A New Gluten-Free Beer. And it is a Real Beer

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.

Gluten-Free Guaranteed

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.




  1. This is very timely. My wife may be gluten intolerant, and is currently experimenting with a gluten free diet. I am doing the diet as well, in support of her, but giving up beer is the one obstacle. I’ll have to look for Omission next time we’re in Oregon, and as I homebrew, I’ll have to research how to make it myself! Thanks, Kendall!

  2. BeerDrinker – Maybe Widmer doesn’t recognize Illinois as part of the USA. Likely, just an oversight on their part. I love the fact that Two Bros came to make a gluten-free beer quite by accident.

  3. On the subject of gluten free beer… Strange Brewing out of Colorado puts out a fantastic gluten free brew. Not much help for Washington as they don’t distribute much, but worth getting a hold of, and talking to Strange, for brewers looking for inspiration.

  4. Hey Kendall,

    Thanks for the article. Although the EU recognizes a less than 20 ppm standard, most in the US are pushing for a 0 ppm standard. At most we should be at a 5 ppm standard. For our family, 1 ppm is 1 too many so most in my family cannot drink a denatured beer. I would put their beer in the low gluten category instead of gluten free. Dog Fish Head makes an excellent gluten free beer that most, gluten free or no will enjoy but it is a craft beer, not intended to emulate a gluten filled beer which I prefer. The Gluten Free Beer Assoc will definitely recognize Widmer Brothers offering but again, in the low gluten category. 🙂

    You can find reviews of all the beers we have been able to review to date on the Assoc website.

  5. Hi GlutenFreeBeer.Org – Thanks for commenting, I was actually wondering about that. Your comment sounds like it’s based on experience. I wonder if they ran tests to determine the 20 ppm standard?

  6. Thanks for the great post, Kendall. We are familiar with Two Brothers Prairie Path Golden Ale, the process they use with respect to gluten, and the test results that they’ve shared online. So we know that Omission beers aren’t the first beers in the United States to be brewed with malted barley that fall below the international gluten-free standard of 20ppm. However, Omission is the first beer BRAND focused exclusively on brewing craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, that are specially crafted to be gluten free., we’d like to know more about “most” pushing for a 0ppm standard in the United States. In our research, the FDA has proposed a less-than-20ppm threshold in the US.

    Obviously, those with intolerances to gluten have varying degrees of sensitivity, so test results from all batches of Omission beer will be posted on our website; consumers can use the date code stamped on their bottles to view that specific batch’s test results. We want to give consumers the information they need to make a confident choice when reaching of an Omission beer.

    Great conversation.

    Brady Walen
    Marketing Communications Manager
    Omision Beer

  7. It sounds to me like breweries need to post gluten levels and not just use sweeping terms like “gluten-free” because such terms are quite meaningless to people who are actually gluten intolerant. This is a great conversation, indeed. I am sensing that I need to do a more comprehensive article about the current state of gluten-free beers. Now I know where and who to turn to for information when I do it. Thanks for elevating the conversation.

  8. Interesting find, if you may. Who wouldn’t want to drink beer that tastes and effects like beer without adding gluten to your body? However, what’s this independent lab they are referring to?

  9. Excellent. Will hop across the Columbia to OR next week to try it out and report. Well done BREW!

  10. This is going to be tricky for them to market. Labeling wise they can’t have any health claims on the product. So actually labeling the beer as gluten free is off limits. Another problem that they face is that there’s already beer out there that tests out below 20 ppm without the use of brewers clarex or what ever cocktail they toss in to the mash/conditioning tank.

    Personally I’m against these beers. I find them to be another example of irresponsible companies extorting the real needs of real people, though I’m sure it will sell like hot cakes till people start getting abdominal cramps along with their hangovers.

  11. Bitter, party of one? Bitter? Or is it Alexander?

    What is your real issue here? Do you work for a sorghum beer producer? Jealous? Or just hate celiacs? Progress? Alcohol? Do tell.

  12. @Nonteetotaler Of course I have an issue. I’m celiac myself and have followed the diet for years. Read the FDA report before you throw accusations out. The report is entitled “Health Hazard Assessment for Gluten Exposure
    in Individuals with Celiac Disease”.

    My stand point is that if a company is going to market a product aimed towards peoples health, then they have a responsibility to make a product that is safe. Tests have shown that “gluten free” beers made with malted barley still have gluten which in my very biased opinion means that they are not gluten free and are not safe for celiacs.

    Thanks for the acidic response.

  13. I’m with you, Alexander.
    Gluten-free and Gluten-free* (*to 20ppm) are entirely different concepts.
    I sincerely hope that Widmer comes out with some GF (and not just GF*) beer as I used to love some of their brews (what seems like eons ago)

  14. my sister died of cancer specifically related to celiac, she had lesions in her gut. I also have celiac disease. i like redbridge beer.
    vertually all celiac sufferers are b12 deficient. we don’t absorbe vitamins due to damage to the gut. I suggest you get tested asap. b12 deficiency can cause blindness, heart failure, a precurser to alzheimers and parkensns. prior to my dx. i lost my eyesight twice, i got lost in my local grocery store. i staggered all overthe place,had weak legs, could hardly walk and thought i was headed for a wheel chair, could not finish a sentence. all went away when I took massive doses of sublingual b12. don’t take b12 until after you get tested. I suggest you buy the book titled “could it be b12”. virtually all celiac sufferers are defficient, also people on metformen for diabetes are b12 defficient. this is very serious.

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