Toronto gets its first gluten-free brewery
After four years of trial and error, Snowman Brewing, Toronto's first exclusively gluten free Brewery is set to commercially launch Thursday night at Kensington Market's already gluten-free-friendly Burger Bar. Founded by Kevin Snow and Hirsch Goodman, (Snow+Man) Snowman fills a void the two men saw in Toronto's beer scene. "We realized a demand for not just a gluten free beer, but a great beer that happens to be gluten free." There are currently only a handful of gluten free beer options available at the LCBO and Beer Store, and only one of them (Nickel Brook) is made in Ontario.
Snowman brewed their first batch for public consumption in rented tanks at the Black Oak Brewery in Etobicoke, but they aim to find a more permanent home. For now, however, they're content to show off their 4.7% ABV Ale while they experiment with different styles of gluten free beer. To date they've brewed at least six different styles of beer, ranging light to dark from pilsner to maple stout to Belgian quadruple. To get their recipe right, the two men "made a list of all the potential gluten free grains that were out there, and then just started mixing and matching," while reading all they could about brewing techniques. "We had quite a few batches that went right down the drain," says Snow "But with every test, we were one step closer to perfecting our recipes."
As recently as this summer, Snow and Goodman were experimenting with home-brewing techniques, including creating a malter from an old filing cabinet, "based on NASA technology," they joke. As demand for their product grew from word-of-mouth and excellent reviews, they decided to take the step to commercial brewing. This year Snowman won first place in both the strong ale and the brown ales categories at the All About Ales awards, the yearly awards given to amateur brewers by the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association. In each case their gluten-free brews were rated higher than glutinous competition.
There are many beer drinkers who would scoff at the idea of gluten-free beer, especially darker varieties, owning a full-bodied and earthy taste, but Snowman hopes to challenge that thinking. "The best we can do," says Snow, "is to provide a beer that gluten tolerant and intolerant alike can sit down, share, and enjoy together."
Writing by Gabe Pulver.
Photo (of a generic looking pint) by P. Frost on Flickr
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