Yes Virginia, There Is A Gluten-Free Beer

THERE ARE TWO PATHS TO GLUTEN-FREE BREWS: start with grains or fruits that have no gluten, or break down the gluten with enzymes during brewing. PHOTO: J. PATRICK O’LEARY

Driving past Brewery Rickoli on Wadsworth, a sign caught my eye: Gluten-Free Beer. How can that be?

Rickoli’s website says they remove the gluten from all of their brews. That, according to my non-scientific research (i.e., Google) is achieved by using an enzyme that breaks down gluten protein. (If you have celiac disease or other medical condition, ask your doctor about what you can safely drink – I’m just here to tell you what it tastes like.) Otherwise, one would need to brew beer with a gluten-free grain, like millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat or corn. Or apples, but then it would be cider. 

Rickoli didn’t open till 3, so we went to Colorado Plus, which had a barrel of Rickoli’s Elke Brown Ale on tap. It’s billed as an American-style brown ale with an array of medium to dark caramel malts, accented with English Chocolate malt, plus Willamette hops.

My palette can’t pick up the presence or absence of gluten proteins (can yours?), so I found it to be a decent brown ale, mildly hopped (45 IBU) and medium strength (6.8 percent alcohol by volume).

But I wanted to try a true gluten-free brew. Fortuitously, Colorado Plus also had Dos Luces Brewery’s Pulque Metztli on tap, brewed with maguey nectar (that stuff mezcal and tequila comes from), malted blue corn (used in chicha, or corn beer) and cinnamon. I had a five-ounce pour. Mildly sour, not carbonated, hard to describe. Not what we think of as beer.

“I don’t know why I’d order that again.”

“I agree.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it…and it must sell – it’s on their menu, right?”

(But I will order it again. I later visited Dos Luces’ website, and decided a future field trip was on tap to Denver’s South Broadway to try flights of chicha and pulque, while sampling nearby South American food.)

Apple cider is gluten-free. Colorado Plus had that on tap, too: Della’s Apple Strudel from Summit Hard Cider and Perry Co. of Fort Collins. Sweet and spicy, just like the name suggests. Enjoyable.

So, yes Virginia, there are gluten-free beers. But dear, let’s not split hairs over the definition.

Who: Brewery Rickoli

Where: 4335 Wadsworth Blvd., Wheat Ridge

Hours: Mon.-Wed. 3-7 p.m.; Thur.-Sun. 3-8 p.m.

Brews: Elke Brown Ale, amongst others, all gluten-removed. (I didn’t count the taps.)

Food: Baker St. Pretzels and frozen pizza; delivery OK. Plus free popcorn “and other snackage.”

Info:, 303-344-8988

Who: Colorado Plus

Where: 6995 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

Brews: Their own, plus others, including gluten-free and -removed.

Food: Gobs. It’s a restaurant, too.

Info:, 720-353-4853

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