Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Gluten Free Brewery Starting in Arkansas - Dark Hills Brewery

Exciting News! A new brewery has been announced that plans on making a Gluten Free line of beers! Based in Arkansas, Dark Hills Brewery, is being started by Gluten Intolerant Brewer.

With a Norse attitude and design, these guys look ready to take on the world with their beers ranging from a Pale Ale to a full Stout! They even plan a Hard Lemonade!

Be sure to visit their excellently designed website : www.darkhillsbrewery.com

Leave a comment, add link, join their mailing list...or just drool over the possibilities as I did!

To read more about our story, check out this article from Northwest Arkansas' The Morning News:

The Other Way by Becca Bacon Martin

Brewing runs in Leigh Nogy’s blood.

“I’ve always been interested in it,” says the Springdale resident, “ever since I found out my ancestors used to have a beer garden in Germany.”

Over time, Leigh put that interest to work, gaining such mastery of her art that she was elevated to the level of Laurel in the Society for Creative Anachronism — the equivalent of being made a knight. Of course, word of her expertise got around, and people began to ask Leigh to make special beer for them: beer without the gluten found in most brews.

“Not all Americans can enjoy a ‘nice cold one’ on a hot summer day,” she explains. “Many (perhaps 3 million) are finding out they have inherited an autoimmune condition know as gluten intolerance, or celiac disease. The remedy is a lifelong diet free of wheat, oats, rye, and barley. The problem is that all traditional beers are made with at least one of these ingredients. So conventional beer is off limits to celiacs.”

Among the people to came to Leigh for help was Constance Rieper-Estes, a celiac herself.

“There just weren’t any gluten-free beers on the market at that time, and I thought, ‘Well, how about if I make my own?’ I looked to the SCA because they go back in time to the beginning of brewing,” she recalls.

When the beer maker and the beer aficionado put their heads together, something much bigger than a friendship was born: Dark Hills Brewery, which the partners hope will become the first completely gluten-free brewery in the country.

“We have gone through all the necessary channels to start our business the right way,” Leigh says. “We have joined the Brewer’s Association, have attended the Craft Brewer’s Conference in Seattle, have toured countless breweries, have had the world’s largest brewery installation groups collaborate on the brewery’s building plans, have worked closely with the government to ensure a proper category to sell gluten-free beer under, and have worked with the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business Small Business Development Center to build an effective and realistic business plan.”

Along with that business plan, which they say the bank called “the best, most complete business plan they had seen in 10 years,” Constance has 12 years of experience in restaurant management. Leigh has a degree in microbiology and years of expertise as a brewer. They’ve put down earnest money on 3 acres — complete with three buildings — in Washington County between Fayetteville and Springdale. In other words, they have everything they need — except about $3 million.

“We could start smaller,” Constance admits. “But the three breweries in this country that make gluten-free beer right now started out with very small setups. By one year, their size had doubled, and it doubled again in the second year — and still no one can buy gluten-free beer because it’s not on shelves. They were just trying to satisfy a few friends in a local community, and it turned out to be a worldwide need.

“Gluten-free beer wouldn’t be just a sideline for us. We would be a complete gluten-free brewery, hopefully with six or seven gluten-free beers. The most difficult part has been locating angels to help with the necessary start-up capital.”

Obviously, Dark Hills Brewery is looking for those “angels.” I don’t have $3,000, let alone $3 million, and the extent of my business acumen is that I love to shop, so don’t take this as any kind of official endorsement! But if you’re interested, you can visit www.darkhillsbrewery.com and see what you think. I will say it seems like there’d be no better place than Northwest Arkansas to encourage the same kind of entrepreneurial spirit that built Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transport.

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