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Cheers for Gluten-Free!

After surviving cancer, a local mom turns her passion for beer into a thriving business.

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It was scary enough when Golden mom Karen Hertz was diagnosed with melanoma in 2007, while she was pregnant. Then after successful cancer removal and delivery of twin daughters, Hertz was diagnosed with cancer again in 2008. This time, it was papillary thyroid cancer. After undergoing radiation treatments and removal of her thyroid in 2009, Hertz was cancer-free once again, but she still didn’t feel like herself.

“I experienced heavy fatigue, I lacked concentration for tasks I used to do well, and had skin issues, like eczema,” Hertz remembers. At the suggestion of her endocrinologist and a nutritionist, Hertz decided to cut gluten out of her diet. “Within two weeks I felt significantly better,” Hertz says.

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In the years that followed, Hertz continued her gluten-free diet, though enjoying a really good beer was something she missed. “Gluten-free beers weren’t very satisfying and I wondered why they didn’t taste as good,” Hertz says. “I started to do some research to find out.”

Hertz worked with the Grouse Malt House and professionals at Colorado State University, and teamed up with award-winning brewer, Wayne Burns to create her brews. “I said to Wayne, ‘let’s make great beer that just happens to be gluten free”, ” Hertz says. Burns was up for the challenge.

Happy Results

In 2015, Hertz opened the Holidaily Brewing Company in Golden—the first completely gluten-free brewery in Colorado and one of only five in the country. Currently, they offer nine gluten-free beers on tap, and are sold in 55 locations across Colorado. Hertz continually receives thank-you notes and emails from gluten-intolerant individuals across the state.

“When someone comes in who is gluten-free or they”ve been sick for a long time, and they don’t have to feel high maintenance and can order anything off the menu, it is an emotional experience,” Hertz says.

A Family-Friendly Place

Holidaily is a place you can bring your kids (and dogs!). They serve a locally made root beer and contract with a variety of food trucks, all of which have some gluten-free offerings. On warmer months, families can hang out on the patio and enjoy lawn games. The vibe is laid back and comfortable. “The scene at craft breweries is not people who take shots and get wasted. It’s just people enjoying beer,” says Hertz, who is also a wife to Jake and mom of nine-year-old daughters, Kara and Kate.

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When bringing your family to a brewery, Hertz believes it’s not the best time to be anti-screen or anti-game, as the other patrons appreciate it when children are somewhat controlled. “But that is the same for adults and dogs, too,” Hertz adds.

Running a Family Business

Hertz credits her husband Jake’s steady job as commercial real estate developer as the thing that “allowed me to do something crazy like this,” she says. “He’s my cheerleader, he hangs pictures on the wall, and when something breaks, he can usually fix it,” says Hertz. And when Jake is not traveling for work, he works from home, which allows him to help with their daughters” schedules. “It would be impossible to do this without him,” Hertz says.

She finds that running a business means that she needs to be available all the time, but mobile devices allow her to be more flexible. Hertz, who was named a 2017 Denver Business Journal 40 under 40 winner, likes that being the boss, while challenging, means she gets to prioritize and control when and where she will be at any given time. “I have a great staff and it’s worked out really well.”

Kara and Kate have helped paint walls, dry cans, and ride along when their mom makes deliveries. Their favorite task, though, is helping count the cash. The girls know their mom’s history with cancer and her need to be gluten-free. “They are listening all the time,” Hertz says, “and they”ve learned a lot.”

Lydia Rueger is an Arvada-based freelance writer, editor, and mom of two.

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