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Beer builders

Cabin Boys Brewery embarks on a DIY journey

Ryan Arnold, Austin McIlroy, Liza McIlroy, and Hunter Hillenburg of Cabin Boys Brewery

Greg Bollinger

The Cabin Boys Brewery taproom (1717 E. 7th St.)has a warm, woodsy, rustic vibe. The long beer hall tables, shelving, and even the countertops all come from the same source: one old, majestic ash tree that the owners selected and felled themselves. Master Brewer Austin McIlroy estimates it took five or six people over 500 hours of labor to transform that one tree into tables designed to bring people of all different backgrounds together to drink beer. The taproom opened to the public on Nov. 25.

In many ways, the taproom is an extension of an experiment that started when Austin’s dad Jeff had what Lisa McIlroy—Austin's wife—calls “kind of a funny midlife crisis.” Jeff decided he would build a cabin on his land in Catoosa with help from Jeff and other friends and community members. The cabin became a place for friends and family to hold events, get away from the world, and drink home-brewed beer. This place, an eclectic source of stories and experiences, is the reason Jeff, Austin, Lisa, and the other co-founders chose the name Cabin Boys Brewery.

When Austin and Lisa moved to Japan to teach English about four years ago, they joined a community of people interested in brewing. From there, they decided to take their passion for home-brewing to the next level. Austin and friend and co-founder Ryan Arnold immediately started educating themselves about the business of brewing. Arnold changed his academic major to entrepreneurship while Austin completed the Master Brewer Program at the World Brewing Academy in Munich.

There, Austin decided he wanted to create an outstanding Kölsch for Oklahoma’s market. When the average beer-lover thinks of Kölsch, odds are it rests nicely in the “miscellaneous curiosity” category in their heads. Unlike trendy, popular craft styles like IPAs, imperial stouts, and American golden ales, Kölsch is a style you read about but usually don’t go nuts over.

But drinking Cabin Boys Brewery’s Cast-A-Line Kölsch might make local beerheads reassess. The single-malt Western German-style ale conjures fresh buttermilk biscuits, handmade pie crust, and lemongrass. It is, in a single word, dope. Its doughy, comforting sweetness balances a mild, bitter zing of noble hops on the finish.

The brewers at Cabin Boys hate to choose a favorite beer, but they admit to a particular fondness for the Kölsch, one of McIlroy’s proudest creations. Based on his research—picking the brains of traditional German brewers—he believes their Cast-A-Line is a perfect example of the style.

McIlroy also spent time in Belgium learning the country’s brewing secrets. Cabin Boys’ Bearded Theologian quad ale contains all the delicious elements of the Belgian quad and a 8.4% ABV, resulting in a punch of malt with accents of raisins, dates, and dulce de leche—without the astringent backlash of a higher alcohol content. As the name suggests, it is a mellow, strong, benevolent, and deep beer.

The Cornerstone Saison ale is a classic wild and cloudy saison at 6.2% ABV. Complex and refreshing with yeasty citrus flavors, it is the lowest ABV saison they offer. Cabin Boys also intends to release medium and super variations of the Cornerstone, which they believe will fill a niche in the Tulsa and Oklahoma craft beer scenes.

“[Oklahoma is] one of the biggest consumers of 3.2 beer. That product quality is not the best by any means. It’s just a means of getting drunk,” Arnold said.

In the near future, they plan to host movie nights, sporting event watch parties, game tournaments, and other events designed for Tulsans to get together and have fun. The idea is to create an environment as enjoyable and welcoming as the original cabin in Catoosa. McIlroy wants to show the community that a taproom “is a community-based thing that can really be a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”

There, “cabin boy” is practically synonymous with “builder and facilitator.” They hope to build their own vision one craft beer at a time.

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