very few bars sell the cheaper variants, only the more expensive beers like Asahi Super Dry, Kirin Ichiban, etc. But after asking politely and explaining my “allergy,” several small places have let me bring my own drinks in.

Beer: Nodogoshi Nama (のどごし生)
Producer: Kirin
Originating country: Japan
Brewing location: Japan
Can size: 350ml
Alcohol by volume: 5.0%
Ingredients: (translated from the Kirin website): hops, sugar, soybean protein, yeast extract
Miscellaneous: There are several varieties of Nodogoshi. This version, Nama, is the original version, the most popular, and the only one which does not list malt or barley in the ingredients.

Test kit: Imutest Gluten-in-Food Kit

Test result: There is no indication of the kirinnodogoshinama-canandresultpresence of gluten. According to the instructions there should appear a clearly visible pink test spot on the left of the test area (T) to indicate the presence of gluten. There is no visible spot, so this test is negative. The pink spot on the right test area (C) is a control spot and indicates that the extract/sample is suitable, the test has been performed correctly, and all reagents are active. Even though the detection limit in this kit is very low (1-2 ppm) and the test is negative, please note this result does not constitute medical advice – please see Steffen’s facts page.

Kirin Ichiban Shibori (キリン一番搾り)

Kirin Ichiban Shibori (キリン一番搾り, or “first pressing”) is probably the second most ubiquitous beer in Japan, behind Asahi kirinichibanbottleSuper Dry.  You can find it in restaurants, bars, at festivals, etc. all over Japan. It tastes much better, too… as I recall. My favorite karaoke place offers both in bottles, as well as Ichiban Shibori on tap. It’s no coincidence that those are two of the first beers I tested! Thanks to Shidax for donating a sample for testing.

Beer: Ichiban Shibori (キリン一番搾り)
Producer: Kirin
Originating country: Japan
Brewing location: Japan
Bottle size: 500ml
Alcohol by volume: 5.0%
Ingredients: (not listed on this bottle; translated from the Kirin website): malt, hops
Miscellaneous: Although a bottle is pictured, I tested Kirin Ichiban Shibori draft.

Test Kit: GlutenTox Home Kit

Test result: There is a clearly visible pink spot on the left side of the testing area (T), which is an indication of the presence of gluten. The pink spot on the right test area (C) is a control spot and indicates that the extract/sample is suitable, the test has kirinichiban-testresultbeen performed correctly, and all reagents are active. The gluten content of the sample can be estimated according to the intensity of the pink test spot. Imutest has assured me that this test does detect hordein (the barley gluten), and is actually more sensitive to hordein than to gliadin, the wheat gluten.

Kirin Ichiban Shibori seems to have a relatively high gluten content compared to other Japanese lagers I’ve tested, so although it’s one of my favorites, I think I’ll continue to look for other options.

Asahi Super Dry (Japan)

Asahi Super Dry (アサヒスーパードライ)asahisuperdry-bottle

Asahi Super Dry is Japan’s top-selling beer domestically (and probably internationally, too). It is everywhere in Japan. It’s not my beer of choice, but I tested it because I thought it had the best chance of any of the Japanese macrobrews to have a low gluten content, since its ingredients include rice and corn.

Beer: Asahi Super Dry (アサヒスーパードライ)
Producer: Asahi
Originating country: Japan
Brewing location: Japan
Bottle size: 500ml
Alcohol by volume: 5.0%
Ingredients: (translated from the bottle): barley, hops, rice, corn, starch (not sure what kind — it just says “starch”)asahisuperdry-ingredients
Miscellaneous: In December 2015, Steffen posted test results for an Asahi Super Dry that was brewed in the UK (and labeled “Product of CZ”). The following test is for a bottle of Asahi Super Dry that was purchased and tested in Japan.

Test kit: Imutest Gluten-in-Food Kit

Test result: There is a faint, but visible, pink spot on the left side of the testing area, which is an indication of the presence of gluten. The pink spot on the right test area (C) is a control spot and indicates that the extract/sample is suitable, the test has been performed correctly, and all reagents are active.

asahisuperdryT2-testresult

Note: Out of curiosity, I sent these photos to Imutest, asking if they could estimate the gluten content.  They first pointed out that the test isn’t designed to be quantitativeasahisuperdryT2-resultandcan, but then estimated that “your photo would suggest a value slightly below 10ppm if it was a regular food sample, which means that it is probably less than 1ppm for beer provided you used the recommended protocol of eliminating the extraction step and adding the beer directly…”

Imutest has been quite helpful, and I’ve ordered five more testing kits.

Asahi Dry Zero

asahidryzero-can    asahidryzero-ingredients

Asahi Dry Zero is a non-alcoholic (alcohol-free) “beer” that is made without a wort. Basically, that means it isn’t brewed… I think. It’s more like a soda, I suppose. That being said, when poured into a glass, it looks and smells a lot like beer. As far as taste goes, it’s one of the better non-alcoholic beers I’ve had.

Asahi claims that Dry Zero is the best-selling non-alcoholic beer in Japan. Neither barley nor wheat is listed in the ingredients, so I’ve been drinking it for the last few months under the assumption that it’s gluten-free.

Beer: Asahi Dry Zero
Producer: Asahi
Originating country: Japan
Brewing location: Japan
Can size: 350ml
Alcohol by volume: 0.00%
Ingredients: (translated from the Asahi website): dietary fiber, soybean peptide, hop, fragrance, acidulant, caramel color, antioxidant (vitamin C), sweetener (acesulfame K)
Miscellaneous: I usually add about 15-20ml of 190-proof grain alcohol (Spirytus Rektyfikowany or Everclear) per can when I drink Dry Zero, to more closely simulate real beer.

Test kit: Imutest Gluten-in-Food Kit

Test result: There is no indication of the presence of gluten. According to the instructions there should appear a clearly visible pink test spot on the left of the test area (T) to indicate the presence of gluten. But this test is negative. The pink spot on the right test area (C) is a control spot and indicates that the extract/sample is suitable, the test has been performed correctly, and all reagents are active. Even though the detection limit in this kit is very low (1-2 ppm) and the test is negative, please note this result does not constitute medical advice – please see Steffen’s facts page.

asahidryzeroresultasahidryzerobottleandresult

I conducted two tests.  The first time was with a can of Asahi Dry Zero, using the extraction solution provided with the kit.  No gluten was detected.  I wanted to be absolutely sure, so I contacted the people at Imutest, who told me that the test would be more sensitive without the extraction solution, so I ran the test again, this time with the bottled version, bypassing the extraction solution and adding the beer directly to the diluent solution.  That’s why you see both a can and a bottle in the pictures.  The results were negative (no gluten detected) in both tests.  Also, Peter at Imutest was quite helpful (and patient) when I had questions about the testing process.

 

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