I went to high school in Germany so have long been a beer aficionado but that all came to a screeching to a halt when I was first diagnosed. In recent years there have been some very good gluten-free beers that have hit the market but none really ever blew me away – that is until now. When Widmer Brother’s Omission Beerreached out to me I have to admit I was a bit hesitant. You see they use malted barley in the production process but have developed a proprietary way to remove the gluten. Okay, still hesitant but then found out its CEO, Terry Michaelson, was diagnosed Celiac twelve years ago and brewmaster Joe Casey’s wife has been Celiac since 2006. Okay, getting better – but would whatever they did to the beer to make it gluten-free make it, well, taste gluten-free?
I do not say this often about any gluten-free product but this is, hands down, the most amazing gluten-free beer that I have ever come across (and believe me I have been looking). Take everything you have come to expect from a gluten-free beer and toss it right into the trash. This beer single-handedly changes everything and it must be the use of the malted barley that really helps to elevate the flavor portfolio of this beer making it 100% indistinguishable from its gluten-filled counterparts.
I sampled both their Pale Ale and Lager varieties. The Pale Ale was wonderfully light and crisp with subtle caramel flavor undertones you would expect in a really good ale. It was so smooth and easy to drink I was immediately saddened when that I only had one to enjoy and it was soon gone. The Lager was a bold but smooth brew. It had a delicious nutty flavor that had the real-deal lager taste to it. It had a terrific rich malty taste but was still light and had a real smooth finish to it.
So you are likely wondering just how committed Omission is to ensuring that each batch is indeed gluten-free. According to their press materials and Web site – extremely.
We’re committed to ensuring that every bottle of Omission beer meets our quality standards for both flavor and gluten content. Each batch of Omission Pale Ale and Omission Lager is tested by an independent lab using the R5 Competitive ELISA test to ensure that every batch contains gluten levels well below the international gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million (ppm) or less.
Actually their beers test at 6 ppm. You can even view your batch’s actual test results right on Omissions Web site by entering some information found on the bottle. Here’s a cool look inside of their brewery that not only talks about the reasons behind their interests in making a gluten-free brew but also gives a glimpse at the rigid testing and high standards they have in place to ensure each batch is gluten-free.
So other gluten-free brews, be afraid…be very afraid because there’s a new kid on the block and it just reset the bar when it comes to gluten-free beer.
My friends at Top Shelf Ultra Premium Cocktail Mixers sent me a sampling of three of their mixers. Now, those of you that follow me regularly know that I do love my cocktails and you’ll often find me at local New York City watering holes imbibing in various cocktails from time to time. Yet, when I am at home I tend not to be too adventurous in the cocktail department because quite frankly who has the time at the end of a long day to mix up a complex cocktail. Well, thanks to Top Shelf I can now easily make great tasting cocktails in a snap. I sampled Top Shelf’s Pomegranate Martini, Lemon Drop, and Margarita mixers.
The first thing that you will notice about these mixers is the ingredients – or rather lack thereof. Just a few simple ingredients make these mixers a standout out way above the competition. All of the mixers contain purified water and real cane sugar – no artificial flavors or colors in these.
The Pomegranate Martini just needs one part premium vodka (I prefer Tito’s vodka) and two parts mixer gently shaken and served up or over ice. I made it over ice and it did not disappoint. The tartness of the pomegranate is perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the cane sugar and rounded out with a citrus kick of lemon.
The Lemon Drop mixes with the same two to one ratio as the Pomegranate Martini – easy peasy. This one mixes up a tart lemony cocktail that again is perfectly balanced and neither too sweet or acidic. I also tried this one with a splash of seltzer over ice and it made for a fizzy treat. I just added a bit more of the mixer so as not to dilute it too much with the seltzer.
The final mixer was the Margarita mix. Now I like a margarita from time to time but I am not a huge tequila drinker. I made the traditional recipe – this one calls for one part premium tequila to three parts mix. You’ll immediately notice the familiar lime kick that is actually rounded out by a very subtle hint or orange – nice touch. Being a vodka aficionado, I also tried this with vodka and not surprisingly it made for a great vodka margarita.
I have to say that Top Shelf mixers are extremely versatile and provide a fantastic base with which to satisfy your inner mixologist. I also love the fact that they are ultra premium in the ingredient department because quite frankly most of the mixers I have come across in the market or liquor store are so overpowering – not to mention full of artificial ingredients that ruin a good spirit. Each bottle of Top Shelf mixers comes in a great frosted glass bottle that you’ll be happy keeping out on your home bar when entertaining (though be sure to refrigerate after opening). Perhaps the best thing about these mixers is their price. At $6.99/bottle with free shipping, I mean how can you go wrong? One bottle costs less than half of a single cocktail at one of my favorite watering holes here in New York City.
Check out Top Shelf’s Web site to learn more about their line of seven ultra premium mixes and to order online and have them shipped right to your door (they pack them extremely well by the way).
Many of you who follow me regularly know that I do like a drink from time to time and since my diagnosis (going on ten years) my thirst has pretty much been quenched by spirits and wine. Now that is all well and good but you see I actually really like beer. Perhaps it stems back to my high school days in Germany where beer was pretty much a staple of one’s diet which also resulted in me becoming something of a beer snob. Yes, there are other gluten-free beers out there and some of them are actually okay but with New Planet it was love at first sip.
New Planet is based out of Boulder, Colorado and their CEO, Pedro Gonzales was diagnosed with Celiac in 2003. Not only are they committed to making great gluten-free beers but they also donate a portion of their proceeds to ecosystem conservation – nice!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when three bottles from New Planet arrived at my door but I quickly, as instructed, chilled the bottles of Tread Lightly Ale, 3R Raspberry, and Off Grid Pale Ale. Already loving the names I was excited to try a real craft gluten-free brew.
So, over the next couple of weekends I would crack out a bottle and indulge at lunch. First up was the 3R Raspberry. The three R’s stand for Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle by the way (a nod to the companies environmental cause ties). This was a real stand out in my opinion. It was a clean, crisp beer that had just a wisp of raspberry that was perfectly balanced by a very subtle hint of citrus. It is far more complex than any raspberry ales I can remember in my pre-Celiac diagnosis days
Next up was the Tread Lightly Ale. This was a refreshing and light ale where the hops flavor really came through and again it was rounded out with the subtle kick or citrus that was very, very mild but helped to add an ever so subtle flavor undertone to this beer.
Last up was the Off Grid Pale Ale. This was a darker amber beer that that was the perfect balance of spicy and subtle sweetness from the hops and molasses respectively. I have long been a dark beer kind of guy and can honestly say that I have not had anything remotely close to a decent darker brew until Off Grid came along.
I highly recommend that if you are a beer person that you check out New Planet because aside from gluten, the only thing missing is the aftertaste that seems to be so prominent in other gluten-free beers.
You can learn more about New Planet and their beers on their Web site and find out where you can purchase it locally. Unfortunately they are only on shelves in twelve states so far (and mine is not one of them) but fear not my imbibing friends, they are available mail order on Brewforia.
Many of my readers know that I am a bit of a lush (read complete lush). Absolutely no surprise there and, as my tagline says, No Apologies. I am of the firm belief that it is 5 o’clock somewhere in the world so I never turn my nose up at a cocktail. The ever fabulous Hoosier Mommas (a women-owned business by the way) reached out to me and graciously offered to send me their all natural, gluten-free, and…wait for it…vegan bloody Mary mix. Needless to say it took me about two seconds to get back to them and their mix was soon at my front door.
Now here’s a little background. I don’t particularly like tomatoes – I mean the whole vegetable/fruit discussion pretty much puts me off them. I just cannot trust produce that masquerades as something it is not. But I digress…You see I actually cannot stand tomato juice and just the thought of it makes me squirm – oh, and the smell – don’t…get…me…started. So you are probably wondering why the Hell I would want to try a tomato-based cocktail. Well, I think we both know the answer – I’ll take any excuse to infuse the sweet nectar of the Gods (read Vodka) into my daily routine.
So one Saturday morning I cracked open the jar of Momma Mix and followed the instructions (add vodka and lots of ice) and mixed up a batch. I chose the ever-popular (and my personal favorite) Tito’s Vodka for this experiment. So mixey-mixey and the cocktails were done. I made one for me and one for my other half who just happens to be Bermudian and descendant from a long line of liquor merchants and quite frankly is a true cocktail connoisseur.
We quickly tucked-in to our cocktails and let’s just leave it a WOW! Seriously, this mix is basically a meal in a jar. The ingredients list (and it is a long list) reads like a who’s who of natural goodness and there are quite a few flavor surprises in there that help elevate this mix to a near religious experience. The mix itself is thicker than you might be used to but as my other half pointed out – that’s what makes it such a standout. Typically Mary mix thins out as soon as you start drinking and you have to keep adding ice and quite frankly it becomes a whole production – and who wants that? Momma’s mix held its consistency to the end allowing the lushes, uh, I mean drinkers, to enjoy their cocktails without interruption.
So, I highly recommend that after you finish reading this you head on over to Hoosier Momma’s Web site and check out their complete line of products. While you are there, do yourself a favor and order a jar (or two) of their mix. They have a new line of sweet mixers including: Strawberry Rhubarbarita; Lavender Lemondrop; and Beekeeper Margarita coming soon and I for one cannot wait to try them. Note to Momma: Please send some sweet treats when they’re ready .