Gluten free brewery filling growlers in Kelowna
It has taken three years, community support and a lot of grit for a Kelowna couple to open a gluten-free brewery.
Chris Neufeld and his wife Suzanne Neufeld officially opened the doors of the The Grey Fox on Dec. 17.
“We got absolutely slammed and sold a lot of beer, it was very good,” he said. “We jumped the gun on opening, our canning line is still not up and running, but we wanted to open before Christmas so people could fill their growlers.”
Chris’ diagnosis of celiac disease in 2003 sparked a long journey to the beers he is brewing today. Although the path hasn't always been easy, he is passionate about bringing tasty safe, gluten free beers to the market for others with celiac disease.
He was diagnosed when gluten free options were not available like they are today, and tasty gluten free beer was just a dream. He started experimenting with producing a great tasting gluten free beer on his own but was unsuccessful until he met up with experienced brewers south of the border.
“The guys in Oregon were active in the gluten beer scene and taught me the science of brewing it,” he said. “Then I started producing really good beer and saw a gap in the market.”
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The idea of a brewery began in the fall of 2019, but was put on hold when the pandemic hit in 2020. The project was restarted in the fall of 2020, but there were several obstacles to overcome.
“Securing funding was a challenge as a micro-brewery that doesn’t have a pub is a unique format,” Chris said. “We had a terrible time finding a location as there was no commercial space available. It took us seven months to find one.”
When construction began in Oct. 21, there were supply line issues, high construction costs and a struggle to find contractors.
“Once you start on a path like this there is no turning back,” Chris said. “You keep writing cheques and saying prayers.”
The Neufeld’s received financial support from their community with a Kickstarter campaign in May, 2022.
Celiac disease is a chronic immune disorder triggered by gluten ingestion and causes a number of damaging side effects.
Instead of using traditional grains, Grey Fox beer includes a combination of millet and rice, along with hops and yeast. The ingredients are carefully sourced and the brewery is a dedicated gluten-free operation to keep products safe for those with celiac disease.
The Grey Fox has a tasting bar onsite at 105 - 310 Hiram Walker Court where customers can try some beer and take home a growler. Once the canning line is operating, Chris hopes next week, customers can buy cans too.
The goal is to work with other pubs and breweries to get the gluten free beer on tap, with Barn Owl Brewing tapping the first keg this week.
While the market is currently limited to local customers and craft beer pubs, Chris will be able to expand further once the cannery line is operating and he hopes to get his product into the Kamloops market in the near future.
Currently on tap is Humble Lager, Sly Saison, Quick Witted and Farmhouse Ale, and an IPA will be on tap in a few days.
“We make a Canadian style lager, the kind you used to drink in the bush when you were a teenager,” Chris said. “Come spring we have ideas for sours. We are trying to give the whole craft beer experience.”
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