Gluten free beer seemed to always be what everyone else was doing — outside of Minnesota. But now Burning Brothers Brewing is changing that.
I was able to stop by for a tour and interview back in February. Housed inside the Hamline-Midway neighborhood in St. Paul, the building is not too flashy from the outside. Inside, it is a fully functioning brewery with all new equipment and NO GLUTEN! Co-founders Dane Breimhorst and Thom Foss believe in this so much, they don’t even allow employees to bring gluten in their lunches, so, gluten free food is provided for employees.
This journey all began a few years ago when Breimhorst and Foss wanted to start a company where customers could brew their own beer. Craft beer was their thing. So they started to put together a business plan. But during all this, Breimhorst was having health issues. “I was sick for a long time but didn’t have major symptoms,” Breimhorst says. “I just thought it was the beer, so I drank cheap beer.” He says the symptoms weren’t as bad when he drank the “cheap” stuff.
“Everything paused during his diagnosis,” co-founder Foss says. Breimhorst’s celiac disease diagnosis five years ago was a life changer. It meant not being able to drink the beer that he enjoyed. That is when Breimhorst and Foss changed focus on their business. They didn’t know how to brew gluten free beer, but they were about to try. Foss also has a corn allergy. So adding corn into a beer like some brewers do, is not an option for them either.
They bought the three gluten free beers on the market at the time: Bard’s, Red Bridge and New Grist. “All the beers were trying to make a gluten-free lager like Budweiser, but we wanted to make a craft beer,” Breimhorst says.
After three years of trial and error at home, and then trying to replicate their recipe in larger quantities, they finally did it. They opened Burning Brothers Brewing in St. Paul in 2013 and the first brew was December 15th. The flagship beer is called Pyro. It is an American pale ale. Breimhorst is proud of his product, “You won’t get that sorghum aftertaste with our beer.”
Gluten Free Beer vs. Gluten Removed
The owners of Burning Brothers are happy to say their product is gluten free and not gluten removed as some brews are required to state. “You don’t know how much gluten is removed,” Breimhorst says. “I think there is a market for gluten-reduced beers, but a gluten free beer should be gluten free.”
In February, the TTB came out with it’s update on gluten-removed beers. Foss said he would have liked to see the TTB take a stronger stance on this.
If in the future, technology changes and better testing and an enzyme to truly remove gluten from their beer becomes available, the owners say they would consider it, but only after much investigation.
Right now Pyro is only available in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, but Breimhorst says people drive from outside of the Twin Cities metro area to buy their product.
They are looking to expand to beyond the Twin Cities and into the Midwest. Click here to see where you can find it. Expanding involves following the correct permitting and license requirements as well as getting a distributor. Distribution is becoming a challenge because they can’t keep up doing it on their own as it takes too much time. They want to get it to Chicago– but also nationwide. But for now, they say people will travel to the Twin Cities area to purchase their beer since they can’t get it anywhere else.
This year they hope to brew a Hefeweizen and India Pale Ale, Octoberfest in the fall and a stout this winter. They recently opened their tap room/growler and eventually they will be heading out to some local events. They will be at most beer shows including the Beer Dabbler and Renaissance Festival. For more info on what is going on with the Twin Cities hometown gluten-free brew, check out the Burning Brothers website.