GRAND RAPIDS — Jessica Stricklen plans to open the first gluten-free microbrewery in the state of Michigan in Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood.
However, Strickland doesn’t want “gluten-free” to be the only defining characteristic of her new company’s brews.
“The majority of gluten-free beers available are mostly made from sorghum grain, which leads to sort of a bitter, metallic aftertaste that we’re going to avoid,” said Stricklen. “We don’t want to go out of the gates saying, ‘We’re gluten-free, but I promise it’s good! Please try it!’ We’re making great-tasting beer. It’s a premium brand because we have premium ingredients.”
Stricklen unveiled today the plans for Brewery Nyx LLC, a completely gluten-free brewery that will be located at 506 Oakland Ave. SW. The company signed a five-year lease on the space, which is located south of Wealthy Street and west of Grandville Avenue.
While initially planning to launch with a full taproom, Brewery Nyx pivoted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the industry. The current plan is to create a small tasting space at the facility where customers can sample beer flights.
Brewery Nyx also plans to can some of its brews to sell from its home facility while also self-distributing to local retailers.
Stricklen has teamed up with veteran brewer Sebastian Henao Van Bommel, who is new to gluten-free beer. The duo is toying with R&D recipes currently and plans to launch with eight beers, three or four of which the brewery will can and distribute through wholesale accounts.
Stricklen is targeting a mid-June grand opening but added that she would be happy to get beers in the hands of customers in time for the Fourth of July weekend.
“The goal is to make the best beer possible with what we have and make sure everyone can get some,” said Henao Van Bommel, who previously brewed for Thornapple Brewing Co. “You don’t want to run out of beer right away — that’s one of the big things that happen when breweries open and we want to be able to fulfill the needs.”
Brewery Nyx will become the first gluten-free brewery in the state, where gluten-free beer is also very scarce in retail settings. While some brewers feature gluten-removed and gluten-reduced beers, Brewery Nyx will take a different approach.
“Our product is going to be from grain-to-glass gluten-free,” Stricklen said. “All of our ingredients are gluten-free and at our facility, we won’t have any gluten on site, so no cross contamination or anything.”
With no competition around, and using a growing presence of gluten-free products in grocery stores as a barometer for demand, Stricklen is optimistic about the response from the market.
“We’ll see how far people are willing to travel, too,” Stricklen said. “We’re the only gluten-free brewery in the state of Michigan and when I was (living) out west (in Portland, Oregon), we had people driving four-plus hours to come and try the gluten-free beers that were in my town.”
Stricklen is experienced on the business side of the craft beverage industry.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, she eventually relocated to Portland to help open a luxury winery and then went on to work with other startup wine brands. Stricklen also served as CFO of Newberg, Ore.-based luxury Beau Frères Vineyards.
While in Portland, Stricklen first hatched the idea for Brewery Nyx.
“I had made some friends out west and there were really great gluten-free breweries out west,” Stricklen said. “While they are definitely few and far between, they are there. I decided I wanted to bring one here.”
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