If you have coeliac disease or are allergic to wheat you will no doubt know that finding suitable beer is not easy, so you might not think that the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival would be a great night out.
If you’re just wanting beer you might be right since my research has only uncovered ONE gluten free beer at the whole festival. There is a chance there may be more in the bottled beer section which should be announced soon. However there is always the cider so you wouldn’t have to miss out completely.
The Great British Beer Festival is taking place at London Olympia from Tuesday 12th- Saturday 16th August 2014, tickets cost just £10 and the theme this year seems to be the circus so I’m seeing unicycles, clowns, acrobats, the works, just a shame about the lack of #GF beer really.
There is a boom in gluten free at the moment, not just coeliacs but thousands of people who just feel better when they avoid gluten, who have gluten sensitivity or just choose to avoid it as a lifestlye choice. You might think this would mean we were guaranteed gluten free beer at the the Great British Beer Festival to celebrate great British beer for everyone.
How many gluten free beers would you expect to see?
The CAMRA marketing team did tell me that, “we make every effort to provide a small number of gluten free real ales at the festival. We are checking with the beer buyer now to get a final figure on this for you. Right now Stringers Plan B is the only certified gluten free beer we can confirm as available. We will get back to you as soon as we can with any others.”
They made so much effort that they have managed to attract just ONE certified gluten free beer – Stringers Plan B… It’s not looking good is it?
This may of course mean that:
a) it’s not viable for #GF beer producers to attend
b) it may cost too much
c) or they may just not think it’s worthwhile
What do you think?
I’ve tweeted them all but haven’t heard any are planning to attend.
This is such a shame because as we all know, there are a growing number of gluten free beers on the market and they are all VERY good, including Celia Lagers, Greens Gluten Free Beers, St Peter’s Brewery, Daura Damm, Glebe Farm and Hopback Crop Circle to name just a few.
Check out the FreeFrom Food Awards gluten free beer category , won this year by Green’s India Pale Ale, for more details.
Wheat allergy and wheat free beers
If you have a wheat allergy, like me, many beers are made without wheat so you will be able to try the barley beers, but only if you can identify which ones are made just with barley. No good for the coeliacs obviously. But how do you know which beers don’t contain wheat? I know from experience in pubs that when it’s served on tap or from a barrel there is never any ingredients information available and staff rarely know when asked whether it’s a wheat beer. I am going to compile a list but I do know that Adnams and Timothy Taylor Landlord are both wheat free so Adnams it is then! I know they will be at the show. But will the cask ale be made to the same recipe as the bottled beer which I can check for wheat? Possibly not so lots of research needed if I’m to risk guzzling any real ale from barrels.
Beer Festivals are one of the things I miss most since the wheat allergy appeared. I LOVE real ale but soon discovered it was a bit like Russian Roulette working out which were OK.
So here are my Top 5 tips for surviving the CAMRA Great British Beer Fesival with coeliac disease or a wheat allergy
- Try ciders and perry – always loads of choice on offer – simply hundreds but do be aware of the quite shocking alcohol levels – some can be desceptively potent! Don’t talk to me about the Suicider…
- Stick to bottled beers – as well as the kegs and barrels of cask conditioned ales there are always loads of bottled beers available at the show which you will be able to check. The allergens must be labelled now e.g. Contains Wheat, Barley. There may also a limited number of bottled gluten free ales on offer ie. just the one so far…Stringers Plan B, which I’m looking forward to trying as I haven’t had it before.
- Take your own snacks – there may well be some suitable food on offer at the show but don’t risk being caught out – beer and an empty stomach don’t mix. Cider on an empty stomach leads to disaster! Bring some #GF wraps, crisps, your favourite safe snacks and make a picnic of it. But don’t be sharing you lovely freefrom snacks with all the gluten guzzlers. No sharing. Not happening. They never appreciate it and your rations will become depleted. (I think I may need therapy for my sharing freefrom phobia).
- Get there early – The beer festival is on all week, so if you are going and want to try particular beers, get there early. Often by the Friday night some beers have sold out. Gluten free beer may not be so popular but if you want to try it and there is only one on offer it would be a shame to miss out! You will always have the cider though.
- Take plenty of water – I know this is boring at a beer festival but it works. Have some water in between each half or bottle and you’ll have a much better morning after!
Gluten free beers THAT SHOULD BE at the show!
- Green’s gluten free beer
- Celia lager
- Daura Damm gluten free beer
- St Peter’s
- Glebe Farm
- Wold Top Against the Grain (4.5%)
- Hopback Brewery Crop Circle (4.2%)
- Monty’s – Masquerade (4.6%)
- Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales – GFA gluten free ale and GFL gluten free lager
- Scarborough Fair Strong Gluten Free India Pale Ale (6%)
- Allendale pale ale
Sadly none of these lovely beers will be there as far as I can tell but I might have to smuggle some in with me. I can just see the headlines, “Woman thrown out of CAMRA Great British Beer Festival for smuggling gluten free beer onto the premesis without permission.”
If I find out about more beers at the show I will update the blog. So right you lot, who is coming to the beer festival? Anyone going? What do you think about the Great British Beer Festival? Would we like to see a #GF corner next year? CAMRA are you listening? Can we have more than one gluten free beer at the Great British Beer Festival please? Personally I would also like to be able to find out which beers are wheat free because at the moment this involves copious research unless we’re talking labelled bottled beers. We want gluten free beer at The Great British Beer Festival because we think our gluten free beer is pretty great!
Jon K (out of Stringers) says
Hi Ruth, you should note that while our “Plan B” is tested (Gliadin Competitive) to be Gluten Free, it’s brewed with barley and (a small proportion of) wheat malt. So if you know that you’re sensitive / allergic to other barley or wheat components, you’d probably want to watch out. It also contains a small amount of honey. It is, however, nicer (IMO) than the sorghum based “beers” out there.
Hi Jon, thanks so much for getting in touch. You will probably think I’m on some kind of comment alert since your comment literally JUST appeared but I have just logged in for a moment, cleared the spam comments and lovely really one appears. I do have a wheat allergy but it’s a mild one, not like my nut allergy which I would certainly err on the side of extreme caution with having been in A&E on too many occasions. It is a very interesting point you raise though, as I wonder how many people with a serious wheat allergy might assume that a gluten free would be freefrom wheat? I don’t know. Anyway, it must have been a very small amount of wheat because I had three halves and had no ill effects – at least nothing you can blame on beer… just pure good old over indulgence and mixing cider with real ale. I would like to thank you whole heartedly for a) being the ONLY gluten free beer at the beer festival, b) testing your beer to see that is gluten free c) commenting on my humble blog. Did you go to the beer festival yourself? And finally, how did you find my blog? I’d love to know. Promoting a blog is a thankful task and often no one ever comments to thank you again ;o)
Martin wallis says
Hi, I’ve been a member of CAMRA for about 20 years but was diagnosed with Coeliac disease nearly 3 years ago. Since then I’ve been running a one man campaign in my local branch to have GF beer on offer at our festival in Luton (I had been helping for a couple of years before being diagnosed). The first year we had 3 types of Greens in bottles, the second year we had Greens Blonde and Crop Circle bottles and, purely by chance, got a barrel of Monty’s Masquerade. This year we had Masquerade and Wold Top’s Against the Grain on draft and a selection of GF bottles such as some of those u mentioned above. I’ve supplied the bottles on a sail or return basis and the branch have kept the profits. This year we sold out of bottles and the GF beer sold well; about the same as the non-GF barrels.
I’m going to be pushing for more than the one GF barrel at this years GBBF.
WOW Martin, I wish I lived nearer to Luton because I’d be there at your beer festivals. Monty’s is really nice, only just discovered that one. I have just read a really interesting blog about #GFBeer written by Sue Cane, check it out here. She mentions one very interesting artisan brewer and is raving about the beer he makes.