The Orion

Local finds success with unique brewery

Samantha O'Reilly

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Jim Eckert

Jim Eckert stands next to the tank that holds his gluten-free beer. Photo credit: Jenelle Kapellas

The bottle was plain: a broad root beer-colored glass clothed in a simple purple label. The first sip: pleasing and rustic, evoking images of backyard weddings and renaissance fairs. Carbonation swells and conquers the taste buds before the first sip can pass the uvula.

Jim Eckert, owner of the local brewing company, Eckert Malting & Brewing Company is one of the only producers of gluten-free beer.

In 2009, Eckert’s wife, Kristina, determined she was gluten intolerant. Though it was Eckert who habitually engaged in the art of home brewing, his wife enjoyed beer as well. Beer was the last gluten-rich product reluctantly removed from her diet.

Though Eckert did not suffer from his wife’s restrictions, he felt guilty when he indulged in ale and she could not. His relationship with homemade brews dated back to the ’80s, and he was not ready to give it up.

Eckert first began brewing while he attended the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he graduated with two bachelor’s degrees in crop science and soil science, along with a master’s degree in agronomy.

After trying and disliking multiple gluten-free beers, Eckert decided to create a brew that was gluten-free and tasty. He knew which ingredient could make his beer drinkable. Rice.

After sampling other products, Eckert determined there was a definite need for gluten-free beer that actually tastes good, he said. His brewing industry is unique because he brews in a facility that has no possibility of cross-contamination.

It wasn’t until he brewed his first gluten-free beer that Eckert started his own brewery.

“That was the niche I had been looking for,” Eckert said.

Many people suffer from being gluten intolerant. According to celiaccentral.org, Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 Americans, but up to 83 percent have either been undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Eckert is also trying to make his beer available to local bars by including kegs as a marketable product. Jim Eckert has modest plans for expansion, but will expand only if there is a demand.

Eckert is happy he can bring delicious gluten-free beer to the Chico community. Eckert’s ale is available at Spike’s Bottle shop in Chico which sells all six of Eckert’s fine brews.

Samantha O’Reilly can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Local finds success with unique brewery