Prairie Artisan Ales, Indiana Collaborations, and Their “Unique Perspective to Brewing”

by Andrew Dickey for Indiana On Tap

Along with the fine breweries operating in Indiana, many out-of-state breweries offer their products here as well, and the Hoosier craft beer drinker has a lot to choose from. Some of this beer joins the out of state breweries to our own establishments in the form of interesting and exciting collaboration beers. In this article, I would like to spotlight Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales, a brewery that goes out of its way to offer superb beer, and has collaborated with at least two Indiana breweries.  I will first give you a snapshot of Prairie, and then close with a discussion of their collaborations locally, and the breweries involved.

Prairie Artisan Ales came was born in 2012 to bring, in their words, “A unique perspective to brewing.” They operate a brewpub in Tulsa, and soon will have a taproom in Oklahoma City. While they have tried to stay a small endeavor, they are currently available in 25 states, and on five continents. In June of 2016, Prairie was acquired by the Krebs Brewing Company of Krebs, Oklahoma (also known as Choc Brewing), the brewery at which Prairie Artisan originally contract brewed, and was the reason that Krebs expanded their brew house. It was a natural that the two brands would eventually join together, while still maintaining their own identities.

Some Prairie beers that are available in Indiana. photo credit: Andrew Dickey

Prairie Artisan sends dozens of beers to Indiana, but their flagship lineup is as follows:  Bomb! is an Imperial stout with coffee, vanilla, cocoa nibs, and chili; Standard is a hoppy farmhouse ale; Prairie-Vous Français is a Belgian farmhouse Weisse; and Phantasmagoria is a double India Pale Ale.  Along with these four slices of heaven, Prairie makes varieties of sours, saisons, stouts, and other Belgian and French style ales.  I just got to try the 2017 Birthday Bomb!, a 13% ABV imperial version of the Bomb! with even more of the cocoa, coffee, and vanilla going on – wow!

My first introduction to Prairie was last year when I tried their fourth anniversary beer.  I remember the label being interesting with a connect-the-dots outline, and a dog’s head on a yellow field. It was sour aged ale on ginger with a nice crisp flavor.  At beer tastings, I have tried a few others, and remain thoroughly impressed with this solid brewery.  They have made their presence felt over the last year at good liquor stores with a variety of styles, even amid the current sour and funky beer craze.  Prairie is producing some of the best beers in the styles they brew, and continues to push their beer to new heights.

In the 4+ years that Prairie Artisan has been satisfying us with great beer, they have done many collaborations, on the order of thirty and counting. These partner beers have ranged from coast (Saint Somewhere, Tarpon, FL) to coast (Bruery Terreux, Anaheim, CA) and across to Europe (Mikkeller, Ominpollo and others) and across a range of styles. One of their latest collaborations was with Indiana’s own Central State Brewing, but don’t think that this was a new thing for Central State. In their brief time with us (about two years), CSB has nine collaboration beers under their belt, with at least two more in the works at the time of this writing.

So earlier this year, Central State Brewing collaborated with Prairie Artisan for a beer called Party Socks, a lively farmhouse ale brewed with raspberry tea.  More akin to Prairie’s labeling style, Party Socks comes in a pink can adorned with colorful socks, duh. I got to try it on the Fourth of July and was impressed with the effort.  The raspberry tea helped the ale to stand out as a farmhouse style beer. Both breweries involved are unique in their own way, and definitely created an awesome beer through this collaboration.  It should still be in the stores and at The Koelschip on North Delaware, and if you’re looking for it, I hope you find it.

Selection of Central State Beers including Party Socks. photo credit: Andrew Dickey

Central State is a lot like Prairie, both in attitude and in enthusiasm, but they have differences as well.  Central State can do nondescript pint cans for beers like Garden and Table, but they can do artsy stuff as well, like for Á Point and Lazor Raptor. In fact, Lazor Raptor was the first beer I tried from the brewery, and still my favorite because it was just so sour.

Central State’s Frugal Ginger reminds me of a Flanders Red, and the Polyjuice Potion was so good that not only did Central State get to keep the name, but the beer was also embraced by the Harry Potter people.  In a short time, they have produced amazing beer, and I have a Raznarok Imperial Farmhouse Stout with Raspberries chilling in my fridge right now.  Central State’s beer has quickly become a staple at my house, and I’m glad that it is readily available here in central Indiana.

Central State operates the Koelschip taproom; it’s a cozy spot I recommend visiting to try their top notch beer.  They were brewing at Black Acre in Irvington, but have recently parted ways, and are now brewing and canning at Round Town until their own production facility is ready to go.  The Evicted Blonde Ale commemorates this move.  As long as they continue to make awesome beer, I will look forward to future releases, and more collaborations.

The second Prairie collaboration with an Indiana brewery involves Upland Brewing in Bloomington. The opening of the Wood shop with their many foeders has allowed them to spike their sour production and increase both collaborations and distribution of their sours.  Cursed Kettles comes about from the blending of two souring processes (traditional and kettle, see this article), and then aging the beer in both wine and bourbon barrels using cherry and fig flavors. Isn’t it interesting that both Indiana/Prairie Artisan collaborations involve funky/sour beers. Indiana must be developing a reputation for making good sours just when sours are becoming so popular.

Upland Brewing’s Cursed Kettle Sour. photo credit: Andrew Dickey

Cursed Kettles is reminiscent of several sour styles, and has a deep full flavor. I’m impressed with the methods that were used to make the beer, and I like the direction Upland is going with their beers. It may be hard to believe, but Upland has been making sour beers for nearly a decade now. It seems like only yesterday I purchased a case of the first run Lambics which had to be picked up at the brewery.  (If you were drinking sours back then, you may remember that the elusive Kiwi Lambic was in that batch).

Not many sours were being made back in 2008, and Upland certainly led the way.  A short time later they would begin hosting the Midwest Sour, Wild, and Funk Fest in which their Lambics were featured alongside many other excellent beers.  Over the years between, I got to try a lot of the Lambics, and remember a delicious one being made with persimmons. Their Wood Shop series has showcased a lot of great beer over the last year, and I wish them continued success with it.

Any good craft brewery will adapt as drinkers’ tastes evolve, and it is happening here. Upland has intensified their sour making program, and their timing could not have been more perfect.  They have already released dozens of great ales.  I have tried a few of them, and find the flavor to be great.  Many more sours are in the works, so definitely look for them at your local liquor store or make a trip to one of the taprooms.

With sour and funky beers being all the rage right now, it is great to see Indiana brewers in the thick of things collaborating with other fine breweries on these styles.  As a drinker, I am pleased to have such awesome choices when I look to drink a sour. And when my favorite styles are being made here at home, I couldn’t be happier.

 
 

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