2021 Homebrewer Survey
The Zero Tolerance Gluten Free Brewing group conducted an online, anonymous survey of gluten free homebrewers from February through March 2021. The survey was open to homebrewers as well as commercial brewers that brew homebrew-sized (e.g. 5 gallon / 19L) pilot batches. Survey question groups included demographics, brewing background/profile, gluten free brewing practices, the Zero Tolerance group and priorities, and more general perspectives on gluten free beer.
Key motivations for the survey were to:
- Get a baseline understanding of the people involved in gluten free brewing -- including locations, motivations, and experience
- Inventory the techniques and materials that are in use by gluten free homebrewers as of 2021
- Determine how the Zero Tolerance group can best support brewers from across the globe
Links to the survey, which was available in English and Spanish, were posted on the Zero Tolerance Facebook group and the Homebrew Talk gluten free forum. Incentive prizes (chosen through randomized draw) were provided by Zero Tolerance admins as well as the following sponsors:
- AltGrain Co
- TWØBAYS Brewing
- Ovunque - Maltas Inclusivas
- Brewer's Friend
94 individuals from 14+ countries responded to the survey. With a Facebook group membership of approximately 1,300 people at the start of the survey, that represents a 7% overall response rate -- a little less than the 10% sample size we had hoped to achieve.
|North America||Australia & NZ||UK & Europe||Latin America & Caribbean||Africa & Mideast||Asia||Total|
|Facebook Membership (Feb 16, 2021)||905||194||139||37||21||19||1315|
|% of Group||69%||15%||11%||3%||2%||1%||100%|
|Response Rate for Region||7%||8%||7%||19%||5%||0%||7%|
Motivations and Experience
Gluten free focus and motivations
A slim majority of respondents took up gluten free brewing after having some conventional (barley) brewing experience. The previous (barley) experience margin was of course higher (69%) for those brewing for a friend or family member vs respondents with celiac and non celiac gluten intolerance (50% of whom have previous barley brewing experience). Those who are brewing gluten free for friends or family members are generally newer to this area (50% with less than 1 year experience, 94% with 3 years or less experience).
Learning and discussion sources
Gluten Free, Gluten Reduced, and Conventional Brewing
Perhaps not surprisingly, most respondents are brewing beer from naturally gluten free ingredients. Interestingly, no one from the “brewing for family/friend” segment reported brewing batches with barley and clarity ferm (gluten reduced), however 7% of those with medical reasons to avoid gluten do report using this method. A small number of respondents (four) with medical reasons to avoid gluten did indicate that they brew batches not intended to be gluten free. Two of these individuals are professional brewers and presumably do so for work. Interestingly, only half of the respondents who intend to brew gluten free for family/friends indicated that they brew conventional (barley) batches – suggesting that there may be a group of homebrewers brewing exclusively gluten free for others – without a medical reason to do so for themselves.
While there is some regional variation, the predominant grains in gluten free homebrewing are millet (68% respondents reporting occasional to frequent use), rice (53%), and buckwheat (50%).
|Frequency||Millet||Rice||Buckwheat||Oats||Corn||Quinoa||Lentils||Sorghum||Chestnuts||Amaranth||Cassava||Teff||Other grain, starch|
|5 Most Frequently||55%||28%||19%||6%||4%||4%||0%||1%||0%||1%||0%||0%||4%|
Extract to All Grain
Mash Method and Enzymes
Quality Self Assessment
Respondents were asked to score their beers on nine different categories: Head formation, head stability / retention, clarity (to style), aroma, flavor (absence of off-flavors), balance, body, attenuation control (ability to predictably influence the final gravity), and extract efficiency (all grain brewing). Rating scale was 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). The self-assessment has some significant caveats, namely that they are very subjective and highly generalized (reflective of one's overall brewing outcomes, not individual beers). For this inaugural survey, self assessment scores may be suggestive of further opportunities to draw better correlations between specific brewing practices (mash regime, enzyme use, etc) and individual batch quality.
Zero Tolerance Group
What's in a name? The Zero Tolerance name, coined by club found Joe Morris, is a reference to a focus on naturally gluten free ingredients (including fermentables and yeast) for brewing gluten free beer. A sizeable proportion of the group is happy with that name, with some less attached to it. (Comments on this question indicated that the name seem at odds with the welcoming spirit of the group and may suggest closed-mindedness).
Opinions regarding Zero Tolerance group priorities varied by region. Globally the areas that received most widespread support were maintaining a gluten free brewing wiki and advocating to international celiac (coeliac) associations and regulatory bodies on reserving the term "gluten free" for beer made with naturally gluten free ingredients.
Inclusion, Diversity and Global Focus
Gluten Free Perspectives
Obstacles to gluten free brewing
|Biggest Obstacles||Not a problem||Minor obstacle||Major Obstacle|
|Ingredients are too expensive||22%||47%||32%|
|Access to ingredients||29%||34%||37%|
|Not enough time||32%||41%||27%|
|Brewing techniques too complicated||40%||49%||11%|
|Access to good reference information||41%||41%||18%|
|Not satisfied with quality of beer made||53%||41%||6%|
|Not enough space||60%||33%||7%|