As a species, one of our most noble traits is empathy. All but the most evil human beings posses it. I have tried to envision what life would be like if I suffered from gluten-intolerance. Doing so requires me to imagine life without beer. There are a number of gluten-free beers on the market and as an empathetic human being I have tried a couple of them. I admit that they may not have been the most creative examples of gluten-free beer, but I found them to be barely passable as beer at all.
There is hope. One of our most-recognized Northwest breweries is planning to change the composition, taste and perception of gluten-free beer.
Real Beers, Real Ingredients
In increasing numbers, breweries across the country are at least trying to produce good beer that is gluten-free. Old Hat Brewery (Michigan), New Planet Beer Company (Colorado), The Alchemist Brewery (Vermont), and a handful of other American craft breweries produce gluten-free products. For the most part these brews are concocted using sorghum, buckwheat or some other substitute for gluten-rich barley. What some of these breweries do to add meaningful character and flavor to the beers is a story for another day. Presumably the absence of barley is why many gluten-free beers fail to really taste like beer. Widmer Brothers Brewing recently announced that it will soon release a gluten-free beer made with barley.
On April 2nd Widmer Brothers Brewing expects to release the first beer in its Omission Beer line–a new line of gluten-free beers brewed with barley at the company’s brewery in Portland, Oregon. Initially, the beer will only be available in Oregon. Recognizing that Omission is something entirely new, Widmer plans to launch the beer in Oregon alone as a means to test consumer response and, simply put, get the beer out there. The brewery certainly is keeping all of its options open and plans to explore opportunities to distribute Omission more broadly.
Widmer Brothers Brewing explains that the beer is brewed using a proprietary method to reduce the gluten levels to well below the recognized gluten-free standard. The company says that Omission is the first gluten-free beer brewed with barley in the United States.
Each batch of Omission will be tested by an independent lab to insure that it is below the widely accepted international gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. The international gluten-free standard was established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Gluten levels in Omission beers are tested using the R5 competitive ELISA test. Beer will not be released to consumers until test results are received and after an extended quality assurance hold.
“Omission Beer has been a work in progress for the last six years,” said Joe Casey, brewmaster at Widmer Brothers Brewing. “My wife was diagnosed as a celiac in 2006, and since then, we’ve made it our mission to brew a great-tasting craft beer using traditional beer ingredients that everyone of legal drinking age could enjoy. After years of hard work, mission accomplished.”
Widmer Brothers Brewing is part of Craft Brew Alliance (CBA). Redhook Ale Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing joined forces in 2008 with the goal of advancing their mutual interests. In 2010 Kona Brewing also joined CBA. To learn more, visit the CBA website. Previously known as Craft Brewers Alliance, the company changed its name to Craft Brew Alliance in January 2012.