Grassroots brewer Daniel McIntosh-Tolle fights red tape to open gluten-free brewery

by: CONNECTION PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Daniel McIntosh-Tolle at his brewery-to-be at Barbur Boulevard and 22nd Avenue.When you have a dream, sometimes everything just falls into place, and other times everything just falls apart. Daniel McIntosh-Tolle, owner and founder of startup beer-maker Moonshrimp Brewing, has experienced a little of both, and he is determined to make his dream come true.

Lifelong Southwest Portland resident and Wilson High School alumnus McIntosh-Tolle, 29, was never a big beer drinker during his time at Lewis & Clark College, but about six years ago he started getting caught up in Portland’s beer culture. Around that same time he was diagnosed with celiac disease, a chronic nutritional disorder caused by faulty absorption of gluten in the intestines.

Since gluten is a substance found in wheat and other grains, and beer is made from barley, beer is anathema to people with the celiac ailment.

“I was just starting to get into beer and enjoy the craft beer movement when diagnosed, and it was like, ‘No more beer’,” McIntosh-Tolle said. However, “A friend of mine who used to live on Barbur made me a batch of gluten-free beer. That got me interested in homebrewing.”

It was his wife who suggested that he start a gluten-free brewery — though it took a while for him to come around to the idea.

“My first response to her was, ‘No, that’s crazy.’ It just seemed insane, like, ‘Me, start a brewery?’” McIntosh-Tolle recalled. “And then a month later I went up to her and I went, ‘I think I should start a brewery!’ and she said, ‘Yeah, I know.’”

McIntosh-Tolle spent the next five years laying the groundwork for this endeavor, known as Moonshrimp Brewing. Now living in Southwest Portland’s Maplewood neighborhood, he leased a space in the nearby Multnomah neighborhood at 8428 SW 22nd Ave., off Barbur Boulevard, and then on May 20, 2013 launched a monthlong campaign on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

“I’m not sure I did everything in the right order,” he said. “I got this place first and signed the lease and had it locked down before I started the Kickstarter campaign, so I could say I have a place, which helped the Kickstarter be successful, but meant I was paying rent over time.”

Premature rent paying turned out to be the least of his problems.

“It turned out the landlady I rented this place from may have been a little bit of a scammer,” McIntosh-Tolle said. “So the building was in default, which was not revealed, and then it went into foreclosure, which she didn’t tell us about, and we found out when there was a notice on the door, just ... plastered on to the front of the door that there were new owners ... and that they needed copies of our leases, which she had never given me, because she had wanted to only have one original, signed copy, and I was going to get a copy, which isn’t legal, but she only had one copy with her, so she was going to bring me by another copy and all that, and that never happened, so I never had a signed copy.

by: CONNECTION PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Daniel McIntosh-Tolle demonstrates the chemical formula for beer.“Fortunately, the new landlords who bought the place at foreclosure auction held all of our leases to be valid anyway; they didn’t think an issue of that, but it took a month and a half to get a new signed lease from them, which meant that all of my licensing came to a sudden freeze, because the feds needed a signed copy for the alcohol tax and trade bureau, the OLCC needed a signed copy for their brewpub licensing, everything depended on getting a signed copy.”

Unable to provide the Oregon Liquor Control Commission or Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau with a signed lease, McIntosh-Tolle said, “That was this big delay, and it was very nerve-wracking at first.”

Just recently, he said, several other problems have arisen, including the building’s sewer line turning out to be privately owned and not legal, and the building’s required premises isolation valve on the water line, which his former landlady had assured him was in place, did not actually exist.

“I have to pay to install one. It’s $570 for the inspection fee for it — not actually the valve — which you have to hire someone to install,” McIntosh-Tolle said. “So I’ve learned to do your own investigation, which is really sad, because I would prefer to just believe people. That’s how I normally do things. I mean, it was funded by Kickstarter, for goodness sake. I would prefer to just trust people.”

In early March, McIntosh-Tolle encountered what was possibly the brewery’s most hampering, and certainly its most bizarre, obstacle yet. He told The Connection via email that whereas International Building Code requires the landing on each side of a door to be the same height and continue in the direction of travel for 44 inches before there is a step up or down, “The edge of my doorway is a step down immediately as you pass through the doorway exiting the brewery, followed by a second step down to the sidewalk,” he said. “There is not enough space to add the required landing, as that would block a huge chunk of the sidewalk. This means that the doorway cannot be brought to code as there is not enough space between the brewery building and the sidewalk right of way to build the landing.

“Basically the door is not OK the way it is, and there is no way to change it. I didn’t build the door; it is the same as it has always been, but it does mean that I am not allowed to have the public enter my space.”

McIntosh-Tolle said he is looking into whether he can sell beer to passers-by through a doorway onto the sidewalk. Whatever comes of that, he said, “The plan at this point is to produce three types of ale in 22-ounce bottles that’ll be sold mostly wholesale — so, to bigger bottle shops, gluten-free restaurants, specialty restaurants, bars — things like that, places that want real local product or gluten-free product and sell at some retail.”

And someday, he added, McIntosh-Tolle hopes to open his own brewpub. For now, though, “My goal is really just to make beer that happens to be gluten-free,” he said. “It’s strictly gluten-free, but the point is to make good beer.”

Drew Dakessian can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 108

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine