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Big, bold, sour

Chase Healey opens American Solera, a beer society and taproom

Chase Healey started professionally in the beer industry as COOP’s original brewmaster (responsible for their most delicious beers, in my humble opinion, F5 and DNR). You might know him best, however, from starting Prairie Artisan Ales, which he sold in June to Krebs Brewing Co. Healey still brews for Prairie Brewpub in the Brady Arts District, but his main focus now is American Solera (AS), a beer society with a taproom that traffics mainly in sour beers. 

“I wanted to call it American because it’s broad—and bolder,” Healey said. “It’s of the country and not just the region, like ‘Prairie.’ And ‘Solera’ is the style of production—the idea is that we have one of those large oak tanks and we only take out maybe one-third of the product, add new product in, and it continues to age. … Hopefully if I’m still doing this in ten years, the tiniest bit of stuff from our launch will still exist.”

AS launched last month. Its beer society is currently made up of 250 members, though the number will grow with subsequent years. Each member purchased a $300 membership for the year, with the guarantee of receiving 20 bottles AS releases throughout the year, plus the option to have first right of refusal on buying more, as well as the opportunity to buy more than the general public is allowed. Some of the 20 guaranteed bottles will be production runs that are so small the general public will never see them.

So, yes, it’s a fancy, pricy beer club with a limited membership, but there’s good news for the rest of us.

On August 26, Oklahoma Senate Bill 424 went into effect, allowing full-strength beer to be served and bought in Oklahoma breweries. That same day, American Solera opened its doors to the public. Now, you can visit their taproom (1801 S. 49th W. Ave.) and sample the six or so beers on tap, as well as buy bottles and cans to take home.

Most AS beers are sours, but Healey does have a double IPA on draft and for sale in four-packs. At the time of writing this article, he had started selling the IPA three weeks prior. He began with 1000 four-packs, and when we spoke he had less than 100.

“The focus is definitely on the sour beers, but little projects like the IPA keep me going, too. I’ve got a problem—I like a lot of different beers, and I want to be able to make them. But 90 percent of what we’re doing is sour beer aged in oak barrels … It’s the hardest beer to make, and so it helps me feel fulfilled as a craftsman.”

Sour beer’s difficulty is two-fold: first, they are time-consuming, most taking six to 18 months to age, with some taking years. Secondly, they don’t always turn out. When Healey makes wild-fermented beer, with outdoor fermenters collecting wild yeast from the air, sometimes they turn out great, and sometimes Healey has to wait until they turn into something better, which might take three years.

I sampled AS’s current selection, and my advice is to get while the gettin’s good.

The double IPA, Terpy Citra, gets its name from terpines—basically the essential oils found in hops—and citra, a type of hops known for its lovely, not overpowering, citrus aroma. It’s malty, smells great, and at eight percent ABV, is on the lower-percentage end for double IPAs. The funky Money Blend farmhouse ale gave me goosebumps when I drank it. It’s got a mustard seed citrus thing happening on the nose and the acidity runs up the side of your tongue like a good, dry sour. My third favorite (yes, I’m playing favorites; it’s called “word count”) was the Foeder Cerise, which was like drinking a sour, nutmeggy fruitcake without the sweetness. Seriously, think dry, tart, delicious Christmas in a bottle.

Healey does plan to get some of the draft beer out into Tulsa, and may look at eventually moving into town, though he’s got a great space and doesn’t want to compromise the craft.

“My approach has been kind of backwards in not trying to let it be too many places. We’ve never in my experience in this industry been able to have so much control over our product, so it’s been cool to be able to say ‘no, I’m going to keep it here and let people come here.”

American Solera will release its newest sour, Western Culture, on September 23 and 24. This Lambic-inspired beer was wild fermented, aged for 18 months in oak barrels, and is complex, earthy, and—you guessed it—sour. It will be available on draft and in bottles. The taproom is open Wednesdays and Thursdays 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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