2021 Homebrewer Survey

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Background

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:

  1. Get a baseline understanding of the people involved in gluten free brewing -- including locations, motivations, and experience
  2. Inventory the techniques and materials that are in use by gluten free homebrewers as of 2021
  3. 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

Survey Response

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%
Survey Responses 61 15 10 7 1 0 94
Response Rate for Region 7% 8% 7% 19% 5% 0% 7%

Demographics

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Occupation.png
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Motivations and Experience

Gluten free focus and motivations

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Motivations for brewing.png


Brewing experience

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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).

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Learning and discussion sources

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Brewing Practices

Frequency

Frequency of Brewing.png


Other Beverages

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Gluten Free, Gluten Reduced, and Conventional Brewing

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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.

Fermentable Use

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%).

Fermentable Use - Grains.png
Home Malting.png


Frequency Millet Rice Buckwheat Oats Corn Quinoa Lentils Sorghum Chestnuts Amaranth Cassava Teff Other grain, starch
1 Never 19% 28% 24% 36% 46% 46% 76% 82% 93% 91% 95% 93% 66%
2 Rarely 7% 14% 21% 27% 26% 27% 13% 8% 4% 7% 4% 7% 18%
3 Sometimes 12% 19% 27% 21% 19% 17% 6% 7% 1% 1% 0% 0% 7%
4 Often 8% 12% 9% 9% 6% 6% 5% 1% 2% 0% 1% 0% 5%
5 Most Frequently 55% 28% 19% 6% 4% 4% 0% 1% 0% 1% 0% 0% 4%


Fermentable Use - Sugars.png


Extract to All Grain

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Mash Method and Enzymes

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Popular Commercial Enzymes.png
Enzyme Correlations.png


Brewing Equipment

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All-in-one.png


Type of fermenter.png
Temp control methods.png


Brewing Practices

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Yeast and bacteria cultures.png
Main Packaging Method.png


Most Frequent Styles By Region.png


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.

Quality Self Assessment - Global.png
Quality Self Assessment - By Region.png


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).

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Group Priorities

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.

ZT Club Priorities Global and Regionally.png
ZT Future Meeting Topics.png


Inclusion, Diversity and Global Focus

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ZT Diverse.png


ZT Global Focus.png


Other

Gluten Free Perspectives

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Non Dedicated Malt Certification.png
Commercial GF beer preferences.png


Labeling rules.png
Celiac association GF beer education.png


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%
Obstacle - Ingredients expensive.png
Obstacle - Ingredients access.png


Obstacle - Time.png
Obstacle - Too Complicated.png


Obstacle - Reference Info.png
Obstacle - Quality.png


Obstacle - Space.png