Beer Review: Omission Pale Ale

Gluten-free beers aren't supposed to taste good. Everyone knows that.

Trying to break that mold, Omission suggests going gluten-free doesn't have to mean giving up actual beer flavors. Omission is a brand created last year by the Craft Brew Alliance, made up by the owners of Red Hook, Kona, and Widmer Brothers breweries. They saw an opportunity to create a product for this growing niche that did not taste like a punishment.

The question is how to do it. Omission Pale Ale is brewed with the traditional water, hops, yeast, and barley malt rather than depending on alternate grains like rice or corn sugar. So how does it end up being gluten-free?

Brewed at Widmer Brothers in Portland, Ore., Omission uses special barley that starts out with lower levels of gluten proteins than most commercially available malt. Then, after brewing, a clarifying agent that breaks down the remaining proteins, essentially removing the gluten from the beer (or at least getting it below accepted levels for gluten-free labeling). Each batch is independently tested for gluten levels at the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska before release. If actual, specific gluten levels are of interest to you, the bottles come with a searchable code, so you can see the results from your individual bottle's test.

While the process has gotten the brand considerable attention, the quality of the beer is why people are still buzzing about it. Poured from the bottle, Omission Pale Ale gives off a rich copper glow and presents a stark white head. The first smells are slight, but there is definitely caramel malt sweetness, mixed with the distinct pine needle aroma of Cascade hops.

Admittedly, the beer feels a little thinner on the tongue than comparable American pale ales (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, for example), but that may not be an undesirable characteristic to some. The finish carries a very sessionable 33 IBU from both Cascade and Citra hops. Ommission also makes a gluten-free lager and an IPA.

At their best, gluten-free beers are like the tofurkey of beers — tasty and very similar, if slightly less punchy. We even did our own test. Handing this beer to a few friends at a party, not a single one could guess what was unique about it, which may be the highest praise of all. Omission has miraculously succeeding at creating a gluten-free beer you don't have to drink — you get to.

— Brandon M. Gallagher Watson, The Drink Nation

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