For the past who-knows-how-many issues of Philly Beer Scene Magazine, I’ve reiterated over and over again that, unlike most international standards that require an item of food or drink have less than 20 ppm (parts-per-million) of gluten to be called “Gluten-Free,” the FDA in the United States refused to announce a standard. Instead, companies both domestic and foreign waited for the FDA to make any ruling on labeling standards, and consumers suffered.
This caused confusion and concern among celiacs and those with other gluten intolerances or allergies. Why would something in Europe be labeled “Gluten-Free” but not in the US? Why were there so many gluten-free beers brewed in Europe that were never imported in to the US, despite demand?
Well, just a couple months ago, the FDA went ahead and approved the international standard of gluten-free labeling. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
“As one of the criteria for using the claim ‘gluten-free,’ FDA is setting a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards.
This standard ‘gluten-free’ definition will eliminate uncertainty about how food producers label their products and will assure people with celiac disease that foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA,” says Michael R. Taylor, J.D., deputy FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.”
Well how do you like that?! To me, this is a huge win. It not only brings us in to labeling parity with other countries, but gives a degree of certainty to celiacs and gluten intolerant folks about how and why their foods are labeled “Gluten-Free.”
It also opens the market to a slew of new, post-processed beers made from barley. “Real” beer is now within our grasps again. That is, as soon as breweries catch up.
In the meantime, we have a few standard-bearers we can look to, and in this man’s opinion, none comes close to topping Omission Beer. They put your safety and beer quality on equal footing, and do both exceptionally. In fact, some might argue they take things a bit far—they only ship their beers in bottles—never in kegs or sixtels or the like because of possible line-contamination, and each batch is independently tested (and the test results are available online and on your bottle).
The lager is a good beer, and the Pale Ale rates at the top of the lists of many of my bread-imbibing friends. That it’s gluten-free is inconsequential to them.
Just recently, Omission released its third beer—the Omission IPA. Pale and caramel malts, and Summit and Cascade hops, it’s a model of quality in simplicity. It’s a beer I’ve been waiting for.
The nose has a nice toasted hop and citrus profile, with just a hint of breadiness. The mouth-feel is a bit light compared to their incredible Pale Ale, which would be my solitary poke at this beer, but the flavor is still great. It’s hop-forward (as an IPA should be) but still very well-balanced, with the malts not taking a back seat. The citrus is really well-married with a sweetness (think a dash of sugar on a fresh slice of grapefruit) and the finish is surprisingly light and bright, with a hop-dash at the very end.
This is a great time for us gluten-free folk. The new FDA ruling is a huge step forward in the entire gluten-free world, and it will enable more breweries to come forward with gluten-free beers in the same quality range as Omission—without having to learn crazy new brewing techniques. So raise a glass to the FDA and Omission, both of which have made this a great beer drinking season!
Salute! Cin cin!