Fans brought the brewery to life; now, grown-up saisons are leaving the nest.
Most new breweries don’t capture the attention of craft beer geeks as quickly as Prairie Artisan Ales. But what began less than a year ago as a gypsy operation working out of Krebs Brewing is now one of the nation’s most buzzed-about brands; thanks to brewmaster Chase Healey’s brewing chops and careful calculation.
An active member on BeerAdvocate.com and Ratebeer.com, Healey built his beer lineup around one of the styles he noticed gaining traction online, the saison—a style he also happens to excel at brewing. His whimsical versions like Funky Galaxy, a Galaxy-hopped black saison, and Prairie Merica, hopped with the exotic Nelson Sauvin, are catnip to craft beer lovers. After joining with big-leaguer distributors Shelton Brothers, Prairie quickly amassed a nationwide fan base.
Success has been so overwhelming, Healey and his brother Colin—who designs the labels—decided Prairie needed a home of its own. They took to Kickstarter.com and asked for $10,000 to help fund a new brewery, and fans responded with more than double that amount.
This summer, the Healeys move into their new brewery—a warehouse on the outskirts of Tulsa, Okla., complete with a nine-hole disc-golf course—with plans to quintuple production to 3,000 barrels annually. Beer starts flowing in August, and by November, fans can finally drink at the source of the brand they helped build. They’ll have plenty to choose from: Healey plans to brew 30 different beers before the year’s out.
THE HEART OF HEALEY’S PRAIRIE? THESE THREE FLAGSHIP SAISONS:
Prairie Standard: “It almost lands between a pale ale and saison in terms of texture. We dry-hop a pound per barrel so it’s got an herbal character, and the [saison] yeast lends a nice tartness.”
Prairie Ale: “The first beer we released. It’s more of a true European-style saison with Saaz hops. When we bottle this one, we use Brettanomyces and wine yeast, so it gets really dry. The Brett lends a little pineapple and earthiness that transforms it.”
Prairie Hop: “We take our really dry saison base beer and dry-hop the crap out of it. It’s one of those beers that you pop and think ‘Damn, that smells like a hoppy beer.’”