Saturday, December 7, 2013
I consider myself to be very lucky not to be affected by any kind of gluten sensitivity. Many of the people that I know, however, do have either a gluten allergy, Celiac disease, or some other medical reason that gluten negatively affects them. Unfortunately for the beer lover, this significantly narrows the choices for beers that you can drink. Since May is Celiac Awareness month, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about my favorite options for gluten-free beer.
Most gluten-free beers are made with sorghum, which is a type of replacement grain. It is actually from a grass, and can be used in beer to take the place of the malted barley usually used. However, this imparts an entirely different malt flavor, and in my experience, a slightly plastic taste to the aftertaste. There have been some sorghum-based successes, however. Recently Dogfish Head Brewing put out their T'weason Ale which included a strawberry flavor that somewhat diffused the sorghum off flavors. But even that was kind of a turn off for some of my friends as they lamented why their beer had to be flavored with something else to be enjoyed.
Then, enter Windmer Brothers. Known for their perfect-to-style hefeweizen, they embarked on a mission six years ago to try and make a better gluten-friendly beer, prompted in part by some people that they knew who wanted to continue enjoying beer despite their limitations. The result became its own craft beer brand - Omission. But what makes Omission beers different is that they don't substitute for malted barley, instead they use a "proprietary process" to remove and obliterate the gluten. They then test every batch of beer before it goes out to make sure it falls under the international standard for being labeled as gluten free (which is anything less than 20 ppm). What's also neat is that you can go online and check the test results yourself for each individual batch of brew.
There are two Omission beers right now - a Lager and a Pale Ale. I have had the opportunity to sample both, and I will be honest, my expectations were low. I've had a lot of gluten-free beer and been disappointed each time. But this floored me. If you didn't tell me that this was gluten free I would never have known.
The Lager is light, crisp, and will be a great one to enjoy on a hot summer day, and could even be something that light lager fans might want to switch to just because of the taste. It is a light yellow, subtly hoppy and mostly just refreshing, with no aftertaste at all.
The Pale Ale is the one that I want to shout to the rooftops about, however. This beer is a great pale ale on its own. It is a dark amber color, the aroma is hoppy and bright, and the taste is nearly equivalent to any pale ale you could order around town. No more missing the hops and the malty balance of beer, this one is spot on to style. Like the lager, this is indistinguishable from beer containing gluten.
Now, as far as how they do this, I can only imagine that the little magnet on the logo has something to do with this, but the "proprietary" process seems to be a secret that Windmer brothers wants to keep, at least for now.
I enjoyed browsing the website for Omission, because it is full of people expressing their joy at finally being able to enjoy beer again. This beer is available in Maine anywhere craft beer is sold, so if you've been looking for a good gluten-free beer you shouldn't have to look very far.
Carla Companion is a craft beer lover and investigator of all things beer. She started a craft beer website and blog thebeerbabe.com in 2007, sharing her thoughts as she explored what was new in beer, as well as brewery visits, trips and "beer adventures." Moving to Portland in 2009, she found herself surrounded by the Maine beer community and has been exploring it ever since.
In her blog, Carla profiles craft beer (and some mead and cider, too) being brewed in Maine, as well as looks into the people, places and stories behind the beer that makes the community so vibrant. Join Carla on her beer adventures and advice on where to get the best, newest, and most interesting fermented drinks around.
Carla can be contacted at askthebeerbabe [at] gmail.com or on twitter at @beerbabe.