Posted April 5, 2013 by whopperjaw in Eats & Drinks

Omission Beer: Lose the gluten, not the taste

A few years ago my friend, Jonathan, received advice to abstain from gluten in his diet. I wanted to support him. One afternoon, I picked up a six pack of ale brewed with sorghum for us to share. The sensation of taste does not occur in a vacuum, so we slowly built up to sampling the product. Pouring the beer into a glass, the sound was almost thirst-quenching. We observed the color—a satisfying light amber. The aroma was familiar, if a little distinct. The liquid’s density seemed adequate. We raised our glasses toward each other in a toasting gesture and sipped.

We were underwhelmed. In fact, the taste was bland enough for me to put it out of my mind almost immediately. (I reached for a Bridgeport in the refrigerator; Jonathan sighed wistfully.) Today, I can’t recall the characteristics of that bottle of beer in the slightest.

Flash forward to the April 3, 2013 release party for Omission IPA, the newest beer in Widmer Brothers‘ gluten-free series. I accidentally walked into the event at Portland, Oregon’s Hawthorne Hophouse. Omission Lager and Omission Pale Ale were also available.

Launched in March 2012, Omission brews with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, using an innovative brewing procedure to ensure that gluten levels in every batch measure well below the widely accepted international gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million (ppm) for food and beverages. I’m not sure how they do it (proprietary process, they claim), but the important thing–for celiacs and gluten-intolerant people everywhere–is the taste. Here’s how I rank the trio of beers, all of which are winners:

  • Third place: Pale Ale. Eminently drinkable, it set a new standard when it was released last year.
  • Second place: Lager. Perfect choice for the person who needs a gluten-free beer, and doesn’t necessarily care about all the craft beer fuss.
  • First place: IPA. This nails it – hop complexity and character, aroma, color, etc. I’d put it up against other IPAs in a blind tasting.

Omission Beer’s success begs the question: What’s next in the gluten-free realm? Will lambics offer alternatives? How will home brewers be affected, or inspired? Whatever happens, it seems that gluten-intolerant beer drinkers increasingly will be able to celebrate rather than merely compromise.


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