To a craft beer enthusiast, a Celiac disease diagnosis is like a death sentence for the taste buds.
Gluten, a general name for the proteins found in brewing ingredients such as wheat, rye and barley, wreaks havoc on folks who suffer from the autoimmune condition, causing digestive issues, joint pain and fatigue.
Maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle is the only known treatment for the disease. Rather than give up the pint or quaff foul-tasting, sorghum-based brews, best friends Doug Foster and Ryan Bove decided to make their own beer.
Foster, who was diagnosed with Celiac disease when was 5 years old, tried a few fizzy, frat party beers in college, but felt left out of the craft beer boom. Bove’s doctor put him on a strict, gluten-free diet shortly after his 21st birthday. In 2011, the pair started researching alternative grains, namely quinoa and millet, and whipping up hundreds of test batches in a Shadyside apartment.
Today, they own Aurochs Brewing Co., one of only a handful of gluten-free breweries in the country.
Named after a species of large, wild cattle that went extinct due, in large part, to the expansion of wheat and barley farming, Aurochs produces 16 different styles of beer, from porters and brown ales to blondes and IPAs. The 7,000-square-foot Emsworth facility pumps out about 500 barrels a year, with a capacity of 900 to 1,000.
“We brew something for everyone,” says Foster, 32. “Seventy percent of our customers are just regular beer drinkers. The other 30 percent are medically required to be on a gluten-free diet. The hardest part is getting the beer into people’s hands. Tasting is believing.”
Anthony Rasicci, a 35-year-old, gluten-tolerant guy from Wintersville, Ohio, tried Aurochs’s offerings at multiple beer festivals in Pittsburgh.
“I recall the dark beers being my favorite, especially the porter and the brown,” he says. “The brown in a blind taste test would beat the pants off of most other craft options in this style. It had a lot of character and dimensions.”
Folks can visit the brewery, which opened in 2014, Thursday through Saturday to buy bottles, kegs and growlers. No beverage contains gluten above 5 parts per million (the legal limit is less than 20 parts per million).
Although Aurochs doesn’t serve food, it does host tasting events with gluten-free bakeries and restaurants. The brewery recently served beer floats made with dairy-free, vegan ice cream from Sugar Spell Scoops. Photos of happy customers hoisting the alcoholic dessert drinks line the back bar.
Aurochs distributes throughout Western Pennsylvania and are now branching out to the Philadelphia area. There are about 25 local bars and restaurants pouring the beers and they all follow the brewery’s strict adherence to clean tap lines to reduce risk of cross-contamination.
While the gluten-free ancient grains are more expensive (the seeds are malted and shipped from Colorado) and the OCD-level call for cleanliness is time-consuming, Foster and Bove are dedicated to their gluten-free brethren.
“What’s my favorite beer that we have? The variety,” Foster says. “It’s great to be able to drink and switch between styles based on mood and occasion.”
Aurochs Brewing Co. is located at 8321 Ohio River Blvd., Emsworth, Penn., 15202. For more information, visit www.aurochsbrewing.com.