(Editor’s note: The interview portions below are only a small portion of the conversations we had with the proprietor’s of Duckfoot. There is a lot of cool stuff going on over there. Go check it out.)
Let’s just get this out of the way. Duckfoot Brewing Co makes Gluten-Free beer. Only gluten-free beer. They use a natural enzyme that breaks down gluten proteins so it is safe to drink if you suffer from Celiac Disease or just have trouble processing gluten. But as a beer lover you probably only really care about one thing: Does it taste good?
And it does.
Really good beer.
• First, they really care about making great beer. They love beer and making a beer that was ‘just okay’ was never an option.
• Second, they’re a good team. Besides running a business together they take care of each other even in conversations with unknown reporters who come in looking for beer samples.
• Thirdly, they’ll never lose that wry & dry East Coast humor.
The new Duckfoot Brewing Co. tasting room is open just off Miramar Rd at 8920 Kenamar Dr #210. From the outside it looks like any other space in the commercial complex. Once inside though it feels like a tasting room, art gallery and gathering space. Jessica Kovarsky at Studio Aya was involved in the design & the space created is classic tasting room but distinctly Duckfoot style. A big open space leads to the bar. There is a subtle balance between the rough wood look that is so popular, subway tile and quirky or hip original artwork from Madonna+Child studio in Brooklyn. (Check out artwork photos here) It all pulls together to create an inviting space to try a few new brews.
Then my wife Katie was like, “Look, just come out with a good gluten-free beer.” Matt DelVecchio, Head Quack at Duckfoot
Both Matt & Brett had come to the decision to open a brewery independently. Brett had been living in San Diego immersing himself in the home brew scene and becoming a certified BJCP National Beer Judge. He had been pursuing some brewery opportunities that just hadn’t come together when a mutual friend introduced him to Matt. Matt had been home-brewing & working in finance but knew his passion was in beer.
Brett: A mutual friend of ours put us together knowing we were both interested in doing that (opening a brewery). The timing was just kind of perfect. Matt had already established the brand, and some of the branding.
Matt: Well, we’ve changed quite a bit. (laughs)
Brett: Yeah, it hardly looks the same except the name. But you had already established relationships, and organized the business. You found the Craft Beer Attorney, Candace Moon and a bunch of other people. You had started a relationship up with a couple different brewers.
Brett: So by the time we got together we were almost starting from scratch. My thing kinda didn’t go anywhere and his thing was kind of changing, and then throw in the whole gluten-free thing.
So it was really perfect timing, and our skills ended up being so complimentary. With me being more interesting in operations and brewing. Matt having a lot of strengths in sales and marketing. It really felt right to me, because I was looking for someone to fill the gaps in my knowledge.
Matt was diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease forcing him into a gluten-free diet while going through the process of getting a brewery open. Celiac’s Disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks digested gluten. So no beer and no gluten.
Matt: Yeah. I was very, very depressed about it because I was really excited about the idea of making and manufacturing craft beer. Which, I was working my day job, which was actually another business I owned, but I was less passionate about that than I was about this. I wanted to be involved in this community. So when I found out I couldn’t actually drink beer anymore it really took the wind out of my sails.
So, I tried the gluten free beers that were out there and didn’t like them. So I switched to drinking wine and tequila…Then my wife Katie was like, “Look, just come out with a good gluten-free beer.”
Right at that time Omission hit the market. That was the first gluten-free beer that I had since being diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease that tasted like a real beer. So, we figured out how to get that done. That process of using the natural enzyme (to break down gluten). Then it was like, “Well they (Omission) are only going to produce a lager and a pale ale. Then they came out with an IPA, but that’s all they are doing and there are a lot of other beer styles. Certainly, at the size we’re brewing we have the ability to be very creative.
That really provided a good niche for us even though we don’t really want to hit people over the head with it because I think we, the gluten free thing is certainly important, but we also enjoy acceptance in the community for just being quality craft beer.
Actually, it’s funny, we just got awarded the SD Magazine Best Gluten-Free Beer in San Diego. That just came out. It hit the newstands today. So..
SoCal Sessions: Is there a lot of gluten-free beer here?
Matt: No, that’s the funny thing (wry smile). So we won the Best of, but we were the only Brewery in the category. (chuckles from brett, smiles)
And as we said, the beer is really good. There were 10 different styles on draft during our visit. They included a chocolate porter, blonde, hybrid red/amber ale, a saison & it’s raspberry version, Belgian strong ale, a honey ale using Julien-local honey & several styles of IPA to try. We had a hard time finding one we wouldn’t want to drink several of. In particular, the porter and Belgian Strong were fantastic.
So, in reality, the fact that the beer is gluten-free didn’t matter to us because good beer is good beer. It makes for a unique origin story, and if you suffer Celiac’s Disease you have new option. Because Duckfoot only make’s gluten-free beer you can safely drink your beer on draft at the tasting room because there is no chance a tap line was intermingled with a non-gluten free beer.
Duckfoot is growing quickly. In addition to the tasting room they can be found on draft lists all over San Diego, at various beer festivals and sometime this fall in bottles. They’ve got room to grow, and if our first visit is any indicator they’ll be one we keep heading back time after time.
You can find details on location, hours and Duckfoot beer here.