Getting into parties gluten-free

Columnist Dana Ricci shares her wheat allergy woes when it comes to drinking on Main Campus.

Columnist Dana Ricci shares her wheat allergy woes when it comes to drinking on Main Campus.

It comes in cans, cups, bottles and kegs and is readily available at nearly any party. It’s the main focus of almost every drinking game and the reason we flock to certain houses to squeeze into a party or line up at bars for the most inexpensive special.

Mar16_Living 2_The Foodery_Roman02
ROMAN KRIVITSKY TTN The Foodery, located at Second and Poplar streets, offers a large selection of beers, including gluten-free varieties.

But seeing the litter from the empties scattered throughout the streets as I take out my garbage Sunday morning (er, afternoon) serves as a constant reminder of the fact that I can never get any – beer, that is.

While I was in high school, I found out that I have an allergy to gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat, rye and barley. Wheat and barley are ingredients in many types of beer. Sure, it was difficult to kiss my bread-and-pasta-eating days goodbye, but it was not until college that I faced a different problem: what to fill my cup with at all the liquor-less parties.

As a freshman, I sucked it up. I’d crack open my can of Natty Light with the rest of the crew and try not to envision the possible consequences. I went along with my philosophy of, “Isn’t this crap mostly water anyway?” Unfortunately, such was not the case.

A can and a half down the hatch, my neck and chest would break out into clusters of unattractive red blotches as my tongue and throat would begin to swell. An overload of mucus would flood my sinuses, and after that, one of my lucky guy friends would get the rest of my beer. Although my allergy isn’t fatal, the discomfort wasn’t worth the buzz.

These days, the first things I ask when keg-party possibilities are thrown around on the weekends are, “Will there be liquor there?” and “How much extra am I going to have to pay?” If there isn’t a beer alternative or if it’s going to cost me too much to not drink beer, chances are I won’t be following my friends that night.

When I do decide to go out, whether I am guaranteed a cooler of jungle juice or I have my own supplies to bring, I still take my chances of whether I’ll have to pay at the door. If liquor costs extra, I try my best to put on my best puppy-dog face and tell the man at the door with the permanent marker that I’m allergic to beer and I won’t be drinking any. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

There is such a thing as gluten-free beer, and I have been lucky enough to get my hands on some in the past. Unfortunately, it’s a tad on the pricey side and is considered a specialty beer in most cases, so it’s not available at all those corner stores most students visit to pick up 40s.

When I am old enough to confidently walk into any bar with my friends, I’m sure things will get easier. However, while I am still in my basement-party heyday, I’ll have to accept the fact that the line, “They got two kegs!” will never be enough to get me off the couch and out to a party. The bright side? At least I’m building a tolerance.

Dana Ricci can be reached at


  1. What you have sounds like a wheat allergy. It could be celiac disease, but reactions that fast with mucus membrane reactions in the nose sounds like an allergy. Celiac disease is actually an autoimmune disease and it affects the GI tract and usually the resluts are explosive GI problems and the offending matter can come out of either end rather violently. The treatment is the same, no gluten which is in wheat, rye, barley and similar grains. Only about 10% of celiacs react to oats, but oats are usuall contaminated with gluten in the processing because they are processed with wheat products.

    Good luck, but you can have hard liquor that has been distilled. I grew up in Pennsylvania and you can’t legally drink and I couldn’t even then oh so many years ago until age 21. I attended Temple in the early 1970’s in grad school. Good luck as I know what college party life is like and it mostly revolves around beer which is a cheap drink. Hit up a medical student and get some lab alcohol (ethanol) and be sure to dilute it. That is what we used to do. Take care.

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