Miller High Life is one of the most celebrated brews in American culture. It’s been around since 1904 and has been officially dubbed as the “Champagne of beers” or “Hipster Gatorade,” depending on where you’re from. Aside from its grandiose history, you probably only care about one thing, “Is Miller High Life gluten-free?”
Miller High Life is not gluten-free. Although it has relatively low levels of gluten, the beer is brewed using malted barley, which means that it has enough gluten to trigger a reaction in anybody with celiac disease.
Even people with general gluten sensitivity may experience some uncomfortable symptoms after consuming a High Life.
Today, I’ll break down all of the ingredients in Miller High Life, explain why it’s not gluten-free, how much gluten it has, and show you a few great alternatives. The good news is that you can still drink on a gluten-free diet! You just have to be careful about what you drink.
If You’re Sensitive To Gluten, Avoid Miller High Life
If you’ve ever seen a Miller High Life commercial or billboard, then you’ve no doubt heard it referred to as the “Champagne of beers.” This slogan, while catchy, is inaccurate as traditional French Champagne is gluten-free.
The slogan came about in 1903 when the beer was first created and was designed to draw attention to the fact that Miller High Life was served in sleek glass bottles (like Champagne). Back in the early-1900s, when beer was consumed more often than water, bottled beer was an uncommon luxury.
Glass bottles became a lot more popular over the century. By that time, Miller High Life had solidified its place as the “Champagne of Beers.” If you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s an old High Life commercial from the early-1970s:
Like most traditional pilsners, High Life is brewed with malted barley. The sweet grain is responsible for giving the beer its golden color and rich, malted flavor. However, malted barley also contains high amounts of gluten.
Although some of the gluten is filtered out during the brewing process, enough remains to be a problem for anybody on a gluten-free diet.
Miller High Life Ingredients
Now that I’ve got the basics out of the way, I want to take a couple of minutes to break down all of the ingredients in Miller High Life, so you can see which ingredients are and aren’t gluten-free. Here’s the shortlist for those of you in a rush:
- Malted barley
- Corn syrup
- Hop extract
If you have a few extra minutes and want to learn a bit more about how High Life is brewed, then read on.
Water is the main ingredient in all beer. In fact, most beer is 95% water. Most people are unaware of this, but before modern water purification methods, some cultures drank beer more often than they drank water!
This is because beer contained natural preservatives and alcohol that killed bacteria and made it safer to drink than most water.
2) Malted Barley
Malted barley is one of the most commonly found ingredients in beers around the world. Unfortunately, it’s also a glutenous grain that shouldn’t be consumed on a gluten-free diet.
Along with wheat, some oats, rye, and triticale (a hybrid grain that results from crossing wheat and rye), barely is one of the 5 “demons of the gluten-apocalypse” (yes I coined that term, go ahead and laugh).
Curious about what barley’s purpose in beer is?
Well, it serves two primary purposes:
- Barley provides natural sugars for the yeast to feast on and turn into alcohol.
- Barley contributes to a smooth texture and sweet flavors in the beer.
One interesting fact that I recently learned is that some brewers (such as Stella Artois) are introducing a gluten-stripping protein in the brewing process. This added protein allows the brewer to make gluten-free beers that still contain barley! Read more on Stella Artois’ gluten-free alternative here.
3) Corn Syrup
When I learned that High Life used corn syrup, I was a bit shocked, I had never heard of corn syrup being used in beer before. Then again, this is the United States, and Americans love corn syrup for some reason.
While it’s not exactly healthy, the added corn syrup in High Life’s grain mash provides extra sugar for the yeast to feed on and results in a sweeter, syrupy-flavored beer.
4) Hop Extract
If you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a High Life prior to going on a gluten-free diet, then you’ll probably remember that it doesn’t have a very hoppy flavor. Unlike other pilsners that use whole hop flowers in their mash, High Life uses hop extract.
The hop extract acts as a natural preservative that doesn’t dominate the beer’s flavor. Personally, I prefer a hoppy flavor in my beer. But High Life is known for being a sweet, non-hoppy beer, so it’s a smart choice on their end.
Without yeast, there would be no alcohol. Yeast feeds on sugar in the grain mash and then turns it into alcohol. The longer the yeast is allowed to feast (during the fermentation process), the more alcohol is present in the brew. If you’re curious, yeast is also gluten-free!
How Much Gluten Does Miller High Life Have?
According to an independent gluten testing organization, Miller High Life had less than 5 ppm of gluten. By the FDA’s definition of gluten-free (less than 20 ppm of gluten), High Life should be gluten-free.
That being said, this was an individual test on a single beer. Miller is well known for containing gluten, and there’s a good chance that another bottle of High Life could have more than 20 ppm. Miller’s official stance is that their beer is not gluten-free, so my advice is that you avoid the beer altogether.
Is Miller Lite Gluten-Free?
One of the most common myths I’ve heard about light beer is that it’s all gluten-free. While most light beers do have lower gluten content than heavier beers, they still contain enough gluten to trigger a reaction in certain individuals. Like High Life, Miller Lite is not recommended on a gluten-free diet.
If you’re looking for gluten-free alternatives to glutenous light beers, check out this table:
|Gluten-Containing Light Beers||Gluten-Free Light Beer Alternatives|
|Miller Lite||Glutenberg Blonde Ale|
|Bud Light||Glutenberg White Ale|
|Coors Light||Coors Peak Copper Lager|
|Michelob Ultra||New Planet Blonde Ale|
Although the Champagne of Beers may not be gluten-free, the good news is that there are plenty of gluten-free options on the market!
Check out this list for my top ten gluten-free beers. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a cold one with the crew, as long as you’re smart about what you drink. For more tips on gluten-free living and eating, navigate over to my Gone Gluten lifestyle blog!