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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Widmer Brothers Omission Gluten Free Lager: A Review

What follows is the last installment in staffer Doug Dorda's review series focusing on gluten-free alternatives to malt-based beers.

By Doug Dorda

A “hallelujah” escaped my lips as I slowly lowered the glass and allowed waves of rapturous finality to wash unbroken over my slightly frustrated mind—I had finally discovered a gluten-free (GF) beer that tasted like beer! Here was found an American lager that was as crisp and refreshing as any gluten-burdened kin that had arisen in post-prohibition America and, in the opinion of this author, to simply say that Widmer Brewing Company's Omission Lager tastes like beer could be as much an understatement as saying that Napoleon was only mildly aware of his short stature.

It is important to note, however, that amidst my throws of triumphant exclamations, I noticed that the packaging of the beer clearly states that is not in fact gluten free, but rather a lager that has had its gluten significantly removed or reduced. Before busting out the party hats and streamers, I decided that finding more information about the beer would be in the best interest of all parties.

Without getting too technical, it may suffice to say that modern brewing practice in cooperation with scientific advances have devised a few methods by which to significantly lower the amount of gluten in Omission lager and ale. The most important factor is that the beer is not entirely gluten free, much to my personal dismay. The packaging clearly states that the level of gluten in the beer has been dropped to below 20 parts per million, far lower than the threshold at which many of the country's gluten-intolerant population could be affected by. However, as the beer is not entirely devoid of gluten, true celiac sufferers have reported experiencing reactions. The debate that has arisen over the distribution of the beer is this: are extremely low levels of gluten effectively the same as no gluten at all? Perhaps the best person to help answer that question is you. Read this article further, and specific, information.

Stunned a bit by the gluten-free mirage I staggered so quickly toward, I slumped back into my chair and began to ponder this final frontier of alternative beer. Though the Omission beers offer a wondrous alternative to many, it would seem it can not meet the needs of all. Again I hear the question, “Do any of these taste like beer?” Again I find the answer seasoned with a host of caveats as opposed to a blissful yes. Perhaps it is time to say that most GF beer tastes like GF beer. Those who have experimented with sugar substitutes will undoubtedly remark that an uncanny flavor will always be present in foods once devoid of that particular signature. Beers fermented with sorghum and rice may also be expected to play host to a different sweetness that will always be the familiar signature of their “author.” However, time may be the key to developing a love for said signature: perhaps the alternative will usurp the original, and perhaps the mind will begin to associate the flavor of sorghum and rice as beer for those who may not have gluten.

For the mildly intolerant, or those sure of their threshold, the Widmer Brothers Omission beers eagerly await you. For those who must live gluten free, a myriad of GF beers, as well as ciders, meads and wine, are now available for your palate's exploration. May it come to fruition that a new love is only a taste away.

This concludes my series of gluten free experimentation.

2 comments:

  1. Many thanks for including Omission in your review series. We wanted to offer additional information for your readers on gluten detection and labeling. Omission uses the most advanced, scientifically sound gluten detection method available, and we post online independent lab test results for every batch of beer. Omission always tests well below the globally accepted standard of less than 20 ppm. That's why regulators in Europe and Canada permit us to label Omission gluten-free. Also, a mass spectrometry analysis of the remaining gluten confirmed it did not contain toxic protein. Here in the U.S. we are required to label differently, as your review explains. As gluten testing science evolves, we'll continue to be transparent about how we make and test Omission, so that consumers can make informed, individual choices.

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  2. I am interested in the continued study of using enzymes to remove proteins such as gluten from beer. One product that looks promising is White Labs WLN4000 Clarity Ferm. http://www.whitelabs.com/other-products/wln4000-clarity-ferm

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