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Wednesday, 25 June 2014 15:36

Departed Soles picks Jersey City site for gluten-free brewery

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Departed Soles Brewing Company has taken a giant step, if you pardon the pun, in its plans to brew and distribute a line of gluten-free beers, ales that switch out the traditional wheat and barley malts for fermentables derived from sorghum and similar other sugars.

Owner Brian Kulbacki signed a lease for 2,200 square feet at 150 Bay Street in Jersey City, in the Powerhouse Arts District among the city’s historic warehouses. The 11-block area takes its name from the idled Hudson and Manhattan generating station (Manischewitz also had a matzo factory in the district) and is home to artists and musicians living and working in studio-lofts.

Departed Soles would become the Garden State's only guten-free craft beer-maker and would join New Jersey Beer Company as Hudson County’s two craft breweries.

DPart-Soles-LogoGluten-free versions of IPA, black IPA, cream ale, stout and nut brown ale will make up the lion’s share of what Brian plans to produce for distribution to bars and stores from a 7-barrel brewhouse, complemented with 15-barrel fermenters. From a pilot-brewing rig, he plans to make some barley malt beers – lots of one-offs and R&D batches – for sale from an eight- to 10-tap tasting room.

“I’ll certainly be doing some regular beers that I’ve always enjoyed making,” Brian tells Beer-Stained Letter. “And I think the gluten-free beers we’ll be making belong in the craft beer section, not the gluten-free section. The taste is there; the flavor is there.”

The spirit behind Departed Soles is one of homage to a deceased friend who shared Brian’s absurdist humor streak summed up in a fondness for “ridiculous sneakers that caught people’s eyes.” Brian undertook gluten-free beers as a homebrewer – he claimed a third-place finish in a 2013 New York competition – in deference to Chris Ward, his high school best friend who had the autoimmune ailment celiac disease, a painful digestive intolerance to gluten proteins of the sort found in barley, wheat and rye.

Chris, Brian says, often challenged him to pursue aspirations beyond working in his family’s funeral home business. After Chris’ death in a car crash, Brian made a commitment to his friend’s memory to do just that: follow a dream.

And that was brewing beer.

Earlier this month, Brian signed the lease for Departed Soles’ space, located in part of the nine-story building that was once the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company’s warehouse. (The building enjoys designation as a National Historic Landmark.) He’s lined up local approvals and hopes to fast-track turning the space into a brewery. That means laying hands on brewing equipment sooner than later.

“We’re paying a little more to get our equipment from a company that actually has the system in stock right now,” Brian says. “We’re going to avoid the typical 18- to 22-week window for manufacturing.”

Gluten-free foods are most commonly associated with celiac sufferers, since following gluten-free diets is the only treatment for the condition. But gluten-free has also become a watch-phrase for people looking to eliminate certain food substances from their diets. That and the greater awareness of celiac disease have carved out some shelf space for gluten-free beers in packaged goods stores.

Gluten-free beers are much lighter in body than those brewed from barley malts (which contribute the protein that gives beer its easily recognizable body). To some people they may taste somewhat cider-like. In the face of that, Brian says, there’s a reason to work harder at crafting full-flavored beers using other grains, plus celiac-friendly ingredients that craft brewers of all stripes are using in their beers.

“The best way to describe some of my recipe formulation is to walk down the gluten-free aisle of a Whole Foods, see what’s in there, what colors it has, what are its sugar components,” Brian says.

“The product is meant to be a great craft beer that happens to be gluten free, not just a good gluten-free beer. I believe there is a taste-associated stigma attached with the gluten-free label on beer, and I acknowledge that I'll face an uphill battle to get non-GFree consumers to give it a shot. But I think at the end of the day, the beer will speak for itself, and you'll see all craft beer fans enjoying it, whether they have celiac or not.”

Read 3311 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 16:11