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USciences Beer Expert to Discuss Gluten-Free Brewing Options on Tuesday

By Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis

Matthew FarberFor many beer connoisseurs, Philly Beer Week is not a pleasure but a source of pain. The culprit is oftentimes gluten—a protein found in grains such as rye, spelt, and barley, said Matthew Farber, PhD, a brewing science expert at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.“I have no personal connection to celiac disease or gluten insensitivity,” said Dr. Farber, creator of the new Brewing Science Certificate program at USciences. “I just want to share my knowledge with those who do [have gluten intolerance] to better inform them of alternatives that exist for the enjoyment of craft beer.”

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease that affects nearly 3 million individuals across the United States. In recognition of May as Celiac Disease Awareness Month and the upcoming Philly Beer Week (May 29-June 7), Dr. Farber will discuss various methods of producing gluten-free beer in the industry during a free Pint of Science event on Tuesday, May 19, from 5-7 p.m., at the National Mechanics Bar in Philadelphia. He will discuss and demonstrate some of his brewing research efforts, which include minimizing the potential negative side effects of a gluten-eliminating protease on beer quality.

Dr. Farber said his research involves the measurement of an enzyme which is added during the brewing process to degrade gluten.  In this manner, gluten can be practically eliminated from a traditional beer, but—based on federal regulations—cannot be labeled as “gluten free.” In order to be labeled as a gluten-free product, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of any ingredient containing gluten protein, said Dr. Farber. This excludes enzymatic or other industrial methods of removing gluten from the product.

“To make gluten-free beer, brewers have used alternative grains, rich in fermentable sugars but lack gluten, including rice, corn, millet, and sorghum,” said Dr. Farber. “Beers made with alternative grains taste different, at best, but many consider them downright unappealing.”

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