Like most of the things I enjoy, my favorite beverage includes a component that, when overindulged, is kinda poisonous to a body.
In my world, though, accidental over-beering isn’t anything a lost Sunday, Netflix and a little hair-of-the-dog won’t fix.
But what if avoiding an icky aftereffect isn’t simply a question of ABV? What if you love beer, but — even in moderation — beer doesn’t love you back?
Recent studies show up to 10% of Americans have some level of sensitivity to gluten, the mashup of proteins found in cereal grains, breads and, unfortunately, most traditional beers.
Lynn Holladay is one of them. She doesn’t have celiac disease — an immune-system disorder that interferes with the digestion of gluten — but even so, and like a growing number of people, she chose to cut the ingredient from her diet. What began in 2009 as a 30-day trial, to see if it would help ease some of the symptoms of her chronic health issues, became a lifestyle.
“I was a beer fan. I am a beer fan. But after having these lifelong problems, I decided it was worth it not to have that anymore … and I do notice a difference in my joints and my skin when I accidentally have some,” Holladay said. “But just a nice cold beer on a hot day is so nice. Absolutely, I missed it.”
She tried generally lackluster attempts at gluten-free versions when and where she could over the years, and enjoyed hard ciders when they weren’t too sweet. But generally she made peace with a sudsless existence.
“I stopped drinking beer,” she said.
Then, at some point in the recent past, the demand for gluten-free hit an invisible tipping point in the market. Brewers started creating recipes that actually “tasted good,” and featuring them prominently.
Among that new wave of diet-sensitive beer makers is Holidaily Brewing Co.’s Karen Hertz. Hertz opened the Golden-based brewery in 2016 after a decade of working at MillerCoors, and a gluten-enlightening experience.
“I ran into some health issues in 2007. I was diagnosed with melanoma, and in 2008 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and autoimmune thyroid disease,” said Hertz, who is now in remission. “Part of the treatment was cutting gluten out of my diet.”
Living in Colorado, loving and working in beer, though, made that tough.
“I tried the gluten-free beers out there … but they were not a great choice and the quality of beer was not great,” she said.
The trick to creating a delicious gluten-free beer was finding a gluten-free grain that would produce the same flavor outcome.
“You can easily access gluten-free yeasts," said Hertz, whose brewery uses millet and buckwheat sourced from Colorado, rather than ingredients such as barley or wheat. “The difference is that the grains and quality ingredients we use allow us to create beers that taste like real craft beer.”
Hertz’s brewery is one of just 12 dedicated gluten-free beer-makers in the U.S. (and the only one in Colorado), and the only one that’s woman-owned.
The company opened a new production brewery this summer, upping capacity to meet growing demand. The facility is the largest of its kind in the nation.
Its flagship offerings, including an IPA and blonde ale, are available in four-packs and on tap at establishments around the Front Range.
“Our primary focus this year is filling in the state of Colorado … and getting our beers out to people who want them and who are looking for a gluten-free option,” Hertz said. “When we started this, though, the goal wasn’t, ‘Hey, i think there’s an area of the market that needs filling and let’s stock it with some mediocre beer.’ We wanted to make it great beer that just happened to be gluten-free.”
Check out naturally gluten-free hard ciders at the Springs’ Boxing Brothers Ciderhouse, Monument’s Ice Cave Ciderhouse and Apple Valley Cider Co. in Penrose.
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