29 June 2016
I had been waiting on Prairie for years. My family’s brewing heritage spans four generations and runs almost as long as Oklahoma has been a state. It is a proud, well known and enduring tradition. Even with all that by 2012 it seemed like our path had went askew. Something was missing.
One summer morning Michael Lalli, our longtime brewmaster, and I began a conversation that is still unfolding. He told me Chase Healey had approached him at the Wild Brew Festival discussing the idea of contract brewing. Knowing the work Chase had done launching other Oklahoma breweries I was very interested. Chase and I quickly agreed to meet for breakfast at Classen Grill in Oklahoma City.
At that breakfast I was introduced to Prairie. I had anticipated the conversation would center on Chase’s current beers. It soon became apparent he was planning something different. He outlined the beers, the packaging, and the distribution. The concept was innovative, authentic, and exciting. I loved what I was hearing. After years in the industry though, I was skeptical. I thought we might be able to sell a few batches per month at most. Nevertheless, I agreed to the deal. A few weeks later the first batch was in the tank.
I remember realizing early on Prairie was special. I remember bottling the first batch of Prairie Ale when Chase came to visit. I remember Chase doing a Tiger Woods style fist pump after tasting the beer. I remember those first orders we shipped to the Shelton Brothers. I remember the rapid succession of ideas. I remember the long hours that BJ and Micah put in. I remember opening my email in awe to find new labels from Colin. I remember the 24 hour brewday Michael endured for Okie. I remember my parents helping cork and cage bottles. I remember meeting Wes Morrison at Iron Star. I remember Chase and Colin’s mom wax dipping the first batch of Bomb! I remember loving these beers from the very beginning.
Building upon the early success we continued to innovate. We expanded the number of barrel aged beers, experimented with fruit aging and wood fermentation, grew Bomb! into a nationally recognized brand, expanded the Krebs brewery, brought new people onto the team, watched Chase open a facility in west Tulsa, shared beer on every continent expect Africa (let us know if you are an African beer distributor), opened a location in the Brady Arts District, and more than anything continued to make some of the best beer in the world day after day. I could have hardly been more satisfied.
It is obvious that Prairie was the culmination of years of work and ideas and planning for Chase. It is equally obvious that these beers could not have existed without the generations of work in Krebs. It is something very special. We all take great pride in Prairie.
Early on I had been interested in actually owning a part of Prairie. Since I already felt like the beers were a partnership it only made sense. Last year that opportunity presented itself. Chase agreed to allow Krebs Brewing Company to acquire the Prairie brands. It is a humbling move that shows Chase continues to trust us to innovate, make great beer, and share Prairie across the globe. I do not take that trust lightly.
Moving forward our focus remains the same. We will continue sharing our vision for beer while having a great time. We do not plan to slow down though. Something that has always defined Prairie has been a willingness to push the limits by embracing change. That will not change. The next months and years will be filled with new beers, new locations, and other things we have not even considered yet. It is hard to say exactly where we will end up, but I know for sure that it will be a great ride.