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Redbud blooms

Chase Healey applies his ale expertise to a new Oklahoma City brewing company

Greg Horton January 25th, 2011

Chase Healey thinks of himself as an Oklahoman. His family moved to Jenks from Iowa when he was 6. He spent his entire public school career in Jenks, and later went to the University of Oklahoma.

He became a household name amongst beer geeks in the state when J.D. Merryweather hired him to be Coop Ale Works’ first brewer. He left that position in September last year, and now he’s about to launch his own brewery: Redbud Brewing Company.

Slated to begin distribution on Tuesday, Redbud will initially release two beers: Cuvée 1, a Belgian-style ale, and American pale ale, what Healey calls his “session beer.”

“These beers are my creations,” Healey said. “They’re every bit me. I think all brewers want that, for our beers to taste exactly the way we want them to.”

The second release of Redbud beers will be Cuvée 2, which Healey expects sometime in March.

“I’m only using half the beer from a batch to make Cuvée 1,” he said. “The other half is aging in Jack Daniel’s barrels, and I’ll release it as Cuvée 2.”

The cuvée beers will only be available in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles. Healey said he wants to focus on liquor store distribution, not taps. McNellie’s Public House, 1100 Classen Drive, will feature Cuvée 1 as one of the featured beers in its upcoming Firkin Fridays promotion. The term “firkin” comes from an Old English unit of measurement that is often used in association with beer, ale or wine.

Jake Hickman, bar manager at McNellie’s, said his bar will have the American pale ale on draft “as soon as it’s available.”

“We were able to taste the pale ale recently,” Hickman said. “Everyone raved about it. I will buy it the second it’s available. Chase’s commitment to crafting great beer was obvious the night we tasted it. With everyone raving about it, he still insisted he could do better. I admire that kind of determination and excellence.”

Healey said The Abner’s Ale House, 121 E. Main in Norman, part of the McNellie’s family of pubs, and Republic Gastropub, 5830 N. Classen Blvd., will also have the pale ale on tap, but he’s not sure what is beyond those three locations.

“The goal is not to get as many taps as possible, in as many locations as possible,” Healey said. “I’m going to make a beer, and if people like it, I’ll keep making it. I’ll also make cuvées, and if people like them, I’ll make another one. There is no plan for ‘x’ amount or for so many beers. We may have four to six locations with taps, but I really want to focus on liquor stores.”

The Firkin Fridays will begin at McNellie’s in February. Hickman doesn’t know which beer will be available on any particular week, but he said he believes Redbud will be the first month.

“We’re trying to get kegs from all the local breweries that are interested,” Hickman said. “We want to work with all the local brewers.”

A firkin is a small keg that only holds 72 pints, so anyone interested will need to arrive early to taste the beers. Coop, Marshall Brewing Company, Choc Beer and Redbud have already signed on. Hickman said out-of-state breweries are interested as well, including Left Hand, a Colorado brewery.

These beers are my creations. They’re every bit me.

—Chase Healey

Healey is excited about debuting his Cuvée 1 on a Firkin Friday, primarily because the beers will be hand-drawn on McNellie’s cask beer machine. Beer aficionados know it’s the best way to drink beer.

“It allows you to drink beer when it’s at its freshest,” Hickman said. “Using the hand-pulled cask means no nitrogen or CO2 affect the beer’s taste. You get exactly what the brewer intended.”

Healey is currently leasing space from Rick Huebert, one of the microbrewery pioneers in Oklahoma. “Rick has been very helpful,” Healey said. “Not only did he work to get laws changed in the state to allow strong beer brewing, I feel like he’s still helping brewers like me get our start in the state.”

For now, Healey will focus on beers instead of space. He said it allows him to start his business without a great deal of capital, and he thinks now is a good time to start another local brewery.

“I chose the Redbud name because I want people to identify my beers with all the great stuff that’s happening in the state,” he said. “It’s an Oklahoma name, and I think what I love about craft beers is that they reflect the region. I’m proud of what’s happening in Oklahoma City right now, and I want Redbud to be part of that.”

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