In his nearly four years as brewmaster of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales, Chase Healey has designed some stunners, most notably Brett C., a world-class saison brewed with Citra and Cascade hops, sea salt and Brettanomyces yeast, and Bomb!, the beloved imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans and ancho chile peppers. But despite the acclaim, Healey says, something was missing.
“Prairie’s grown into this thing where there’s so many people involved now that it seemed like it didn’t feel right anymore for me to be steering it based on my points of view,” he says.
Enter American Solera, Healey’s new side project. Based out of a facility in west Tulsa currently stocked with 16 oak foeders and many more wooden barrels (“It’s so full of barrels it’s almost hard to get work done,” Healey says), the brewery will focus on sour and wild ales, many of which may take several years to fully mature.
“The ultimate inspiration for American Solera is much longer-aged beers that aren’t as feasible at the other brewery,” Healey says. “We can give the beer a lot of time, and that’s hard to do when you have contracts and obligations like we do at Prairie. Nothing here needs to come out at any time; it’s just when I feel it’s ready.”
Plus, he says, “The idea of compromising the hundreds of bourbon barrels at Prairie is something no one’s really interested in.”
Those close to the Oklahoma beer scene might not be completely surprised by the emergence of American Solera; rumblings of a side project, titled Brouwerij Okie, began to leak out of the state several months ago. That was the initial concept, Healey admits, though for logistical reasons the brand didn’t stick. That, and…
“It’s a little awkward to say. I’m already rolling labels on bottles by hand—I don’t need to make it harder on myself by having to correct people’s pronunciation of the name.”
American Solera’s beers will be either all or mostly spontaneous, Healey says, incorporating several strains of native and wild yeasts, many of which he plans to collect “from the night air.” Sours fermented on fruit will also be a focus—ales are currently fermenting in several of American Solera’s Italian wine foeders, each filled with a different fruit: apricots, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, black currants. “I’m trying as best I can to source whole fruit,” Healey says. “I like the skin contact to create more tannic flavors. I think it just adds to the depth of the flavor.”
The brewery’s late-August opening coincides with a change in Oklahoma’s alcohol regulations allowing brewers to sell high-alcohol beer on-premise. Current laws limit the beers brewers can sell in taprooms to those lower than 4% ABV.
“I was in talks with legislators about this, and I said I will not sell any of my beers in this state if this law doesn’t pass. I was fully ready to start exporting every case of this out of the state,” Healey says.
Luckily, it didn’t come to that. The new law is set to go in effect August 25; American Solera will officially open that day with a party exclusively for members of the sold-out American Solera Society. The taproom will open to the public August 27, and will thereafter be open Wednesday and Friday evenings, and in the afternoon on Saturday.