Karen Hertz is taking the gluten out of beer

Karen Hertz was a finalist for Entrepreneur of 2020
Karen Hertz Ent Feature Crop

Karen Hertz | Founder and CEO, Holidaily Brewing Co. | Golden

Karen Hertz launched Holidaily in early 2016 to craft gluten-free beers with millet and buckwheat instead of barley and wheat.

After surviving cancer a decade ago, she removed gluten from her diet as part of her treatment plan. Gluten-free beer “was a need for me,” she says. “I was thinking there had to be other people who wanted to do a bike ride and have a beer but can’t, because they’re gluten-free. So far, I’ve been right.”

Initial annual production of 257 barrels jumped to 2,000 in 2019 as the distribution map increased to span 1,000 outlets and the employee count eclipsed 20.

“There are 8,000 breweries in the U.S., and only 15 are dedicated-gluten free,” says Hertz, 42. “Eight of those are in either Portland or Seattle. What that means is there’s a lot of open space, and we’re trying to get beer out to fill those gaps.”

The strategy is paying off. “We are the biggest one in the country,” she says.

It’s all about filling a market need. “[Beer] is such a big part of social life,” Hertz adds, noting an unexpectedly high “level of emotion” from patrons. “When you’re gluten-free, you feel left out or you feel high-maintenance. When people come in here, they’re in tears, they’re hugging me, they’re hugging the brewer. It’s just a really deep impact for people.”

To meet demand, Holidaily opened a 10,000-square-foot production facility across from its tasting room in Golden last year. And as the brewery moves into other states (starting with Arizona in 2020), the forecast is rosy: Hertz projects 5,000 barrels in 2020. “We’re just getting started,” she says.

This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine’s annual Entrepreneur of the Year feature. Read more about this year’s winner, Katica Roy, and the other finalists:
Categories: Entrepreneurs, People, Women in Biz