Gluten-free is more than a buzzword for people who suffer from celiac disease or who are gluten-intolerant. Having to negotiate the minefield of the standard American diet on a daily basis—pass on the cake, no pizza—is enough of an inconvenience for them. But the prospect of life without beer is truly tragic.

The standard beer recipe uses malted barley, one of the family of grains that contains gluten. Recognizing a need, brewers have stepped in with an increasing variety of alternatives, including beer made from sorghum, rice and millet, and traditional malted barley that has been stripped of much of its active gluten.

I was curious how the new slate of U.S.-made alternative ales stacked up in a taste test, and also whether or not two Bay Area-made, regular ales inserted into the blind tasting would stand out. No gluten-intolerant persons were harmed in this taste test.

New Planet Pale Ale

Ingredients: sorghum and brown rice extract, molasses, tapioca maltodextrin, caramel color, hops and yeast. The best that can be said is that it generates the foamiest head. Bretty, sour aromas, tangy acidity and an unflattering finish undermine this product. If they’d gone all-out Belgian-sour style, it might have worked. From Boulder, CO.

Red Bridge

Anheuser-Busch’s bid for the gluten-free tailgater contains sorghum, corn syrup, hops and yeast. I’ll say one thing for it: With its aroma of skunky hops and grapefruit, crisp, watery mouthfeel and metallic aftertaste, it beats Bud Light. This is absolutely celiac-friendly and would be refreshing enough with a wedge of orange on a hot day.

Omission IPA

Widmer’s savvy but controversial entry. The label does not say gluten-free because the beer is made with malted barley. Before brewing, the company explains, they add “a brewing enzyme called Brewers Clarex, which breaks apart and detoxifies the gluten protein chains.” The Omission IPA is not supplied with the expected IPA profile. Floral, fruity and innocuous; slightly bitter finish.

Bard’s Sorghum Malt Beer

Bard’s smells sweet and malty, like beer made from a kit. Slightly fruity and nutty, with grassy, alfalfa notes, it’s lightly effervescent and makes an acceptable light beer substitute. From Utica, N.Y.

Omission Pale Ale

Light amber color, grain and malt syrup aroma. Smooth, with an agreeable ESB profile. Our favorite of the alternative beers.

Bear Republic Grand-Am American Pale Ale

It’s not the aggressive, fresh hop aroma that made this easy to guess—gluten-free producers are free to stuff as many oily green cones into their brew as they wish. Ridiculously hoppy, full, rich and balanced. From Sonoma County.

St. Florian’s Flashover IPA

It shouldn’t be the deep hue that identifies this as a regular, barley ale. And it doesn’t stand out as an IPA—more like an amber ale, hops bringing up the finish after sweet, smoky aromas of toasted grain. From Sonoma County.