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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — One barrel of beer is made per week and it can take up to six hours to bottle a single batch since the bottling line can fill only two 22-ounce bombers at a time.
The brewmaster, founder and owner is doing the dishes, mopping the floor and taking out the garbage at what is one of the smallest production breweries in the country. And when it comes time for Trevor Easton to deliver his beer to 22 grocery and liquor stores and other accounts, his 2008 Chevy Silverado pickup with 117,000 miles on the odometer turns into a beer truck.
But what stands out at Easton's Greenview Brewing is what's missing. And that is by design, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1waNGyd ) reported.
Since May, Easton has shunned traditional beer ingredients like wheat, barley and rye to make a line of gluten-free beers. Other breweries, like Sprecher in Glendale and Lakefront in Milwaukee, make gluten-free beer, but Easton's Madison brewery is one of only a few in the country dedicated solely to the production of beer without gluten.
His 125-square-foot brewing facility is tucked into the back of another craft brewery, House of Brews, in the brewery's old laboratory. Greenview has its own air-handling system and doesn't use any of House of Brews' equipment.
"We do everything we can to limit the potential for cross contamination," said Easton, 34, an East High School graduate who went to school with Peter Gentry, founder of One Barrel Brewing Co. on Atwood Avenue. "We just wanted to make everything dedicated to being gluten-free so (customers) don't have to worry about it."
Easton's products — which can include sorghum, rice and millet — help fill a niche for beer lovers with celiac disease and others who are trying to reduce their gluten intake for health reasons.
According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, about 3 million people in the U.S. have celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. When a person who has celiac disease consumes gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye and barley — the immune system responds by attacking the small intestine.
Restaurants and retailers have responded to the growing gluten-free market with menus and products, and the beer industry is following, too.
According to data supplied by the Colorado-based Brewers Association and collected by Information Resources, the top 15 gluten-sensitive beer brands in the country had combined sales of $8.8 million through the first six moths of the year, an increase of 37.2 percent over the same time period in 2013. Lakefront's New Grist ranked fourth on the list, with more than 10,000 cases sold in the first half of 2014.
Easton had been a homebrewer for more than 15 years, but when his wife, Maureen, an avid beer drinker, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007, it forced him to stop making beer in his home. In 2010, he began trying to make gluten-free beer. It took him almost two and half years to come up with a recipe that resulted in a good-tasting beer.
"You want to get the right sugar profile so that your yeast is happy in the fermenter and is producing a really good flavor and nice clean taste," Easton said. "You don't want that sorghum punch."
Easton, a UW-Madison graduate and industrial engineer, spent seven years with the American Red Cross where he helped the organization standardize its donation processes and laboratory procedures. In 2012, while working toward his MBA at DePaul University in Chicago, Easton was required to write a business plan. When he was finished with his assignment, he discovered that his guideline for a gluten-free brewery looked promising.
"Usually when you write a business plan you realize the idea was terrible and you don't want to do it," Easton said Wednesday while brewing a batch of Hollywood Nights Blonde IPA. "This one had potential."
After he and Maureen moved to Madison for her job as an attorney, Easton struck up a friendship with House of Brews founder and brewmaster Page Buchanan, who allowed Easton to help out at the brewery. After Buchanan tasted Easton's gluten-free beer, Buchanan offered space in his brewery for Easton's nearly $40,000 set-up.
"They were some of the best gluten-free beers I had ever had," Buchanan said. "My whole thing is that I want to see the brewing industry grow in Madison."
Challenges for Easton include keeping the price point affordable and finding bars that are willing to take the extra steps to ensure that a tap line for a keg of gluten-free beer is not contaminated with gluten. Currently, Jac's Dining & Taphouse is the only establishment with Greenview beer on tap. The remainder of his accounts sell it in individual 22-ounce bottles, but Easton would like to eventually make his beer available in 12-ounce bottles sold by the six pack. That would require a larger facility.
"This is not our end goal," Easton said of his tiny brewery. "This is kind of the pilot. We really want to get into six packs because that's really what our customers are asking for."
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj
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