What's In Store

New Charlotte brewery aims to fill a void with its specialty beer

Armored Cow, a brewery that specializes in gluten-free craft beer, opens early next year near UNCC.
Armored Cow, a brewery that specializes in gluten-free craft beer, opens early next year near UNCC.

Anyone who knows Charlotte knows that the city’s brewery scene is booming, with new taprooms popping up constantly in growing neighborhoods. Andrew Kalinoski, the former head brewer at Sycamore Brewing Co., plans to bring something new to the area with his latest project.

Armored Cow, as Kalinoski is calling his new brewery, will specialize in gluten-free beers using non-traditional grains, such as millet, buckwheat, malted rice and granola. Located near UNC-Charlotte, the brewery will have a contained gluten-free certified area to ensure that no contamination occurs.

With Armored Cow, Kalinoski hopes to fill a void that exists in Charlotte.

Besides wine and cider, there are few options at local breweries for people with gluten allergies or Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes an intolerance of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Only a few breweries nationwide have a full selection of gluten-free ales and lagers, Kalinoski said, mostly because the production process is costlier, and it takes longer than traditional craft-beer brewing.

Kalinoski and his wife, Stephanie Macall, have long wanted to open a brewery specializing in gluten-free beer for personal reasons, too: Their son has Celiac disease, as does Macall’s mother.

“I’m constantly hearing people asking when breweries will start doing gluten-free,” Kalinoski said. “I want (customers with gluten insensitivities) to have the same experience as everyone else has.”

(To be sure, other breweries in the area have some gluten-free offerings. Lenny Boy makes kombucha and Windy Hill cider, for instance, and Sycamore has wine on tap.)

Armored Cow will have a smaller selection of craft beer made from “traditional grains,” Kalinoski said, including barley, wheat, rye and oats. The breakdown will be approximately 70 percent gluten-free beers, 30 percent traditional.

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Armored Cow, a brewery that specializes in gluten-free craft beer, opens early next year near UNCC. Courtesy of Armored Cow

Demolition is underway at the 11,000 square-foot building at 8821 JW Clay Blvd., which is in a red brick shopping center and about a half mile from the JW Clay light rail stop near UNCC. Kalinoski, who is partnering on the project with another couple, longtime friends Jason and Melissa Miller, cited rapid development near the light rail extension as the reason he wanted to do business in University City.

For instance, Topgolf is planning its second Charlotte development at University City Boulevard and Ikea Drive, about half a mile from a light rail stop. Hundreds of apartments are planned around the stops near UNCC.

Kalinoski hopes to start construction this month, and the goal is to open in February, he said.

Inside the facility, Armored Cow will have a half-wall between the taproom and the brewing area, allowing customers to watch as beer is made. Macall, the brewery’s brand manager, said Armored Cow plans to partner with certified gluten-free kitchens to offer snacks and baked goods.

The brewery’s name is a nod to Kalinoski’s Army experience: Armored Cow is the slang term World War II soldiers used for canned milk.

Brewmaster Chad Henderson of NoDa Brewing talks about the early days of Charlotte's craft beer scene.

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