Imagine being so allergic to a substance that just kissing someone who had ingested it makes you sick for days.
That affliction is a reality for Miranda McAllister, a Brewery Nyx taproom bartender who found out she was allergic to gluten in 2006.
“Beer was one of my favorite things, and I basically had to give it up,” she said while pouring beer for patrons at the bustling brewery Friday evening.
The new tasting room, which opened July 9 at 506 Oakland Ave. SW in Grand Rapids, was at full seating capacity (14) Friday evening and has been busy every evening since it opened to the public, according to hospitality manager DJ De La Cruz. He said the brewery has been “overwhelmed with demand.”
In addition to making beer for its new patrons, the brewery self-distributes a lager, double IPA and a stout throughout West Michigan, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit.
The only 100% gluten-free brewery in Michigan, the Brewery Nyx mission started as an appeal to a niche market: those with a gluten allergy, commonly referred to as celiac’s disease — a chronic digestive and immune disorder that damages the small intestine.
The disease is triggered by eating foods containing gluten, according to the National Institute of Health. An estimated 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from the disease. De La Cruz said his research into the subject leads him to believe one in four people with celiac disease are undiagnosed.
The beer served at the brewery stands on its own.
“We’ve had people come in who just Googled ‘breweries near me’ and had no idea we were a gluten-free brewery until they were leaving. They even bought some of our canned beers to take home with them,” McAllister said.
McAllister described a time when she was in another local brewery and had to leave because she is so sensitive to gluten that just the gluten in the atmosphere around her was making her feel sick. A beer enthusiast herself, she has been following Brewery Nyx on Instagram since last year and pounced on the chance to work there once she heard the brewery was hiring.
Brewery Nyx owner Jessica Stricklen said she is dedicated to maintaining a 100% gluten-free environment, so there is nothing with gluten in the building. She said she is interested in teaming up with a gluten-free kitchen to provide more to eat than just the few snacks she has at the moment, but for now the focus is on the beer.
“We make craft beer using 100% naturally gluten-free ingredients. Our recipes are crafted for taste — even the more discerning palates can’t tell they’re gluten-free,” Stricklen said. The main ingredients are water, millet, rice, hops and yeast. Accents like mango, lime, honey and sunflower seeds are added for flavor, and the stouts contain buckwheat and gluten-free oats.
On Friday, the taproom had seven beers on tap: a blonde, a salted lime, a red, a mango, double IPA, hazy IPA and a stout. Other varieties were available in cans.
The Brewery Nyx tasting room is open 3-7 p.m. Thursday-Friday and 1-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.