Two dentists and a brewer
The vision behind Heirloom Rustic Ales
Jake Miller, Melissa French, and Zach French in the Heirloom Rustic Ales brewery
The name invokes family and conveys years of tradition. This is exactly what Zach French had in mind when he conceived of it in 2016. Specifically, it pays homage to the traditional brewing methods of the European countryside—a style in which many of Heirloom’s beers will be made.
The Heirloom Rustic Ales team is composed of Zach and Melissa French and Jake Miller. Professionally, Zach and Melissa are both dentists, but Zach has been home brewing since 2001 and Melissa’s knack for design is the driving force behind the taproom’s aesthetic. After stints at breweries across the country, Miller brings years of brewing experience to Heirloom. He got his start at Tulsa’s Prairie Artisan Ales and American Solera, then went on to become the head brewmaster at Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Oregon.
“I wanted to go to arguably the most competitive brewing scene in the country and see what that was like,” Miller said. “I wanted to put some beers out there that weren’t underneath the umbrella of a larger brewery. I wanted to see how these beers would do.”
After a year at Wolves & People, Miller migrated to Florida’s St. Somewhere Brewery where he continued to gain experience and add to his network of fellow brewers. But a call from the Frenches asking him to be a part of Heirloom brought him back to Tulsa.
“There is nobody I’d rather be working with,” Miller said. “For me, working with beer is super important, but doing it with the right people is just as important.”
As Tulsa’s craft beer scene grows, it’s easy to wonder if there is tension between local brewers. According to Miller, it’s not the norm.
“My interaction with the craft beer community has always been one of comradery,” Miller said. “The amount of times I’ve had to call a different brewery for a bag of grain or a yeast pitch or something along those lines—I’ve never had to call the second brewery on the list.”
Heirloom even called upon friends at Anthem Brewing Company and Marshall Brewing Company for advice on designing their new space.
Heirloom strives to make a product that wholly originates in Oklahoma, but couldn’t source the barrels for their barrel-aged blended beers in-state. That’s when Miller called upon other friends—Brittan Vineyards winemakers in Oregon.
The pinot noir barrels that will hold Miller’s beer, held his friends’ wine 8 months prior. So even the barrels are a sort of heirloom.
Barrel-aged blended beers are only one of the three primary beer categories on which Heirloom will focus. Heirloom plans to have up to 12 beers on tap, all falling within the larger categories of barrel-aged blended, saison, or lager.
It’s no longer enough in the brewing world to have a beer program created by brewers with seasoned pedigrees. According to Miller, it’s this level of trust and familiarity the co-owners share that helps them focus more on differentiating themselves.
“Most of our conversation has been about how we are going to interact with the community and how we are going to create a space that brings people in,” Miller said.
Enter Melissa French.
She has carefully designed the brewery’s aesthetic to be inviting. Located in the Kendall Whittier District (2113 E. Admiral Blvd.), the brewery and taproom fill with natural light pouring through the building’s original windows. Patrons will gather around the bar’s centerpiece, an outline of Oklahoma made with reclaimed lumber from Oklahoma fences. A large mural of a bison emblazoned with hops and wheat embellishes one of the exterior walls.
“We were all just focused on trying to create the coolest space that we possibly could,” Miller said. “We wanted it to be a community hub. The thing that all three of us kept coming back to as far as a beer philosophy is that we want to make approachable, refreshing, and affordable beers. We can’t wait to pour beers behind our bar and pass them to friends.”
Heirloom Rustic Ales is tentatively set to open in November.