HALIFAX – A local university and a gluten-free baked goods company are teaming up to create what is believed to be the first gluten-free beer made in Nova Scotia.
Bohdan Luhovyy, an assistant professor in the Applied Human Nutrition Department at Mount Saint Vincent University, is partnering with Schoolhouse Gluten Free Gourmet to create the unique craft beer.
Luhovvy said the beer is targeted at people with celiac, who are gluten intolerant or allergic to gluten as well as those wanting a healthier beer.
“We expect that the taste will be similar. Our goal is to have a pleasant taste, to have customers enjoying the product and finally to add some additional nutritional value to this product,” he said.
Luhovvy is focusing on finding appropriate substitutes for core beer ingredients like barley and wheat.
“In the lab, we will be testing various ingredients. We will be trying to incorporate various new ingredients to this product. We will be testing this product’s various sensory characteristics then we will be working until we find the best solution for this company,” he said.
He admits the biggest hurdle in the project is finding the right ingredients so the drink remains gluten-free but maintains that unique beer taste.
“The biggest challenge will be to put them all together and make a pleasant product, to have all those ingredients tested and finally provide the beverage with exceptional, nutritional characteristics and, at the same time, a pleasant taste,” he said.
“It’s actually a very fascinating process. It just needs to be done step by step. Everything needs to be tested.”
Schoolhouse makes a variety of gluten-free baked goods, like bread, granola and pies; Laughlin said it was challenge to come up with those recipes.
“You’re trying to make a product that will stick together and act like a gluten function but is not gluten,” she said.
Laughlin expects the same challenge to arise for the recipe for the gluten-free beer, an idea that came from her husband, who is celiac.
“What we’re trying to do with the beer…create a beer he’s happy to drink and makes him feel good, is easily digestible and doesn’t make him sick,” she said.
Laughlin said she is excited about the partnership with Mount Saint Vincent.
“[It] helps us delve deeper into the scientific background and findings for the beer, that helps us figure out that nutritional analysis, nutritional background…how many calories is it going to have, how many carbohydrates is it going to have, how much sugar,” she said.
There are currently very few gluten-free beer options on the market in Nova Scotia.
NSLC spokesperson Mike Maloney said the liquor corporation sells four products: two are from Quebec, one from the U.S. and one from Germany.
Maloney said that he has seen demand grow recently for gluten-free beers.
“Much like people serve vegetarian options, a lot of people also prefer to serve gluten-free options for their guests as well,” he said.
There is no timeline on when the gluten-free beer will be ready to hit the shelves.
Laughlin estimates it may take a couple of years before the recipe is perfected.