Can’t wheat

New options mean a beer drinker allergic to gluten is a customer, not an oxymoron.

Now available at the NSLC and Premier Wine & Spirits.
Now available at the NSLC and Premier Wine & Spirits.

Before Kendra Hoskin was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009, she says she was a "huge beer drinker." After the diagnosis, because most beers are brewed with wheat, barley or other gluten-based grains, she switched to cider. But the rise of wheat allergies has brewers making some changes, too.

The NSLC now sells three different types of gluten-free beers: two imports and the Quebec-brewed La Messagère, $18.94 for six of the pale ale. Premiere Wine & Spirits sells six-packs of La Messagère Rouge for $16.86.

Peter Rockwell, a category manager for the NSLC, says gluten-free is a "growing segment" of craft beer, and the NSLC's sales numbers definitely show these options are "appealing to the drinking community in Nova Scotia." The corporation is actively looking to expand its gluten-free offerings.

Out on the town, The Wooden Monkey was one of the first restaurants in Halifax to cater to the wheat-averse beer drinker. It has been selling the La Messagère Rouge for three years, and a year ago added the German gluten-free Schnitzer Brau.

The Maxwell's Plum, The Argyle Bar & Grill and The Foggy Goggle all have a gluten-free option on the menu. And Gord Hutchinson, beer guru at Premier Wine & Sprits, says you should always ask, because many local pubs and bars carry a gluten-free beer even if it's not on their menu.

So, even though she may not be able to enjoy a pint of Guinness this St. Patrick's Day, Hoskin won't let that ruin her fun. Hoskin says she is "still going to dress in green and have a blast" and may even toast the Irish Saint with a glass of gluten-free beer.—Jane Caufield

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