Gluten-free no longer means beer-free at new Calgary brewery

Calgary's first gluten-free brewery opened this weekend, featuring beer made without wheat or barley so people with celiac disease can enjoy a pint or two.

Founders say Heathen's Brewing is Canada's only gluten-free brewery west of Montreal

Co-founder Jeff Silzer says his brewery is the only gluten-free one west of Montreal. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Calgarians who suffer from celiac disease or a gluten intolerance now have a way to enjoy something they may have assumed wasn't in the cards — a trip to a local craft brew house.

Heathen's Brewing, a gluten-free brewery, opened in Calgary this past weekend. 

Co-founders Wes Maxwell and Jeff Silzer had a basic and understandable reason for opening the brewery.

"I had some family members that were celiac and missed drinking beer," said Maxwell.

Several gluten-free beers are ready to enjoy at Heathen's Brewing. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Some of the key ingredients in beer — wheat and barley — can't be safely consumed by those with celiac disease. And while many foods come in gluten-free varieties, Silzer said beer is not always available in a palatable form.

"We worked on the flavours to make sure it tasted like it wasn't a gluten-free beer," said Silzer. The co-founder also said Heathen's is the only gluten-free brewery in Canada located west of Montreal.

Wes Maxwell is a co-founder of gluten-free Heathen's Brewing. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

The founders hope the new brewery will give people who can't risk consuming gluten somewhere to go where they can safely "enjoy a beer that they actually enjoy," as Maxwell put it.

"[They can] partake in that activity that maybe they haven't been able to do for a while after being diagnosed," said Maxwell.

A staffer fills a growler with gluten-free beer at Heathen's Brewing in Calgary. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

For now, the beer is only available at the Heathen's Brewing tap room in the north-east of Calgary.

Canning the beer for sale at liquor stores is planned for later this summer, according to both co-founders.

With files from Justin Pennell


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