Is Fookinootz Oat Ale Gluten Free?
The simple answer to that question is "It's complicated". According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency the only way that a food product can be labelled as "Gluten Free" is if it's made from certified gluten free oats. Fookinootz is made with locally grown seed oats, but they are not certified as gluten free. As such, we cannot put the "Gluten Free" claim on the can. This does not mean it contains gluten however. The Canadian Celiac Association has a good article on Oats and Celiac Disease, give it a read for better understanding of the rest of the story.
So why didn't we use certified gluten free oats?
The simple answer is that there were no available locally grown certified gluten free oats suitable for the malting process. Since local is very important to us, we had to go with the "Mechanically/Optically Sorted Oats" option mentioned in the Canadian Celiac Association article. (See, I told you you should read it.). Thankfully, we are located in an area with world class seed-cleaning technology and expertise. The oats used went through mechanical and optical sorting equipment, ensuring that the grain is oats, and nothing but oats.
What about cross-contamination?
Even if the oats were certified gluten-free, that in itself is simply not enough. We still have to mitigate the risk of cross-contamination from the other grains that are processed at both the malting plant and at the brewery. You may have heard that more time is spent cleaning in a brewery than actually making beer. This is 100% true, but eliminating cross-contamination risk is a whole other level. We literally disassemble and clean our rolling mill, auger feeds, and anything else that could potentially be a source of barley or wheat dust. The local craft malting company does the same with their equipment. Tons of extra effort, but worth it to mitigate cross-contamination risk. Just one of those things that caused us to name the beer what we did.
Why don't we just test the beer for gluten?
You may have heard that there is a test for gluten in food products available - the ELISA test. So why can't we just use it to prove our beer is gluten-free? We wish it were that simple. The fermentation process that beer goes through can disguise the antigens the test is looking for, resulting in inaccurate results. It's significant enough that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency specifically forbids the use of the ELISA test as a way to guarantee the levels of gluten in beer.
So what does it all mean?
Back to the original question. "Is Fookinootz Oat Ale gluten-free?" According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, no.
But maybe a better question is "Is Fookinootz Oat Ale appropriate for my health and dietary choices?" Sorry, you're going to have to answer that one on your own. Hopefully we've provided you with some information to help you make that choice. If you want more information, don't hesitate to contact us!