Since I started the column last July, quite a few readers have written in asking for advice on gluten-free beer. This is admittedly a category I'm unfamiliar with, but for people living with Celiac Disease or wanting to adapt a gluten-free lifestyle for other health reasons, it's an important one. As a beer lover, not being able to enjoy my favorite beverage would be very difficult.
Omission Beer is the gluten-removed brand from Widmer Brothers Brewing. The Oregon brewery has been a staple in the craft industry for a long time. The Omission brand currently has three offerings: a lager, a pale ale, and an IPA. Each contains fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten, which is the FDA standard for labeling a product to be safe for persons with gluten allergies. Each batch is sent to independent laboratory testing to verify gluten content.
It's important to note that Omission is brewed with barley, just like any other beer, and that the gluten is removed later. An enzyme called Brewers Clarex is added to the beer to break the bonds of the gluten protein chains. As such, its' still possible someone with a gluten allergy will have an adverse reaction to the product. Omission's packaging is careful not to say "gluten-free", but there are plenty of testimonials and product testing results on the company's website.
Now onto the beer. Gluten content aside, Omission is brewed as a west coast IPA. Summit and Cascade hops are added to a base of pale and caramel malts. It weighs in at 65 international bitterness units and 6.7 percent alcohol by volume.
Omission pours fizzy and golden. The nose is pungent, earthy and piney. It smells like any other west coast IPA I've ever had.
The beer doesn't disappoint. It's intensely bitter, with bright citrus on top and damp earth notes below. You wouldn't know this was a low-gluten beer. I haven't tried other low-gluten beers, but this one alone must be a relief to hop heads who can no longer tolerate other brews. It makes sense, too, to heavily hop a base beer, low-gluten or not. With proper technique you can add flavor to any beer, no matter what else you take away.