Below is my review of Omission Beer back in June of 2012. It’s been getting a lot of hits on the website, and it’s been getting a lot of hits in real life too. I’m reviewing my article and I wanted to pass along some articles that might steer you clear of this beer after all – and articles that have me avoiding Omission and other “gluten removed” beers too.
I think the reason why I’m going back on my recommendation is that I don’t understand the science as much as I should – and I’m not sure anyone does by the looks of all these damn articles I’m reading about it. If this was a food, and it tested under 20ppm (from food that’s not made from gluten – duh), I would understand that a few people would react to it, but the majority of celiacs would be fine. If you want to fight me on the 20ppm part of food, then that’s another article completely and I’ll let you vent about it – but until Dr. Fassano, CDF, NFCA and more tells me that the new standard for US is lower than that, that’s what I’m going by.
So back to beer and the use of hydrolyzed wheat protein and a deglutenized process. Apparently the tests that are used for food testing can test the alcohol – and that’s where Omission gets their results from, but because the gluten is hydrolyzed it can’t be really tested. I have to admit that I don’t understand the science behind all of this shenanigans. I was hoping that there would be one test that could test everything – like Lord of the Rings one ring to rule them all. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that works with gluten and testing.
Here’s an Allergic Living article that explains a little bit (at least some part that makes sense to me). https://allergicliving.com/index.php/2013/08/22/gluten-free-beer-behind-the-labels/ Here are the paragraphs that are most important.
After some initial euphoria, Omission’s gluten-free claim came under scrutiny by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a division of the U.S. Treasury that regulates the labeling of barley-based beers. In an interim policy, they ruled that no barley-based beers could carry the label “gluten free” regardless of brewing methods.
The TTB’s stance is backed by concerns that current testing cannot fully verify the removal of all gluten from hydrolyzed beers. The competitive R5 ELISA test is used to determine the gluten-free status of beer, but it may not be as sensitive as needed, potentially yielding an “all clear” result when gluten might still be present. The test also requires formal validation in a multi-laboratory trial before the TTB will approve it as a conclusive test for obtaining gluten-free status.
The TTB will allow Omission, and similar barley-based brands like Prairie Path and Daura, to use the declaration “processed to remove gluten” along with the qualifying statement: “Product fermented from grains containing gluten and processed to remove gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”
Until they can be verified as gluten-free by a fully validated test, many celiac experts recommend holding off on the hydrolyzed barley-based beers. To ensure safe sipping, purchase brews that are fermented from gluten-free grains in dedicated gluten-free facilities or on lines that follow strict protocols to prevent cross-contamination with barley, wheat and rye beers.
Do I have celiac and gluten-free friends that still drink Omission beer? Yes. Are they fine with drinking it? Yes. Have I seen a heck of a lot of people saying that they’ve gotten sick from Omission since I wrote this article? Yes. Do we know for 100% certain that it’s the beer? I don’t know, because I wasn’t the one drinking it and getting sick – but I do trust that the people complaining about symptoms are doing their due diligence to rule out anything else making them sick that might be found in the beer. Will I let Non-GFBF drink this and other gluten-removed beers around me? Of course I will! I am willing to have it on occasion until I have a reaction from it (although it is hard to tell because of my delayed reactions).
You can read other bloggers thoughts about the beer here and here (both Gluten Dude) here (Gluten Free Dietician). I’m sure there are a ton of comments on those blogs as well if you want to get feedback from others who have tried it (or those that just want to give their two cents on the matter.
Based on all of this – the articles, the comments, the other bloggers reactions, the TTB, etc. – I am taking back my recommendation. I would advise CAUTION around this and other “gluten removed” beers until we can have a formalized test that can make for certain that there is no gluten in there, and people like Shelley Case can confirm that it is safe for celiacs. I am hoping that this happens, because it is one tasty amazing beer.
Here comes the review of Omission beer. All the juicy stuff (OMG IT HAS GLUTEN IN IT, DOESN’T IT??!?!) is after my review of the product, so read on for all the good stuff!
So Omission has a gluten-free beer. Well, until you read all of the stuff below, just know that it’s called “gluten-free” but it is made from barely (low-protein barley), and has a finished ppm below the FDA’s required 20ppm (parts per million). It been deglutenized (is that a word, if not, I’m using it anyways). Let’s just look at it from a sheer product review standpoint for the new few paragraphs. Because it is made from barley, it tastes like a non-gluten-free beer. In fact, it tastes very gluten-full. It tastes…good. Even though it’s not available in Arizona, I managed to snaggle some from a local bar that had it shipped in from a distributor for an event.
They offer two varieties, Lager and Pale Ale.
First the lager. It tastes like a regular beer. Like, not a terrible beer like Keystone or Busch, but like a normal beer. I have a really hard time talking about how alcohol tastes, all I know is if I like it or not. Non-GFBF who still remembers what other beers taste like said that it tasted like a High Life – a light beer with not a lot of bite. It’s a great beer on a hot day, even if you’re not a beer connoisseur. You could drink 3 of these easily at a BBQ and fit right in with the rest of the beer drinkers (that are drinking poison). Even though he’s not really into sorghum beers, Non-GFBF would rather pick New Planet Off the Grid Pale Ale to this beer. Although it’s great for what it is, I think we just have tastes for IPAs.
Now the Pale Ale is like an IPA. You can taste the real hops that they use (“sorghum s*#$ that other beers have” as Non-GFBF said in a recent angry beer-rant attitude). It’s soooooo tasty. I could drink this every day. I miss IPAs, so it was really nice to have a gluten-free(ish) alternative to the typical sorghum beer. Now, this beer is for beer drinkers. If you miss Dogfish Head, Rogue, and Stone – then I would suggest this beer. You truly can have the flavor of the forbidden fruit (for a small price of under 20ppm).
When I drank them I was happier than a possum in a trashcan (or however that saying goes). I had found a beer that tasted like what I remembered real beer tasted like. The schnozeberries tasted like schnozeberries! It was a miracle! However, then the controversy on the interwebs began.
First, it was my friend Ken from Rock a Healthy Lifestyle. I had given him a few bottles to try out (OMG I AM A GLUTEN BEER PUSHER!). He said that one of the beer irritated him enough to send out a warning flag. Since he’s really sensitive (and I am not), it concerned me a little, but I was going to wait until I had a mouth ulcer to be the real judge of it. Then, I felt like Twitter revolted against me.
At first, Twitter was all “awww, I love beer!” In fact, right now it’s only available in OR, WA, and CA and I was going insane not having it in my area (but then I managed to score some and I was “awww, I love beer again”).
And then we had heard the news from TTB and we were concerned about the gluten content in the beer. I’m @ShenanigansMKT in the tweets below (my personal business account). We wanted to know more about the brewing process and got several canned responses (nothing wrong with canned, just saying not personalized).
They’ve got some stellar information out there to counteract any scary “OMG IT’S MADE WITH GLUTEN” messaging out there. They have a press release about the brewing (even though it’s mostly proprietary), and then information about testing.
Here’s what the press release talks about when it talks about all they do to make sure it’s considered Gluten-Free (under 20ppm).
“The Omission brewing program includes additional steps and requires additional care, beyond standard brewing practices and protocols, to ensure that beer brewed with malted barley meets strict gluten standards set forth by the brewery:
- Ingredient and style selection: Omission beers are brewed with low-protein barley. Style choices are based, in part, on ability to reliably reduce gluten-levels to well below strict standards.
- Sanitization: All brewing equipment downstream from fermentation is freshly cleaned and sanitized for every batch of Omission beer. Unlike the process used in brewing other beers, where hot water rinse may be sufficient, equipment is cleaned and sanitized before Omission beers are brewed to avoid risk of cross contamination.
- Brewers Clarex™: 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.
- Testing: Every batch of Omission beer is tested for gluten by two independent labs using the R5 Competitive ELISA. Omission beer’s primary lab partner is Eurofins Scientific, the world leader in food and pharmaceutical products testing. Every batch of Omission beer is also tested by the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska. Tests are also conducted internally by the brewery at various stages in the brewing and packaging processes; within a month, Omission beers will be tested internally at the brewery using the R5 Competitive ELISA as well. No bottles of Omission are released to consumers until all results are reviewed and verified to contain gluten levels well below the international gluten-free standard of 20ppm or less.
- Packaging: To further protect the integrity of the beers, Omission beers are only sold in bottles and never available on draught, where risk of cross contamination from tap lines or server error could threaten consumer safety.
- Consumer Education: CBA is committed to sharing information about the beers, brewing processes and testing so consumers can make a confident choice when purchasing and drinking Omission beer. Consumers are encouraged to visit www.OmissionTests.com, where they can enter the date code stamped on their bottle and view their beer’s R5 competitive ELISA test results.
I even tested my blue bottle and it came up under 10ppm. As far as I’m concerned, it’s below the standards for 20ppm according to the FDA. But, for some, that’s not enough.
Bonus points for them, their CEO is a Celiac! According to a press release, Terry Michaelson the CEO of Craft Brew Alliance (Widmer Brothers, Redhook, and Kona breweries) was diagnosed with celiac disease over 12 years ago. I felt really good about the beer.
But like I said, then word of the TTB ruling made way and things got all weird. Pay careful attention to letter B “Products made from gluten-containing materials.”
“TTB will allow use of the statement “Processed or Treated or Crafted to remove gluten,” together with a qualifying statement to inform consumers that: (1) the product was made from a grain that contains gluten; (2) there is currently no valid test to verify the gluten content of fermented products; and (3) the finished product may contain gluten. Because the current tests used to measure the gluten content of fermented products have not been scientifically validated, such statements may not include any reference to the level of gluten in the product. TTB believes that the qualifying statement is necessary to avoid misleading consumers about the gluten content of these products because of the serious health consequences associated with the consumption of gluten by individuals with celiac disease.”
So here’s what their game plan is according to a Washington Post article:
“The catch is, to market the beers across state lines, Widmer had to alter the original labels to eliminate the phrase “gluten-free.’ Indeed, the label cannot make any statement about gluten at all. “We’ll be relying heavily on the social media to get the word out,’ admitted Michaelson. Although the Craft Brew Alliance claims every batch is laboratory-tested to guarantee it contains 6 ppm or less of gluten, the federal Tax and Trade Bureau — the agency that regulates barley-based beer — doesn’t officially recognize any test for determining the gluten content of a fermented beverage. Michaelson said the brewery was talking with the TTB, and he was “very optimistic” that a deal will be worked out to permit some sort of statement about the beers’ gluten content (or lack thereof).”
So, I guess Omission will go on not putting a gluten-free label on its beer, and we’re all just going to know that it is a product with lower-than-FDA-standards-gluten-content below 20ppm.
IN SUMMARY: I ate wheat for 27 years and couldn’t tell that I was “sick.” I only displayed a weak immune system and terrible mouth ulcers. I was eating a ton of wheat too. But those were the golden days of my youth, before celiac-inflicted osteopenia, etc. If 20ppm is the new standard, then I’m going to live by it. Obviously, I’d love to live in a 0ppm gluten-free world, but that’s not going to happen for me and my lifestyle. I love to eat out. I’m sure if I sat down at my favorite local pizza chain, that it might test at 10ppm too (if I’m lucky).
While this is my own personal view, I know and expect that each of you will have your own thoughts on the 0-20ppm level that’s acceptable to you. And I know that many of you will be turned off by the fact that it’s made with barley (AHHHH BARLEY RUN AND HIDE!), but for me I’m very happy that a beer company is trying something new and making a great product. Again, I urge all of you to be safe. Never eat or drink something that YOU don’t feel comfortable with. If you get sick from something, don’t eat or drink it again (duh).
I’d love to know your thoughts on all of this – the beer, the proprietary enzyme deglutenization process, the TTB ruling, etc. AND GO!