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The Question

My husband is a beer drinker and thinks he might be reacting to either wheat or barley. Is there any beer brewed without either wheat or barley?

The Answer

There is indeed. Your husband should seek out brands labelled gluten-free.

An increasing number of consumers are discovering they can't tolerate gluten, a protein found in many grains, such as barley and wheat. Those who suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, are particularly sensitive. In these people the substance causes an adverse reaction in the small intestine, leading to a variety of symptoms, including constipation, diarrhea, pain and fatigue. Beer is mainly based on barley, unfortunately, and many brands also contain wheat or corn. For those with gluten and other grain intolerances, most beers are a no-fly zone.

Then there's gluten-free beer, a tiny but growing category. Eager to let no thirst go unslaked, brewers have begun experimenting with alternatives, including rice, sorghum and buckwheat. (Deceptively named, buckwheat is not wheat; it's a plant related to rhubarb and sorrel.)

There's nothing quite like a barley-based beer, I must say, but I've enjoyed a few gluten-free brews, including La Messagère, brewed from rice and buckwheat by Quebec-based Les Bières de la Nouvelle-France. Other brands your husband might want to consider: Nickel Brook Gluten Free from Ontario; Lakefront New Grist from Wisconsin and St. Peter's G-Free from England.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.