Had a chance to talk to Choc Beer Co. President Zach Prichard about some exciting news developing for the Krebs brewery. Here’s my story, which is slated to run in the Business section of Wednesday’s Oklahoman:
KREBS — Choc Beer Co. is undertaking an equipment expansion this year that will allow the company to better slake consumers’ thirst for one of the hottest beer brands in the country.
Choc President Zach Prichard said the company purchased a used brewing system from Sweetwater Brewing Co., of Atlanta, that will roughly triple the Oklahoma brewery’s production capability.
The move became a necessity partly due to the success of Tulsa’s Prairie Artisan Ales, which contracts to make its beer on Choc’s equipment.
“We started doing the Prairie thing last August, September,” Prichard said. “The growth of those brands has been phenomenal.
“We can’t make enough of our beers, or enough of their beers. We’re going to work to correct that problem.”
The system is being loaded out of the Sweetwater facility this weekend, and Prichard said they hope to begin installation at Krebs next week and start brewing with it by the end of November. Plans call for Choc to sell off its current system.
The purchase will necessitate a reconfiguration of the Choc brewery, which adjoins the popular Pete’s Place Italian restaurant. The brewing system will be set up in the current storage warehouse area, with bottling and packaging shifted to the old brewhouse footprint, Prichard said.
The four-vessel, 50-barrel system would allow Choc to produce roughly 6,200 gallons of beer at a time. It replaces the brewery’s current two-vessel, 15-barrel system. One barrel is equivalent to about 31 gallons of beer.
Having a four-vessel system as opposed to a two-vessel system will allow Choc to break up the early stages of beer-making into four distinct steps, Prichard said, and allow the brewery to start up to four batches of different beer at roughly the same time.
Prichard said they will use the capacity to increase production of some popular Prairie labels, and to brew more Choc beer, where production has decreased to make room for Prairie. He said that to the best of his knowledge, the move gives Choc the highest-capacity brewing system in Oklahoma.
Choc will have to ease into production, however, as the brewery lacks sufficient secondary fermentation vessels to hold the full capacity of the new brewing system. Prichard said they plan to bring new fermenters online beginning in March.
Prairie brewmaster Chase Healey described the expansion as exciting.
“The growth will allow us to add three more year-round offerings, and more draft beer,” Healey said. “We will now come closer to meeting the demand for Prairie, and start to tap into the potential I feel the brand truly has.”
In the meantime, Healey is nearing completion on the set-up of his own brewery in Tulsa. He said he’ll eventually brew up to 20 percent of his beer at that location.