Craft Brew Alliance Unveils Gluten-Free Craft Beers Brewed with Barley
I get a lot of email from people asking about gluten-free beer. Honestly, I don't have much experience with it. As someone with absolutely no gluten intolerance, I don't have to be picky about the ingredients in the beer I'm drinking. To different degrees, gluten intolerance can affect about 1 in 125 people in the US and is referred to as celiac disease or celiac sprue. In the beer world, it's hard to escape gluten since barley contains gluten. Many attempts at creating gluten-free beer are based on substituting things like rice, sorghum, or tapioca in for barley in order to provide a different fermentable source. However, barely is the largest ingredient in most beer, providing the base malt for a huge variety of styles. Any substitution for barley is almost immediately perceptible in taste of the beer.
Omission beers—currently two styles, a lager and pale ale—are traditionally brewed using barley, but then the gluten is stripped out of the final product in a proprietary process. The ability to still brew with barley was imperative to the goals of the Omission lineup of beers. “Developing great-tasting, authentic craft beers that happen to be gluten-free was a personal mission for our brewmaster and me, and it’s a mission that our team really got behind. The launch of Omission Beer is a game changer for celiacs and the craft beer community,” said Terry Michaelson, CEO of Craft Brew Alliance. “As a 12-year celiac and longtime craft beer enthusiast, I’m thrilled to introduce two delicious craft beers that can be enjoyed equally by those who are affected by gluten sensitivities and those who are not.” Widmer Brother brewmaster Joe Casey's wife was also diagnosed as a celiac in 2006. “Omission Lager and Omission Pale Ale are great examples of their respective styles,” said Joe Casey. “The lager is brewed in the traditional lager style and the pale ale is a true American style pale. We’re excited that these two beers will allow more people to enjoy a great craft beer experience.” With family ties to celiac disease, both Terry and Joe have spearheaded this project, which they have been working on the for the last six years.
“Omission Lager and Omission Pale Ale really push the boundaries of what’s possible, and we’re thrilled to offer two great craft beers that anyone of legal drinking age can enjoy.” Terry Michaelson
Despite all of the above, beer in any form is always measured by taste. Last night, some of the media were treated to some free samples of the new beer and given the opportunity to talk to Terry and Joe. I'm happy to report that these beers tasted very good. The lager was light and crisp and the pale ale had nice floral and citrus notes. With the exception of the gluten removal process, this beer is brewed in the same manner as any other craft beer, and with the same ingredients. The result are two solid beer styles that people with and without gluten intolerance can enjoy. A side-by-side tasting of Omission's Pale Ale with a non-gluten-free pale ale will still reveal some limitations in the process, leaving the gluten-free flavor profile a bit muted by comparison. However, I think the differences now are subtle enough to really start the process of expanding the gluten-free beer culture without talking about barley substitutes. I'd love to hear what some of our gluten intolerant readers think of these new releases, which are now available at around $9.99 per 6 pack.
Check out Omission Beer's website for more information on the reasons behind these gluten-free offerings as well as important information on how the beer is tested by an outside lab to ensure that the gluten-free standards are exceeded. You can even enter your bottling date to see the official results for that batch. Omission beers are currently only available in Oregon, but there is plenty of enthusiasm for this brand so you can expect to expansion in production—and possibly styles—if this initial release is measured as a success.
While Omission Beer is their own brand, it is brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland Oregon. There is a faint Widmer Brothers logo stamped on the side of the stark packaging, probably to lend a little muscle to this new gluten-free beer line. The Widmer Brother Brewing, Redhook Brewery, and Kona Brewing Company brands all fall under the umbrella of the Craft Brew Alliance.
- Malts: Pale, Caramel 10
- Hops: Citra, Sterling, Mt. Hood
- IBU: 20
- ABV: 4.6%
Omission Pale Ale
- Malts: Pale, Caramel 10, Dark Munich, Carapils
- Hops: Cascade, Citra
- IBU: 33
- ABV: 5.8%
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