In this installment of Five Questions With, I bring you my interview with Oklahoma’s newest brewer, Prairie Artisan Ales.
You may recognize the name of Prairie’s brewmaster, Colin Healey, because he’s the younger brother of former Redbud and COOP brewmaster Chase Healey. Colin is based out of Tulsa, but does his brewing in the gypsy brewing tradition out of Choc Beer headquarters in Krebs. I’ll let him fill you in on the details:
The Thirsty Beagle: Talk about Prairie Artisan Ales a little bit. How did you get started? How did you settle on that name for your company? What’s your vision for your beers?
Colin Healey: PAA is a brewing project I’m working on with the guys at Choc. The idea is to use both the beer and labels to make true artistic expressions. I’m a classical musician and a painter, so for me it’s important that the beers share my point of view. I’m not looking to do a lot of safe, high-volume stuff. To me, the brewing industry has changed to where a brewer can go outside of the norm and still find an audience.
The name Prairie Artisan Ales says a few things about the brand. Prairie was used to define our region. I’m proud to be an Okie, but wanted the beer to reach beyond just our state. We are working on a distribution deal that would place the beer around the country. Artisan Ales helps define the beers. They are complex, unfiltered, bottle-conditioned ales.
TTB: Obviously your brother is well-known on the Oklahoma beer scene; who got started in brewing first? Did you guys work together at all on your recipes?
CH: Chase got brewing first. I was 17 when he started brewing, so I’ve been watching him for years now. Chase worked with me on the beers. I think people will be excited about what we came up with. I’ve got a big book of Healey family secret recipes and I’m not afraid to use them.
TTB: Talk about your beers a little; am I correct that you have three offerings to start off?
CH: The beers will role out one at a time. For right now Prairie Ale is in the bottles. As soon as the labels come in, we will spin them on, and get the beer out. Prairie Ale is a Farmhouse style ale with big Saaz hop flavor and aroma. It’s bottle-conditioned with Brett, so some nice funky notes will start creeping in as the beer ages. Noir, an imperial oatmeal stout is currently aging in Heaven Hill barrels, plans are to have it out just before Christmas. Prairie Okie, a barrel-aged imperial brown ale, will be coming out sometime in February. I’m working on some lactic fermentation beers. I hope to get some of those out in the spring.
TTB: You call yourself a gypsy brewer; where do you call home and where are you brewing? Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of gypsy brewing.
CH: So I’m brewing the beers down in Krebs. The advantage is having a crew of great brewers to help with all the production. All of the beers are corked and caged. The is an expensive, labor-intensive process. I certainly couldn’t do it on my own.
The bottom line is that I’d like to build a small facility in Tulsa to supplement production in Krebs. I think it will be easier to get this done with product in the market versus trying to launch an unknown brand.
TTB: Talk about in general how it feels to be so close to the release date of your beers. Nervous? Excited?
CH: I’d say excited. I’m very happy with the beer. I think the great thing about craft beer is the variety being produced. I think Prairie adds some great options to the beer landscape.
Thanks to Colin for taking some time to answer my questions. Sounds like another strong addition to the Oklahoma beer scene. You should be able to find his first offering, Prairie Ale, in stores in about two weeks, with kegs possibly to follow in a few months.