Gluten-Free Beer: Omission Pale Ale is So Good, You Can't Tell

ZachBeer.jpg
Zachary Fowle
Omission Pale Ale.

Beer: Pale Ale
Brewery: Omission
Style: Gluten-free beer
ABV: 5.8 percent

The world has no shortage of really terrifying diseases you can catch. Necrotizing Fasciitis -- often referred to as "flesh-eating disease" -- is a bacterial infection that causes body tissue to dissolve like a wet napkin. Prion Disease can give you a fatal case of insomnia, keeping you awake until you die. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva causes bones to grow in places they don't belong -- like muscles, tissue and connective fiber. As bones form across joints, you become increasingly unable to move until you're completely immobile -- a living statue. But none of these are as terrifying to me as the beer-lover's death note: Celiac disease.

See also:
- Nine Favorite Metro Phoenix Spots Where You Can Eat Gluten-Free
- Slade Grove Makes Gluten-free Amaretti Cookies

Celiac disease is a disorder of the small intestine, making the afflicted person unable to process gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley -- the three most common malts in beer. It's estimated that more than 3 million people in the U.S. are gluten intolerant, but there are surprisingly few options for Celiac beer drinkers, and what options there are taste pretty gross. Enter Omission, a new gluten-free line brewed by Oregon's Widmer Brothers Brewing.

It looks like a normal beer, anyway. The liquid, cranberry-copper, is capped by an inch of tan sea foam that recedes only after a few minutes of waiting. The hops, too, are what you'd expect -- spicy, like grass and herbs. A touch of lime and orange peel meet a sugary, honey-like malt backbone.

But appearance and aroma can be faked -- what about the flavor? The problem is that gluten is the natural byproduct of brewing with barley and wheat, and most attempts to make a beer without those malts taste like crap.
Most gluten-free beers use sorghum as a malt substitute, but Omission Pale Ale is made with Pale, Carapils, Caramel 10 and Dark Munich malts -- the same used in many standard pale ales. The gluten in Omission removed via a proprietary process -- the flavor remains, the gluten doesn't. Skeptics can use the code printed on bottles of Omission to check the gluten level of each batch online. The beers I sampled had fewer than 10 parts of gluten per million -- see for yourself.

Even without gluten, the flavor of this pale ale stays strong. There's not a ton of malt complexity, but the honeyed sweetness deftly balances the grass, orange peel and rose petals of Cascade hops. Moderate bitterness sits on the sides of the tongue while mild carbonation prickles a body that's like 2 percent milk. Nice thickness, with just enough alcohol to numb the tongue and let you know you're drinking real beer.

And it is real beer. If you served this blind, there'd be no telling it was gluten-free. That's all any Celiac can ask for. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva however, is still out there.

Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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2 comments
PeterOlins
PeterOlins

Zachary, 

Because "gluten" is broken down during bewing, the FDA states that there is NO validated assay; so it is in accurate to claim less than "20ppm gluten".

The US Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has issued a regulation prohibiting the use of the term "gluten free" on beers based on barley.

 

A detailed review of the technical and regulatory issues surrounding gluten-free beer can be found at:

 

http://ultimateglutenfree.com/2012/10/gluten-free-beer-barley-malt-safe-celiacs/

 

 

ericadermer
ericadermer

Celiacs beware! Please note that although this is labeled gluten-free (although only in their home state), it is still made from gluten. They have a proprietary process to remove the gluten to be below the standards of 20ppm, but since I've reviewed it on Celiac and the Beast - numerous people have noted that they still have reactions to it. Please be careful of your use of this beer if you are Celiac! However, if you are just gluten sensitive or if you're adopting a gluten-free diet because of the latest diet fad or it's part of the paleo lifestyle, this beer is seriously the best you can find. If you are very sensitive or a Celiac, I would recommend Green's (available locally at Whole Foods and Total Wine - maybe even BevMo), or New Planet. Those beers are made from non-gluten-containing grains. 

 

Here's my review: http://celiacandthebeast.com/2012/06/review-omission-beer/

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