Michelle Pagano had all but given up on her passion for all things beer when she was diagnosed with celiac disease, which left her body unable to properly ingest gluten, in 2011.

But the Manhasset native and former Bier Magazine editor returned to Long Island’s micro and homebrewing scene earlier this year after a chance encounter in — where else? — a bar.

“I found myself talking to a guy who ordered a bad beer — I won’t say which one — and I made a suggestion and it turned out the one I suggested was a gluten-free beer and I had no idea,” she said.

So she did her research, finding a growing number of craft breweries that dabbled in gluten-reduced and gluten-free choices and thousands of recipes for specialized beers and ciders.

She also joined two local organizations: the Suffolk-based Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts and the Nassau-based Homebrew and Handgrenades.

And Pagano, who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in print and electronic journalism from LIU Post, decided to resurrect her online persona as a blogger, launching TheOutcask.com as a mouthpiece for like-minded beer fans and brewers.

“Before I was diagnosed I’d go to beer festivals and notice one maybe gluten-free table, nobody really going over to it. There’s this misconception that gluten-free beer tastes bad,” she said. “But that’s just not the case. It’s like anything else, you find there are ones you like and ones you don’t like.”

There are between 200,000 and 3 million reported cases of celiac disease in the United States each year, according to figures from the Mayo Clinic.

When a person with celiac disease eats gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye — their immune system triggers inflammation the small intestine that, over time, could damage the organ’s lining and disrupt the absorption of various nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“After my diagnosis, I pretty much decided I was never going to drink beer again,” Pagano said.

Pagano’s interest in beer took hold shortly after graduating from Post in 2007, when she’d regularly attend happy hours with co-workers from her public relations job and be presented with what she considered “the same three or four choices every time.”

She began familiarizing herself with the local breweries and going to festivals, even brewing her own beers.

“I thought to myself, how do you even make this? I love to cook and bake. My dad makes wine, my uncle makes tea, I’m going to make beer,” she said.

Pagano started Bier Magazine shortly thereafter, cultivating a staff of regular and guest contributors and scoring interviews with industry insiders and home brewers.

But she then began experiencing headaches and stomach pains, bloating and mild allergic reactions.

It was from the beer, she later learned, and the site shut down.

The Outcask, which bears its name from Pagano’s health condition, will seek to educate the local beer community on various gluten-free options and provide tips to home brewers for the perfect batch.

Though the site and its corresponding Twitter and Instagram accounts had a soft launch in June, with a hard launch planned sometime this fall, Pagano said she has already begun attracting an audience due in part to her personal moniker, “the Brew Babe.”

“I was at a festival out on Fire Island this weekend and someone came up to me from one of the breweries there saying they had seen the site and I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Others told me they recognized me from the web, too, just out of the blue.”

Pagano defined the Outcask’s audience as “people who don’t want to drink bad beer anymore,” but said she plans to market the site primarily to women to appeal to what she called a growing demographic of craft beer drinkers. 

“The reason it’s called the Outcask is that there’s no label to us. We’re not hipsters, we’re not just men, we’re people with a passion,” she said. “And that starts with the editor, who’s allergic to beer but can’t stay away.”

Multiplex Content Recommendation - 1