Health Inclusive Innovation in the Craft Beer Market
Responding When Passion for Craft Beer and Health Considerations Collide
One of the most challenging things for any craft beer lover is learning that alcohol or gluten should no longer be a part of their diet for health reasons. For many, it is more than just missing the beer itself, the atmosphere of brewpubs and tap houses can be a huge part of a craft beer lover’s social life and circle of friends. Whether recently diagnosed with a diet limiting illness like diabetes or celiac disease or making changes for a healthier lifestyle, there is a growing variety of craft beer on the market to satisfy the palate without sacrificing health!
Gratefully, since its inception, the craft beer industry has been one of adaptation and innovation; going beyond just addressing challenges but often creating solutions that are better for people, the planet, and business practices. Health inclusive innovation is no exception. From craft brewers finding new ways to make healthier beers to maltsters producing gluten-free malt for the industry; this creativity is reaching all sectors of the craft beer industry.
The low carbohydrate (or low carb) diet craze has been around for years. Most low carb diets advise you to avoid alcohol and most other sugars completely. For some, non-alcoholic beers are an option but choices are limited and they are not plentiful in the craft beer community. There is a compromise. In recent years, craft brewers have started producing and marketing full flavor, low carb options for consumers that are very different from traditional light beers. These beers can be a healthier choice for people with diabetes and others hoping to watch their carb intake.
The ingredient that makes this possible is not new to the brewing industry. The enzyme amyloglucosidase, obtained from a strain of the fungus Aspergillus niger, was the secret ingredient in the first light beer, Gablinger’s Diet Beer, introduced in 1967. Craft brewers have long been using amyloglucosidase in Imperial Stouts and more recently in Brut IPAs.
Amyloglucosidae breaks down unfermentable sugars, leaving more glucose to be digested during the fermentation process resulting in a lower-carb, lower-calorie beer that still has the potential for complex taste. To add sweetness and unique flavors to these low sugar beers, brewers use natural sweeteners that support the health appeal of these brews. A few of the most popular are honey, agave, and more recently, monk fruit.
Some of this author’s favorite brews in the low carb, low-calorie category are:
- Slightly Mighty India Pale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
- LightSky Citrus Wheat by Blue Moon Brewery
- One-Y Hazy IPA by Oskar Blues Brewery
- Good Behavior Crushable IPA by Odell Brewing
As consumer demand grows for options that have complex flavors and full body, expect to see more craft brewers release some excellent healthier brews!
For some people, the gluten in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains can cause a host of problems from celiac disease to non-celiac gluten sensitivities. Approximately 1% of adults in the United States have a diagnosis of celiac disease while approximately 6% are diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Choosing a gluten-free diet helps alleviate the symptoms of these and other conditions. A 2018 study published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal, found that in addition to benefiting celiac disease, a gluten-free diet may also benefit the following conditions: irritable bowel syndrome, gluten sensitivity, schizophrenia, and other mental health conditions, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and obesity.
For many years, the one thing that was missing from the craft beer landscape was a tasty gluten-free beer. Today, there are many gluten-free options on the market driven by consumer demand. Since most of the grains used in craft brewing contain gluten, a source of gluten-free malted grain was needed for brewers to make more styles available. This call was answered by Twila Soles, Maltstress and CEO, at the Grouse Malt House in Wellington, Colorado.
Grouse Malt House
The idea sprouted when Twila was working on her Master’s Degree in Food Science and Food Safety at Colorado State University. In a Brewing Science and Technology course, the class toured local breweries and she learned that the malted grain needed for brewing could not be sourced locally. Concurrently, Twila was enjoying the craft beer culture socially with a friend she met while taking the course.
She was disappointed that her friend was unable to enjoy this social experience to the fullest due to celiac disease and a lack of gluten-free options in brewpubs and tap houses. Twila lives with ulcerative colitis and in 2013 found that a gluten-free diet gave her body the health and wellness that medications never could. Through a culmination of these experiences, an idea was born. Grouse Malt House became the first dedicated gluten-free malt house in the United States.
Twila realized that a gluten-free malt house could not only provide a product desperately needed in the craft beer industry but also help support local farmers. Today, 95% of the buckwheat and millet that is malted at Grouse are sourced within 200 miles from a network of organic and conventional farms.
The commitment to growing the craft malt industry goes beyond her own business. As a founding member of the Craft Maltsters Guild, Twila is committed to growing the craft malt industry.
“What I hope happens increasingly is that the average customer’s paradigm shifts to a place where they are asking for beer that uses local sources and supports craft maltsters in that area.”
While Grouse Malt House serves brewers across the nation, strong local connections create local food chains that are better for the industry and the planet. One local customer, Holidaily Brewing Company, in Golden, Colorado, is the first woman-owned dedicated gluten-free brewery in the country. These are the types of relationships that Twila hopes to foster and inspire throughout the industry.
Twila envisions that as the craft beer industry grows and changes that it is met with a consumer that is educated and knows craft malt is a part of the craft beer culture. This creates local connections from the source of the grain through the malting process to the brewer and finally, the consumer.
Once again, the craft beer industry is rising to meet the needs of diverse consumers. This innovation means that quality craft beer can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet by people with many different health considerations. Not only is this benefitting the consumer but creating stronger local food networks and healthier business partnerships throughout the industry.