|This statement is being distributed by Sapporo
"A representative from Sapporo Breweries, Ltd./Tokyo has
advised that Sapporo beer does contain barley. However, after
the barley is boiled, the gluten is filtered out along with the
barley skins. The representative assured me that although the
barley itself does contain gluten, their brewing process effectively
removes all the gluten from their beer."
The following comments were
written by Donald D. Kasarda who is a research chemist in the
Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit of the United
States Department of Agriculture. If you have any questions
or comments regarding the piece, you can address them to Don
The reason that
this doesn't make sense for celiac patients has to do with the digestion
of the barley hordeins, the proteins that are similar to wheat gliadins
in barley. During the malting and fermentation processes, the barley
hordeins are broken down into smaller pieces called peptides. It is
true that no intact hordein proteins can generally be found in beer.
However, the smaller pieces of these proteins resulting from enzymatic
digestion are often quite water soluble so that they remain in the
beer throughout the complete processing to the final product. (Remember
that beer is not a distilled product as are whiskey or vodka. Filtration
of the beer will not remove these small water-soluble hordein polypeptides.)
A barley hordein might have a polypeptide chain including 300 amino
acids in its sequence, yet it is reasonably well established by experiments
that polypeptides with as few as 13 amino acid residues in the chain
can still retain toxicity for celiac patients. These small pieces
of the original proteins can (and do) have very different properties
from the original larger proteins. In the strict sense, Sapporo is
correct that there are no more intact hordeins in their beer. What
they cannot claim is that there are no hordein peptides in the beer
that might harm celiac patients.
There is some
evidence from analytical methods involving antibodies prepared to
gliadins that there are peptides in beer that react with these antibodies.
It is not proved beyond any doubt that the peptides in beer are actually
toxic to celiac patients, but it is quite possible that the peptides
remaining in any barley-based or wheat-based beer, Sapporo included,
are harmful to celiac patients. The amount of harmful peptides, if
they are present, is likely to be small, but there is no satisfactory
analytical data, in my opinion, that defines the amount exactly. So
it could be in a range that would be harmful to a celiac patient drinking
beer on a regular basis. My guess is, and I emphasize that I can't
back this up with scientific results, that a glass of beer once every
few months would not do lasting harm to the average celiac patient.
By average celiac patient, I mean those who have no obvious allergic
character to their disease and do not notice any immediate reaction
when they ingest gluten.