I'm gluten-intolerant, which means that almost by default, I'm not a beer drinker. I've tried the options out there—thoughtful friends throwing dinner parties or hosting get-togethers will make special note of picking up the latest rice ale or sorghum lager to hit their specialty-store shelves—and while I'm always moved by the sentiment, I’ve been consistently underwhelmed with the beers themselves. If they're not boringly bland, there's a throat-catching bitterness or a weird aftertaste (one beer had a strong lingering flavor of canned black olives).
Still, hope springs eternal. Portland, Oregon's well-regarded Widmer Brothers Brewery recently developed three gluten-free beers that use traditional brewing ingredients, including barley malt, that have been de-glutenized, releasing the result under the clever label of Omission Beer. The exact procedure for extracting gluten from the brews is hush-hush, but all batches undergo rigorous enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing from an independent lab, to ensure that they adhere to federal regulations for gluten-free labeling, which requires that they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Science aside, the real question is how they taste. Omission currently offers two beers nationwide, a lager and a pale ale; they also have a limited release IPA available in a handful of states. I gathered several trusted beer-drinkers for a tasting party not too long ago, which met with surprising success. The light amber pale ale is full-bodied with a pleasant bitterness and forward notes of hops and yeast, perfect to go along with a juicy burger and fries. After the first taste of the IPA, I was hit with aromas of unripe tropical fruit, rounded out with a meaty body and an assertive, hoppy punch of flavor with a touch of green-tea astringency, great for sipping alone. But of them all, I'm keenest on the lager: With its refreshingly mellow hint of honey, it’s perfect for stand-alone drinking on a warm, early-fall afternoon.