A YORKSHIRE-based brewery has moved entirely to gluten-free production as it announces plans for a £200,000 laboratory.

Brass Castle Brewery, based in Malton, has announced plans to expand its testing capability so it can certify every batch of its gluten-free beer in-house.

The company made the announcement as two of its canned beers, Sunshine IPA and Bad Kitty vanilla porter were shortlisted in the national FreeFrom Food Awards, which recognise excellence by free-from producers across the food and drink sector.

Brass Castle founder Phil Saltonstall has used vegan-friendly brewing methods ever since the brewery opened in 2011.

The company’s canned beers were already gluten-free and in December the brewery extended this to all its beers in casks, kegs and cans.

Mr Saltonstall said: “We’re delighted to have been able to switch to complete gluten-free production without impacting upon the signature flavours.

"By bringing our gluten testing in-house, we will be able to give drinkers absolute assurance, every time they buy one of our beers, that it is gluten-free – and we can do so without having to pass on any significant extra cost to the bars and pubs we work with.”

Gluten testing is required for every batch of beer produced, and third-party laboratory work can cost breweries thousands of pounds a year. For a run of 5,000 canned beers, the cost equates to only about 3p per can. However, for a typical run of 44 casks of ale, it can add around £2.50 to the cost of a cask, potentially dissuading publicans who often operate to very tight margins.

Brass Castle plans to invest £200,000 in laboratory equipment so it can certify its products itself.

Increasing numbers of food and drink producers, including brewers, are seeking to cater for gluten-free customers, and FreeFrom awards director Michelle Berriedale-Johnson said judges had been amazed by the range and quality of the entries.

Brass Castle makes its beers gluten-free by using tiny amounts of a vegan-friendly protease enzyme, which reduces gluten and allows them to continue using the barley and wheat which give the beers their particular character.

Mr Saltonstall said: “We’re delighted to have been shortlisted in the FreeFrom awards, alongside some other excellent breweries, who are also demonstrating that gluten-free beers can be just as delicious as regular beers.

“We knew there didn’t have to be a flavour penalty in making the switch to gluten-free, but we’re still surprised that not one Brass Castle drinker seems to have noticed a difference.”