A new craft brewery in Kelowna will be making gluten-free beer.
Grey Fox Brewing founder and brewmaster Chris Neufeld is behind the project and is very familiar with the gluten-free lifestyle.
“I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2003, back when nobody even knew what gluten was,” said Neufeld. “Finding a gluten-free beer that stands up to its more traditional counterpart is tough. It’s a real hole in the market.”
Neufeld learned from brewers in Oregon who taught him some of the science in extracting the starches from the gluten-free grains that aren’t so easily extracted as they are from barley. He uses a combination of millet and rice along with hops and yeast to produce his gluten-free beer.
“I was giving it to my friends, and they couldn’t tell they were any different from the beers they were drinking at the taproom down the street,” said Neufeld. That’s when I knew things needed to be bigger, and that’s when Grey Fox started.”
The gluten-free beer market in Western Canada is spotty right now according to Neufeld. There are only a handful of taprooms, and liquor stores struggle with consistent supply.
“In the last five years there’s been an explosion of gluten-free craft beer in the States,” he explained. “It really hasn’t been something that’s caught on here in Canada. There’s clearly a need, and we want to change that.”
There are challenges in doing that. Neufeld pointed out gluten-free malt is not available in Canada, so he has to source it from Colorado and it’s expensive to ship. It’s also more expensive to brew gluten-free beer.
“That’s why everybody is scared to get into the market I think,” said Neufeld. “But my thinking was if I build a gluten-free facility then I can supply or contract to other breweries and they don’t have to make that capital investment.”
Neufeld has secured agreements with taprooms and restaurants throughout the Okanagan that want to carry Grey Fox beers. What he’s looking for now is a final push to open the doors. He is relying on support through a Kickstarter campaign to help raise an additional $20,000.
“Construction costs have spiralled out of control, so we thought the Kickstarter might be a way to raise a little bit of extra money, and we’re getting close to opening,” said Neufeld.
Grey Fox Brewing is slated to open this summer on Hiram Walker Court, near Jim Bailey Road and will feature a tasting room and small retail space selling a lager and an IPA in kegs and cans.