October 16, 2012

Gluten-Free Beer. ~ Stephanie Libo


What’s Quinoa Got to Do with It?

A housewife, a law student, a financial analyst and a doctor walk into a bar…

No, this isn’t the start to a corny joke. While they may not seem like the typical demographic to start a quinoa-based alcohol company, that is exactly what they are doing.

Quinoa Malt and Beverages, LLC will potentially be the first company to brew and distribute quinoa-based beer in the United States. The company’s brewing division is called q-Brewing. Quinoa looks, and is textured, similar to a grain, however it is not a grain or a cereal. Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free, grain-like crop closely related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds.

q-Brewing is the brainchild of the company’s President and CEO, Dr. Joseph Kamelgard. Dr. Kamelgard started q-Brewing with his friend Irene Struse, the Vice President of Product Research and Development, and his sons Barak and Kfir. Kfir works as a financial analyst and is the Senior Vice President and CFO of the company. Barak, a UCLA law student with an undergraduate marketing degree, is the Vice President of Consumer Research and Marketing.  Joseph and his sons hope to distribute what they see as the first genuine tasting gluten-free beer.

“There are other gluten-free beers on the market but they just don’t taste like beer is supposed to. There aren’t any decent, gluten-free liquors and spirits either” said Barak.

Many Americans eat gluten-free for various health issues. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects genetically predisposed people. The symptoms are triggered by ingesting gluten and affect over three million Americans. Additionally, research from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The U.S. demand for gluten-free products expands every year and the market is huge. Gluten-free sales reached more than $2.6 billion in 2010 and are expected to exceed more than $5 billion by 2015.

“Celiac disease is adult onset. You can pick it up in your late 20’s, early 30’s. People are already set in their ways and they enjoy their alcohol. There really hasn’t been a good alternative for them until now,” Kfir noted.

While the company is in the start-up phase and does not yet brew commercially, Quinoa Malt and Beverages has secured its patents and hopes to go into production in the near future.

“Our U.S. patent was officially published. We patented the whole process from cleaning, washing and malting to kilning to brewing. Basically A-Z of what you need from the raw quinoa to the final product,” says Kfir.

It can be difficult to brew with quiona. The crop has naturally bitter components which made developing a brewing process challenging.

“We tested a lot of different things. We had initial problems with the malting. I think our first batch tasted meaty,” Kfir said jokingly.

A beef-flavored beer may excite some adventurous consumers, but most will be relieved the process has been perfected.

“We had a lot of road blocks figuring out the process. You have to sprout the quinoa. You stop the growing process of the sprout by kilning it. If you kiln it at too high of a temperature you kill it and you’ve wasted your time. After you’ve kilned it, the little sprouts are very bitter. You need to take them off. It’s a very delicate process. We have the process down now; we get it every time and we patented the process,” Kfir added confidently.

Quinoa Malt and Beverages hopes to branch out pending the success of its brewing. Joseph, a whiskey enthusiast himself, originally set out to brew non-grain-based whiskey-style liquor, and hopes to add quinoa-based liquor and spirits in the future.

q-Brewing has work to do before distributing quinoa-based beer. However, Quinoa Malt and Beverages shows the potential to become a powerhouse in the gluten-free product market.

“So many people are affected by gluten. It’s time they take alcohol off of their list of worries and restrictions.” Barak added enthusiastically, “Beer has been bringing people together for thousands of years and today should be no different.”


*Adapted from Living Green Magazine


Stephanie Libo is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying Life Sciences Communication. She is originally from Los Angeles, California. Stephanie enjoys cooking, hiking, playing sports, and cheering on the Wisconsin Badgers at football games.  She is also an intern for Living Green Magazine for the Fall 2012 semester.


Editor: Jennifer Spesia


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