When local brewer Cory McDonald’s father was diagnosed with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the stomach lining and results in the small intestine being damaged when gluten is ingested, he took it upon himself to brew a beer that would be accessible to people who suffer from gluten-intolerance.
“When I started brewing, the first thing he and I thought about was how we could create [a beer] for him that doesn’t suck,” McDonald said.
Doing so is not a simple task. Gluten is a protein found in many grains including barley and wheat, leaving most beer off-limits for those with Celiac. Brewers can circumvent this by substituting a gluten-free grain like sorghum, buckwheat, quinoa, rice or corn and brewing with separate equipment to avoid cross-contamination.
McDonald, who previously brewed at Neshaminy Creek, is now preparing to open Blueprint Brewing Company, a new brewery and taproom in Harleysville, with partners Jason Scholl and Kyle Fetch. The three founders are looking to foster a communal, inclusive space that appeals not only to those with Celiac, but anyone who enjoys craft beer.
“Celiacs and people with gluten intolerance are hugely important to us. So we’ll have great beer for them,” McDonald said. “But what about the yellow fizzy beer drinker that happens along our stuff with their friends and finally tries their first craft beer? We want to make sure that person has a great beer to get them rolling down this awesome path.”
The inclusive culture doesn’t end at the beer, though. McDonald explained that the taproom will be open to children and pets, going as far as to include designated kids play areas both inside and outside to take the stress off parents who want to go out to enjoy a brew without having to hire a sitter. In addition, the backyard of the 6400 square foot warehouse will feature picnic tables and a hop garden where Blueprint will be growing ingredients for several of their future one-off brews.
The backyard garden will also be the base of operations for the Hopocalypse program, a hop-growing class run by Blueprint with assistance from a professor from nearby Delaware Valley University. “Everyone interested can come in,” McDonald said. “We’re going to give them a rhizome and teach them how to grow hops. From there, they can take the hops home, plant them and take them through to harvest.” At the end of the season, all of the harvested hops will be combined into the “Barleysville Hopocalyptic Brew”, the product of the course.
“Our goal is to really become the local gathering spot, as Towamencin Township has nothing like what we’re planning,” McDonald explained. “We’re constructing a wrap around bar that will allow you to not only sit at the bar but also pull up a rail and chill by the systems. The vibe will be really chill to allow people to engage with one another and hang out.”
The bar will feature 10 “gluten-full” beers on tap, the type of beer that customers would normally expect, and two gluten-free exclusive taps that will never be paired with a gluten-full keg to avoid any possible cross contamination. “We have an entirely separate system that’ll be dedicated to gluten-free brewing,” McDonald said. “The ingredients will all be gluten-free as well — sorghum, millet, amaranth, teff … We won’t even offer kegs for distribution for fear that a tavern will tap it on a line that isn’t cleaned properly or dedicated to gluten-free beer.”
They’ll be rolling out with 10 beers upon opening. The two gluten-free offerings will be a witbier and an IPA. The gluten-fulls will be an IPA, double IPA, black rye IPA, blonde, brown, milk stout, Belgian IPA, a hefeweizen and two seasonals — a pineapple belgian blonde and belgian blonde. These beers will be all be brewed on Blueprint’s 7.5bbl Stout electric system and distribution will come in cans and kegs.
According to McDonald, Blueprint is expected to open in July and we can all expect festivities to accompany the grand opening, which is still in the baby-stages of development. The brewery will be hosting a preview night on May 11th, to give people a chance to take a tour of the new facility and sample beers. The preview is a ticketed event that gives guests a t-shirt and sticker to take home with them as well. Tickets and more info are available here.
The brewery also just launched a Founders Club. The club, which is limited to only 300 members, provides you with free beer annually, exclusive t-shirts, your name on a plaque hanging at the brewery, access to founders only events, and more. You can find all the details here.