Duck Foot steps out

Don't call their beer "gluten-free," but it comes close to it

A new Miramar brewery the gluten-free can enjoy.
  • A new Miramar brewery the gluten-free can enjoy.

Another new Miramar brewing entity, Duck Foot Brewing, held a grand opening this month, officially launching on June 6th following a soft open.

Duck Foot Brewing Company

8920 Kenamar Drive, Miramar

While the brewery founders insist it's just like any other craft operation, Duck Foot stands out among all San Diego craft brewers for its across-the-board use of Clarity Ferm, a White Labs–produced enzyme that significantly reduces the gluten count in traditionally brewed beer. While the FDA won't allow these beers to be labeled “gluten free," Duck Foot co-founder Matt Delvecchio says they're low-gluten enough to be considered "Celiac Friendly."

Delvecchio would know — he was diagnosed celiac following a beer-tasting trip to San Diego a few years back, returning to his native state of New York with symptoms he describes as "worse than food poisoning." An avid surfer and snowboarder, he'd already decided during that trip to move to San Diego and pursue his plan to start a production brewery, so the diagnosis initially hit him hard.

"It really kind of took the wind out of my sails," he says. Then he discovered Widmer Brothers' Omission brand, the first in the country to bring such enzyme-treated beers to market.

"Since being diagnosed celiac and trying all those sorghum-based beers out there," he says, "that was the first brand that tasted like beer… It reignited my dream and ability to pursue craft beer as a living." Particularly since he wanted more than just the lager and pale ale Omission was marketing at the time (it's since added an IPA).

Duck Foot launched with a far more comprehensive lineup, including a saison, red ale, porter, and two IPAs — all of them celiac-friendly. Delvecchio recognizes the immediate appeal these beers have for the gluten-intolerant — and appreciates the fact that it raises awareness about his brand.

"Any given night we have a whole gaggle of people in here that are celiac and drinking beer and totally fine," he acknowledges. "That's part of the story, but I'd really love to leave that behind." He'd rather the beers be judged against the breadth of quality brands in the region and believes they hold up, adding, "our beers don't taste any different."

The first person he had to convince was cofounder Brett Goldstock, a Beer Judge Certification Program–accredited connoisseur with 20 years’ home-brewing experience. Goldstock says he was "extremely skeptical" when Delvecchio told him the company they wanted to start together needed to be celiac-friendly. He needed convincing, but after brewing both regular and enzyme-treated recipes by way of comparison, he tasted no difference.

"A bunch of these recipes are mine from my home-brewing days,” says Goldstock, “so I know how they should taste. And going through this whole process they come out the same, so that was the big test for me."

Siebel Institute–trained brewer and cicerone Derek Wasak, formerly of Stone, signed on as head brewer, running production as he would elsewhere, save for the addition of the gluten-reducing enzymes.

Duck Foot is also preparing to pursue cask- and barrel-aged releases, and has started talks with other local brewers about the potential of collaborating on celiac-friendly versions of popular beers.

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