Back in July, this column reported on a process which Harpoon Brewing is using to make a reduced gluten beer. The same process is used by Seattle’s Widmer Brothers to make its Omission series of beers. On the brewery’s website you can even check the beer’s gluten level test results. Although the web widget did not seem to work in this instance,the archive shows that the batch of Omission Pale Ale sampled tested at less than 10 parts per million of gluten. This is, in theory, safe even for the gluten intolerant. How, then, does the beer taste?
Since this is a pale ale, hops lead the way, with flavors of grapefruit, orange and lemon, with a bit of a drying, pine-sap character on the finish. The malt is toasty, and more importantly, puts up a strong presence. There are some sweet caramel notes, and maybe a slight hint of roasty coffee. The malt tends towards the sweet side, which is balanced out by the hops. There’s a slight banana taste which seems a bit unusual, but otherwise the beer lacks the strange flavors and thin body of the gluten-free beers reviewed in August. The body is medium with fizzy carbonation. The beer pours up a light amber color with medium head that tones down and leaves slight lacing down the glass.
This is just a good, solid version of a pale ale, with nothing especially unusual about it, which is what’s so impressive. If gluten-intolerant drinkers find they can tolerate this beer (or others like it), it seems a much better replacement than the truly gluten-free beers (which is not to denigrate the hard work those brewers put in to brew with alternative grains), since it’s indistinguishable from a normal pale ale.