Nothing makes you appreciate a thing more than when you are no longer allowed to have it. I dated a girl who, in the midst of our three-year long relationship, was diagnosed with Celiac disease. For those unaware, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that effect s the small intestine making a genetically predisposed person essentially allergic to gluten which is found primarily in grains like wheat, barley, and rye.
Upon ingesting any food item containing gluten an allergic reaction occurs when the food is being processed by the small intestine. The reactions are varied but often painful and intolerable for those who end up eating gluten rich foods.
At the time my girlfriend was distraught at the idea of having to give up eating any product that contained wheat/barley/rye, even in trace amounts. This was a remarkably large spectrum of foods that she had to avoid; breads, pastas, baked goods, and even beer.
Yet through her suffering she found that there was a growing market for those afflicted by this disease and there was consequently a growing set of gluten-free options as replacements to the foods she loved. The downside being that you cannot just simply replace delicious flour tortillas with corn and have it taste the same. You can’t take true Italian pasta and replace it with rice noodles and have an equally successful meal. Some of the gluten-free alternatives were disgusting counterparts to their gluten-filled, delicious foods.
The same could be said of gluten-free beers. Traditionally gluten-free replacements replace the offending wheat/barley with a substitute ingredient such as corn or rice. While this can work for other foods it has a drastic effect on beer. The gluten-free craft beers that I have had just don’t taste like beer. Some of the beers were flavorful and thus alright to drink, some of them were hideous failures that never should have made it to market, but none of them truly tasted like beer. More of a cheap knockoff of the real thing.
Then I tried an Omission Beer. They offer a line of gluten-free beers that just taste delicious. They truly taste like a beer made from barley.
But much like the infamously non-fat free yogurt from that one episode of Seinfeld I was highly skeptical that something made without barley could taste so similar to something that was. Then my buddy Mark, another friend allergic to gluten explained that Omission does make regular beer, they just add something to the process to break down the gluten after brewing. Well this was some sort of chemical wizardry that I found too good to be true. So I looked into it.
It turns out he was right. Omission Beer explained exactly what they do to make their delicious yet gluten-free beer.
Brewers Clarex™, an enzyme developed by DSM Food Specialties and traditionally used to prevent chill-haze in beers, is added during the brewing process. The enzyme, which has been used by craft brewers around the world as a clarifying agent since it was introduced more than five years ago, works to break down proteins, including gluten, in the beer.
Brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., Omission Beer is the first craft beer brand in the U.S. focused exclusively on brewing great-tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, specially handled to preserve character while significantly reducing gluten levels. Each batch of Omission Beer is tested using the R5 competitive ELISA test to ensure that it contains gluten levels that are well below the international standard for gluten-free of 20 ppm. Drinking is believing.
Apparently Widmer Brothers (a fantastic brewery) makes Omission beer by brewing a traditional beer with a focus on using grains designed to produce lower gluten levels. They then add Brewers Clarex to the process to break down the gluten contained within the beer to below 20 parts per million. Which is amazing. What’s more is that they thoroughly test every batch of the beer they make and publicly post the results online so that you can see exactly the parts per million of the very can/bottle you are drinking. Thus alleviating the fear in selecting a beer that claims to be gluten-free yet made from barley and/or rye.
This May was Celiac awareness month and we didn’t want it to go by without mentioning that if you, a family member, or a friend suffers from a gluten allergy that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a good, quality craft beer. Just point them into the direction of Omission.
Hopefully more Celiac concerned breweries follow suit to Omission and make truly delicious beers for the gluten allergic drinkers that would prefer a real beer to wine or hard liquor.