Local Brewery Hosts Grand Opening
To most of the community, the Kochendorfer Brewing Company’s opening has been a year in the making. Owner Laura Kochendorfer said that the process has been like a roller coaster. “We’ve gotten really excited and then we’ve had one challenge after another that we’ve gone through to get here,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of this ourselves…friends and family helped lay the tile and do the floors. We’ve been trying to develop a family business and we’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this year-long process.”
The facility hosted a much-anticipated grand opening last weekend, starting with an invite-only “soft opening” on Friday night and a ribbon cutting on Saturday, followed by a concert by local musician Chance Anderson.
Brewmaster Leonard Cripps says it’s been a much longer process than just the year since the Kochendorfers broke ground last October; he started brewing beer in the mid-1980s. “My wife was stationed in Germany in 1985 and we spent four and a half years there. That’s where I discovered what good beer was all about,” he said.
“We came back to the States, there weren’t any breweries or brewpubs near where we were stationed and I tried to drink American beer and I just couldn’t, so I started making my own.”
It took some time before he felt confident in his brewing skills. “I just kept doing it in different points in time where we were stationed, and her being in the military gave me plenty of time to brew it. If there was something available – a brewery or a brewpub – I’d check it out.”
The Crippses went back to Germany and he had the opportunity to intern at a British brewery and a German one. “It became my passion,” he said.
When he and his wife moved to Oklahoma, he brewed beer at his home because he didn’t find beer he liked under the alcohol regulations at the time. “I had nine beers and a cider at my house here and I became really popular with my neighbors. That’s how I met my partners [Chris and Laura Kochendorfer].”
Chris Kochendorfer said that he started home-brewing after visiting a bar with some friends where it was a topic of conversation. “I didn’t even know it was ‘a thing,’” he said. “I started researching it and found where I could get supplies in Oklahoma City…and then [Laura’s] family introduced me to Lenny…and I got to see his mini-brewery in his back yard.
“Anyone who gets to see that is just ‘wow,’” Kochendorfer said. “Just starting brewing, I felt like I was learning but there was so much I didn’t know. I asked him why he didn’t open a brewery, but at that time the laws weren’t that great…there were a couple of breweries but we were still a 3.2 (% alcohol by volume) state and you couldn’t do craft beer.”
Cripps shared his Hefeweizen recipe with Kochendorfer and they worked together to perfect it. “I made it over and over again until it would be what I had at [Cripps’s house],” Kochendorfer said.
When the laws changed in 2018, Kochendorfer – a self-described entrepreneur and dreamer – told Cripps they should open a brewery. “He brought me out of retirement,” Cripps said.
The brew house is where grain is converted to starches and sugar. Then the liquid is removed and put into a brew kettle, where it’s then boiled and hops are added. “That helps give it the balance and bitterness you need,” Cripps said. Then it’s cooled down and put into the fermenters and yeast is added. “The yeast works its magic and it converts all that sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Then we pump that into the walk-in, let it age for a while, then it comes out that wall to the taps.”
Cripps said that it typically takes 21 days from the date they start brewing until a beer is ready for the glass, but some of the beers take a bit longer. The cream ale takes 45 days, for example. “It varies with style,” he explained.
The beers are sold by the pint in the Kochendorfer taproom, as well as in 32-ounce cans. There are plans to eventually have some of the varieties available at local restaurants. The Kochendorfers also plan to host events at the location such as wedding receptions, reunions, and private parties.
“We want this to be a family-friendly place,” Laura Kochendorfer said. “We have a playground, wifi, a 2,000 square foot patio, we’re dog-friendly.”
Cripps said that they currently have six different beers available, but there are 20 taps in the tasting room and eventually they would like to have varieties available for all of them.
“We’ll have these core beers all the time, so it will be something people are familiar with,” Cripps said. “But then they can try something new, maybe find something they like better. You never know.
“If you don’t like beer, you just haven’t tried the right one.”
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