The Flavor of Freedom

Three gluten-free beers worth finding

baker_county_tourism_basecamp_264x400_400Your beer should never give you a stomachache. Unfortunately for the estimated 2 million Americans with the rare celiac disease a.k.a. gluten intolerance (talk to a doctor to determine your status if you’re worried for some reason), beer’s universal building blocks of wheat and barley (and sometimes rye, spelt, oats, and certain other grains) contatin gliadin. This is the pesky gluten protein that causes a variety of intestinal health problems cured only by a complete avoidance of gluten, and thus beer.

If avoidance of beer is not a prescription you’ll swallow without a fight, you’re not alone. Craft brewers are reporting massive numbers of consumer inquiries about gluten-free beer, which has existed in many forms over time. Few of these have been drinkable in quantity, because substituting gluten-free rice, millet, and sorghum for the traditional grain bill generally results in thinner-bodied, odd-tasting brews. Read on to learn about three gluten free beers that don’t leave out the most important part: flavor.

These days there’s no angle on enjoyment America’s innovative craft brewers won’t tackle for the love of beer, and celiac is the latest target. Fifteen years ago the CEO of Craft Brew Alliance, which owns Portland, Oregon’s Widmer Bros. Brewing Co. was diagnosed with celiac, and six years ago Widmer’s brewmaster’s wife suffered a similar fate. Now the company has three beers in their Omission line of gluten-free beers, in bottles only, to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination with gluten-intact taps. The brews use traditional barley but undergo a secret gluten-removal process. The result? Omission Gluten-Free Lager, Gluten-Free Pale Ale, and Gluten-Free IPA, all of which are excellent examples of their styles. The Lager is crisp and refreshing; the pale, lightly fruity and aromatic. The brewers won't tell us how they get the glutens out—and keep the all-important flavor, body, and head intact—but ongoing tests of the beers show a threshold well below the 20ppm (parts per million) recommended for celiac sufferers by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, created in 1963 by the U.N. and W.H.O. (World Health Organization). The good news is that finally you can find the brew outside of Oregon. But if you happen to be in Oregon, hit the Widmer HQ: they’ve got a gluten-free food menu, too.

Check out this list of other gluten-free beers. Got a gluten-free beer recommendation you dig? Share it with us below!

Photo by Baker County Tourism

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