REVIEW: Omission Pale Ale

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Widmer Brother’s Brewing
Location: Portland, OR
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.8%
IBUs: 33
Hops: Cascade, Citra
Malts: Pale, Carapils, Dark Munich, Caramel 10
Appearance: Spun Honey With Sudsy White Foam
Aroma: Light, Pleasant, Delicate Hops, Whispers of Caramel
Flavor: Balanced with Malt up Front, Hops in the Back
Availability: Year-round
Pairs With: Shellfish, Pizza, Lamb Chops, Cheddar Cheese

Gluten intolerance has become more and more of an issue in our society. In fact, it is likely that most people are intolerant at some level. Most go unrecognized as such because the symptoms are not severe enough to really be noticed. For a few years now the brewing community has worked to bring beer that is gluten free to those that do have severe reactions to gluten. In most cases it has been an effort to brew with gluten free grain, such as sorghum. In all but the rarest case the resulting beer leaves a lot to be desired.

My girlfriend doesn’t respond well to gluten and my own research has prompted me to keep my gluten intake to a minimum also, even though I can’t definitively point to symptoms. Obviously, for me, that minimum doesn’t include beer, but for her it does. So, I have had the opportunity to try quite a few gluten free beers. Most rate pretty low in all areas of enjoyment and leave much to be desired.

Widmer Brother’s brewing approached the problem differently. Instead of brewing beer with a gluten free grain, their Omission series (which includes a Lager, an IPA, and the Pale Ale I am reviewing) is brewed with regular malt. The difference comes at fermentation. When the beer goes to the fermenter an enzyme developed by DSM called Brewers Clarex™ goes in with it. This enzyme incidentally is also available to the homebrewer as Clarity Ferm from White Labs (I bought some, but have not had a chance to brew with it yet).

“Ponder not the something removed, but the something left, and find flavors fortunes expressed.”

Brewers Clarex™ clarifies beer by breaking down proteins including the gluten protein chains. By doing this it detoxifies the gluten, breaking it into small pieces the body may no longer recognize as gluten. This enzyme, combined with stricter sanitation and packaging standards to ensure no recontamination; plus the testing of every batch by two independent labs has led to this new option for the gluten sensitive.

So I’m excited to try it and am hopeful that it can live up to the hype. How bout we try a beer now?

The Pour and Aroma

Omission Pale Ale

Omission Pale Ale pours a pleasing color reminiscent of spun honey. Two fingers of thick sudsy white foam reach out for the top of the glass, and almost make good an escape, before losing momentum. It holds there for a few minutes, perhaps cursing the “almost” of the attempt, and then slowly falls in upon itself, tracking glass walls back down, to sit as a much thinner layer.

The aroma is light and pleasant. The fresh but delicate scent of hops mixed into a backing malt aroma of cereal, honey, and whispers of caramel sweetness.

Mouthfeel and Taste

Mouthfeel is medium leaning toward thin. Malt at the front of the taste; caramel and a low note of honey. Hops come dancing out from behind the malt at the back of the palate. Balanced well, not too forward or overwhelming. Some sweet hints shyly make a reappearance on the swallow before being replaced by the drying of hops in the aftertaste. Nice, balanced, with enough character to feel like your drinking something worthwhile.

Finishing The Impression

Probably the highest praise I can give this beer is that it tastes like a well-crafted Pale Ale. None of the over-the-top cereal character found in many beers brewed with sorghum. I certainly wouldn’t know there was anything different about it. Is the gluten reduced to a point that a serious celiac suffer wouldn’t have a problem with it? That’s still under debate.

When tested this beer shows only 5 ppm (parts per million), well below the international gluten free standard of 20 ppm, but because gluten was present at one stage of the process Widmer Brother’s can’t actually label it as gluten free… so it a “gluten reduced” or “gluten removed” product. It may not be a good choice for everyone… my research has found many people claiming they still have a reaction to it.

Which is possible, many people with celiac disease even react to certain foods, that even though they are a non-gluten food, their own body has somehow built a connection between that food and gluten, causing their body to react as if gluten is present. So, caution is warranted. Everyone needs to make their own decision in the end, but it is another option that might be worth looking into for those suffering from celiac sensitivity. All I can say is… It’s a good beer.

Cheers!!

More Beer Reviews:

Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and is currently enrolled in the American Brewers Guild (CBA). When he’s not studying or working, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places.

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