Three years ago, Fife CoelBrew co-founder David Hamilton found out he was coeliac – now, he has a gluten-free brewery.
Founded by two pals in Fife, David Hamilton and Ryan Bald, CoelBrew offers coeliac beer-drinkers a chance to sink a pint that won’t make them sick.
After a tricky first year, the brewers have some big announcements.
Next year, they will be distributing “beer coin” digital currency with their cases of gluten-free beer.
They will also be releasing Och Aye PA pale ale and Bonnie Shortie stout.
“We don’t want to be the typical punk brewery,” says David.
“We just want to sell clean, nice beer.
“More people are curious to taste gluten-free beer now. And what we have is an offering that will cater to all.”
The making of CoelBrew’s Fife gluten-free beer
CoelBrew co-founder David Hamilton got tested for coeliac disease three ago.
The condition means that your immune system starts to attack your own tissues if you eat – or drink – gluten.
About 1 in 100 people in the UK have it, according to charity Coeliac UK.
“I was shocked when I got told I was potentially coeliac, I thought ‘no way’,” says David.
“I said: ‘yeah, good one’ – the amount of beer I drink!”
Three years ago, David got the test done and it confirmed he had coeliac disease.
“I have fallen out with a lot of people since actually,” he admits.
It is frustrating for David, and other coeliacs alike, to not be catered to at some events, restaurants and bars that don’t offer gluten-free alcohol alternatives.
So, he and his team are supplying CoelBrew to local pubs and shops so that more venues can cater to all dietary requirements.
What makes CoelBrew beer gluten-free?
“It’s essentially the same thing as regular beer,” explains Shona Gillespie, part of the CoelBrew team.
“Along with a lot of other breweries, we use something called brewers clarex.
“That’s an enzyme which has naturally occurring origins, so it’s not a scary kind of additive. It has now been harnessed.
“A lot of breweries use it for clarification of their beer to make sure it’s clear.
“The secondary function of that is the beer starts to become gluten-free.”
The brewers clarex helps make the beer gluten-free – AKA safe for those, like David, living with coeliac disease.
“So what it does is it takes off the parts of the gluten molecules that cause you to have a reaction,” Shona continues.
“I always talk about it like a sea urchin: if you’re going to eat a sea urchin, then you have to take off the spines.
“That’s essentially what it does to the beer. To get to the good stuff, you have to take off the spines.
“It’s a great way to make your beer gluten-free without actually altering much of the flavour. It really doesn’t impact the beer that much.”
Beer coins with your brew
With a background in tech with the successful Dundee games studio Ninja Kiwi, David is keen to combine the world of tech and the world of beer with CoelBrew.
With an already gamified feel with their mascot Coel, the brewers are also adding a series of “beer coins”.
In 2024, CoelBrew customers will be able to get their hands on “beer coins” with their cases of beer.
These are a form of digital currency like Bitcoin, though their value will always stay the same
“It’s like nostalgia, like cereal boxes that you’d get toys in,” David explains.
“Every 12 case that you’ll buy, you’ll get a beer coin in it.”
“They will be in an envelope with a code and there’ll be a surprise element to it.
“We have rare up to legendary. You get to physically keep them and the code on them has a value.
“The only way you’ll be able to get merch – our merch store launches next year – is with these beer coins.”
But given the brand’s cartoon mascot – and making collecting beer coins a nostalgic game – are the makers of CoelBrew worried customers get the wrong idea about their product, that the alcoholic drink is in some way aimed at under 18s?
Shona says: “Inspired by our founders’ backgrounds in gaming and tech, our beer branding is playful and aimed at the nostalgia market.
“We are aware of alcohol marketing concerns around appealing to under 18s, and have taken professional advice around proceeding with such a vibrant, gamified look.”
Och Aye the noo? Och Aye PA
Early next year, CoelBrew will also be adding two more Scottish beers to their repertoire.
The Och Aye PA pale ale and the Bonnie Shortie stout will be coming soon, says David.
Watch this space!