Which alcohol is gluten free?

Gaining a “beer belly” is hardly ideal or attractive, neither is dealing with the consequences of gluten-intolerance. Fortunately for you with the increased popularity of gluten-free products, distilleries and breweries are also producing gluten-free alcohol products.

If you don’t already know all traditional Xhosa and Zulu beer also known asumqombothi is gluten-free beer. However, established breweries are getting in on the act.  “Red Sky’s Goshawk gluten-free beer is brewed in the same style as pale ale, using sorghum and maize malt,” states The South African Breweries (SAB), which introduced the brand two years ago.

This is available from SAB as part of their beer tours but is also available from a list of specific liquor stores such as Roeland Liquors, The League of beers and select Tops branches.

But if you don’t fancy yourself a beer drinker, you are in luck, because according to Van Ryn’s distillery manager and master distiller, Marlene Bester, below is a whole list of options which are completely gluten free:

Wine and champagne

These are produced from grapes and are safe to consume on a gluten free diet, however it is still recommended that you check with manufacturer to ensure no Gluten has been added. Wine coolers are generally not gluten free as they contain barley malt.


The general definition of brandy is a spirit distilled from fruit (Pears, cherries, peaches, grapes), and in all cases should be free of gluten.  In South Africa brandy production is strictly regulated and all South African Brandies are distilled from grapes and contain no gluten.


Ciders are made from the fermented juice of apples however not all ciders are gluten free as many manufacturers add barley in the production process. Check the labelling to see if barley has been added.


Sake is made from milled rice and is produced by adding koji mold. Some koji is derived from Barley and therefore these Sake would not be entirely gluten free.


Produced from the blue agave plant (cacti), tequila is considered gluten free.


Produced by distilling fermented grain, typically rye, corn, or barley.

Spirits too should be safe to consume on a gluten free diet (bearing in mind that no gluten has been added). “However organisations like Gluten Free Society disagree with this, and believe that any alcohol derived from grain (Beer, Whisky) should be avoided on a gluten free diet,” adds Bester.

How can you check if your drink is gluten-free?

It is unlikely that gluten will be tasted and identified in a spirit containing gluten, continues Bester, “but it is safe to assume that all non-distilled spirits derived from grain do contain gluten, unless it is specifically stated on the label that the beverage is gluten free.”

Generally, gluten-free options are available from any liquor store. As a rule of thumb though, “one should avoid beers and check the label to see what has been added to a flavoured alcoholic beverage. Wines and distilled spirits are considered to be inherently gluten free,” Bester advises.

So before indulging in your favourite alcoholic beverage next time, be sure to bear the above in mind and you’ll be enjoying guilt free.

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