A host of new breweries around Madison are in the works this summer, but one is taking a different approach than most. Trevor Easton, 32, is launching a gluten-free brewery to be named Greenview Brewing, which will operate in a shared east-side space with the House of Brews.
The gluten-free brewery was inspired by challenges Easton and his wife, Maureen, 30, encountered after she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's response to the gluten protein, even in small amounts, damages the digestive system.
Gluten is found in several major cereal grains -- barley, wheat, and rye -- that are primary ingredients in most beers. After his wife faced the prospect of giving up beer, Easton decided to take on the obstacles of gluten-free brewing.
"Making gluten-free beer presents a lot of challenges," says Easton. "You have so much potential for cross-contamination; it's hard to keep everything totally independent in the brewery."
Easton started creating gluten-free beer about two years ago as a home brewer. At the time he was working on his MBA at DePaul University in Chicago, and developed his initial business plan for Greenview Brewing as a class project. After moving back to Madison, he became involved in the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild and met Page Buchanan, owner and brewmaster of House of Brews. That eventually led to helping out around the brewery and learning more about the business.
"I have people ask me on a regular basis if I will make a gluten-free beer, so I see great potential," says Buchanan.
In June, Easton entered into an agreement with Buchanan to use an isolated area of House of Brews to operate Greenview Brewing. Easton is currently completing the federal permit process, which will be followed in turn by state paperwork. He hopes to be selling beer by fall.
Easton plans to start out by making single barrel batches, and has gotten some tips from his friend and former East High classmate Peter Gentry, owner of One Barrel Brewing.
Gluten-free beers often substitute adjuncts, or other fermentable grains, for barley and wheat. Sorghum, corn and rice are among the most common substitutes. Easton says he's planning to use a combination of adjuncts in his operation. One of the obstacles to making a variety of gluten-free beers is that most beer styles taste a certain way because of the barley or wheat that makes up their grist. Gluten-free ingredients don't behave the same way, so flavors are more limited. By careful selection of ingredients, including the types of hops and yeasts, Easton hopes that his brewery can offer a lineup of several different flavored beers.
Easton's first release will be based on his homebrew recipes, and he's tentatively calling it Greenview Alt Brew. His beers will be primarily offered in 22-ounce bottles. However, he is hoping that a few "gluten-friendly" restaurants and taverns will consider putting his beer on draught. But because of cross-contamination concerns, those that do will need to have a dedicated tap for the beer. "That's why you don't see a lot of fresh gluten-free beer offered," explains Easton. "You can't just switch a tap without cleaning the lines."
While Greenview Brewing will operate within a confined area of House of Brews, anything used to produce its beers cannot be in contact with those made by Buchanan, who uses traditional brewing grains.
Facing this challenge, Easton is currently in the process of finding and purchasing equipment to construct an entirely self-contained system. Inside House of Brews, he'll have his own enclosed brewhouse in a room that's only about 120 square feet in size, which will make Greenview the smallest production brewery in Wisconsin. Easton plans to fit into that space an electric brewing system, fermenters and bottling equipment. He estimates his initial start-up costs at about $15,000.
Though Easton plans to start small, within two to five years, he'd like to have his own stand-alone gluten-free brewery in the Madison area.