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(MCT)—I don’t suffer from celiac disease or even a minor gluten intolerance, thankfully. But the first thing I did recently when I got the two major players behind Widmer Bros. Brewing Co.’s new Omission gluten-free beers on the phone was thank them.

At least once a week, someone asks me to recommend a gluten-free beer—for them, for their husband, for their Aunt Mary—and I had nothing worth suggesting. Until now.

Widmer parent’s company, Craft Brew Alliance, unveiled its Omission line in Oregon in April. The beers, a pale ale and a lager, were an instant hit, and St. Louis is included in a national rollout that began Monday.

The Omission beers are the first gluten-free beers I’ve sampled that taste like real beer. That’s because they are real beers, brewed with malted barley, yeast, hops and water.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains. Omission uses a proprietary process that begins with low-protein barley and utilizes a brewing enzyme that further breaks down the protein, reducing the gluten to a point that the beer is considered gluten-free.

(Each batch of Omission is tested to ensure its gluten levels are fewer than 20 parts per million, the international gluten-free standard. Consumers can enter their beer’s batch code and look up test results at

While there are some decent efforts in the gluten-free beer category — Lakefront New Grist, Bard’s and Anheuser-Busch RedBridge — malted barley provides the backbone of beer’s color and flavor, and its absence is noticeable in beers without it. Most gluten-free beers use ingredients like sorghum, rice, fruit, honey or tapioca in place of barley.

Few people know more about gluten-free beer than Terry Michaelson and Joe Casey.

Michaelson, the chief executive of Craft Brew Alliance (A-B InBev owns a 32 percent stake in the group), was diagnosed with celiac disease 12 years ago. Casey, brewmaster at Widmer Bros., began formulating gluten-free beer recipes shortly after his wife was diagnosed with the disease in 2006.

“My wife missed the flavor of beer,” Casey says. “She tried a wide variety of gluten-free beer, and they were missing what she described as beer character. It helped drive me to keep looking for a solution.”

Michaelson says: “Joe deserves the credit for all the work he put into that — having a gluten-free beer that actually tastes like beer. I wanted to make sure if we did something, we delivered on the flavor that other beer consumers were experiencing and enjoying.”

Omission will stick with its Pale Ale and Lager styles for now, but Michaelson says the line could expand.

“We want to continue to give people with gluten sensitivity the option to try different craft styles, which hasn’t really been an option for them,” he says. “The great thing about Omission is, you don’t have to be a celiac to enjoy it.”

The beers’ release in Oregon drew rave reviews from critics and gluten-intolerant consumers alike, prompting Craft Brew Alliance to fast-track Omission’s national distribution.

Casey says he knew they had a hit on their hands after a recent bicycle ride with his family.

“We had some nice weather in Portland, so my wife and I loaded up the kids and the bike trailer and went out,” he says. “When we came back, my wife and I were thirsty and exhausted. I grabbed her a cold Omission, and she had an ‘Ah-ha’ moment with that beer.”

Omission Pale Ale:

Lowdown Orangey and floral Cascade and Citra hops provide the seasoning in this clean, easy-drinking pale ale, the best-tasting gluten-free beer I’ve tried.

Price About $10 a six-pack.

See for a beer locator and to look up gluten test results of individual batches of Omission.

©2012 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Distributed by MCT Information Services