On behalf of Hold the Gluten, I conducted this interview with Karen Hertz, the owner of Holidaily Brewing Company. Holidaily is the only certified dedicated, gluten-free brewery in Colorado.
QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH KAREN HERTZ OF HOLIDAILY BREWING COMPANY
Beer. Also fondly known as brewskie, nectar of the Gods, oat soda, and Homer juice. If you are one of many who enjoyed a frosty mug of beer prior to going to gluten-free, then you know it’s hard to find a gluten-free beer that matches in taste.
Taste aside, did you know that not all gluten-free beers are equal? Karen Hertz of Holidaily Brewing Company – one of only nine 100% dedicated gluten-free breweries in the United States – helps to shed light on the differences between gluten-free beer and gluten-reduced beer. There is a lot of misinformation from the media to restaurants to even breweries themselves and Karen helps to set the record straight. Read on to learn more!
Hold the Gluten’s Question: What is your gluten-free story and what prompted you to go gluten-free?
Karen’s Answer: In my early 30’s, I survived both melanoma and thyroid cancer, leading to a treatment regimen including a gluten-free diet. After adopting this diet, I found easy replacements for foods I once enjoyed but one thing was hard to replace. I struggled to find a great-tasting, 100% gluten-free beer. This meant I couldn’t partake in social activities in the same way my friends and family could. If the lack of good tasting, gluten-free beer options was a challenge for me, I assumed it was a challenge for many others as well. I was driven to solve this problem and spent years researching gluten-free ingredients, taste-testing numerous GF beer alternatives, and building an understanding of brewing processes in order to create a better solution. Thus, the idea of Holidaily Brewing Company was born: a company dedicated to brewing only excellent tasting gluten-free beer that everyone can enjoy.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: What is the difference between gluten-reduced beer, gluten-free beer, and dedicated gluten-free beer?
Karen’s Answer: see breakdown below
Gluten-reduced beer: Gluten-reduced beer is brewed with gluten-containing ingredients like barley or wheat and adding an enzyme during the brewing process that breaks the gluten into smaller pieces. Think of it as a bracelet with beads that represents a gluten protein. The enzymes cut the protein, leaving smaller pieces of beads (gluten) in your beer. The gluten is not removed. It’s not safe for people diagnosed with Celiac Disease to consume gluten-reduced beer. Those with gluten sensitivity also may not be able to tolerate gluten-reduced beer.
Gluten-free beer: Gluten-free beer is made with gluten-free ingredients, but it is brewed or packaged on equipment that also produces or packages traditional gluten-containing beer. Because of this, there’s a risk of cross-contamination, similar to the side of a box of crackers warning consumers about peanuts produced in the same facility.
Dedicated gluten-free beer: Dedicated gluten-free beer is made with gluten-free ingredients and produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. The ingredients are safe for Celiacs and there is no chance for cross-contamination within the facility.
There are a number of gluten-free ingredient options. At Holidaily Brewing, we use gluten-free grains including a variety of roasts of millet and buckwheat. We are considered a dedicated gluten-free brewery because the only product we make is gluten-free beer.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: There are only nine 100% dedicated gluten-free breweries in the United States including Holidaily Brewing. What procedures are implemented to ensure there is not any cross-contamination from external sources?
Karen’s Answer: At Holidaily we take the safety of our products extremely serious. We have processes in place to ensure safety in every aspect of our brewing facility. We work with our suppliers to ensure their product is safe and has been tested. Our primary ingredients come from a certified gluten-free facility. We have an inbound process in place where every delivery to us is inspected for safety and quality and we document every delivery. In order to maintain our Gluten-Free Certification, we are required to test both our ingredients and our final product. We own all of our own packaging equipment to avoid cross-contamination in that part of our process. There is a whole lot to think through when a company is committed to ensuring zero cross-contamination in their products.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: Traditional gluten-filled beers are brewed with barley and wheat, while gluten-free beers utilize alternative grains such as sorghum, millet, and buckwheat. Have you faced any challenges in brewing with alternative grains?
Karen’s Answer: While we can make world-class craft beer that’s gluten-free with these ingredients, these grains are challenging themselves. It can be a challenge to find certified gluten-free grains that don’t come into contact with gluten-containing grains. We are fortunate to source our grains locally from one of the only dedicated gluten-free malting houses in the country, Grouse Malt House. The physical size of the grain is smaller and doesn’t work well in a traditional brewing system. We had our system customized in order to adjust to the size of the grain being different. In addition, the expense of utilizing this grain is a challenge. Brewing with millet and buckwheat is five to eight times more expensive than brewing with barley or wheat.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: It can be difficult to find a great gluten-free beer. What makes Holidaily’s gluten-free beer stand out?
Karen’s Answer: One of the reasons it’s so difficult to find great gluten-free beer is that either the beer is great-tasting but not safe (gluten-reduced) or the beer is safe (certified gluten-free) but lacking in taste. We have found that there are a number of gluten-free ingredient options that some of our competitors utilize that end up sacrificing the quality of the beer.
Holidaily Brewing is different in that we do not cut corners. We use the highest quality gluten-free ingredients available. We are committed to a product that is world-class and at the intersection of great-tasting craft beer that is also completely safe for all consumers.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: How many beers do you currently offer?
Karen’s Answer: We have 10 beers on draught in our taproom in Golden Colorado, ranging from IPAs to stouts to Hefeweizens and more. We rotate our tap lines frequently to bring new styles to customers. In addition, we distribute three beers year-round and a couple of seasonal beers.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: Approximately how many barrels of beer do you brew annually?
Karen’s Answer: We have grown from 250 barrels year one to over 1,000 barrels in 2018.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: Do you have plans to open additional gluten-free breweries across the country?
Karen’s Answer: Not at this time. Our sights are set on expanding our distribution to liquor stores and restaurants to all four corners of Colorado.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: Where can your beer be purchased?
Karen’s Answer: Beer is available for purchase in our taproom on tap or in cans and growlers to go. In addition, there are over 250 locations that carry our beer throughout Colorado. Visit www.holidailybrewing.com/buy for a complete list of the liquor stores, restaurants, and even breweries that serve Holidaily beer.
Hold the Gluten’s Question: Do you have a memorable experience in serving gluten-free beer to your customers?
Karen’s Answer: Yes! Many customers come in to have a beer for the first time since adopting a gluten-free diet. They haven’t been able to enjoy the taproom experience in a long time – sometimes ever. We’ve even had customers and their families in tears over being able to enjoy the beer-drinking experience again.