Piney River Brewing Company

Posts Tagged ‘Craft Beer’

First of the Piney River Farm Raised Beers…Lizzie Twister

In The BARn, The Beer on August 4, 2016 at 10:58 pm

We’ve made a new beer that’s selling like hot cakes this summer in the tap room. Lizzie Twister is a Berliner-style weisse beer which means that it’s a style of wheat beer traditionally made in Germany. In fact, a Berliner weisse is a tart wheat beer. This style of beer is also traditionally low ABV, so Lizzie is a mere 4% which is nice and easy on a hot day in the Ozarks.

To make this beer, we brewed the beer then pithed lactobacillus into the beer while it was in the fermentation vessel. The lactobacillus when used properly gives the beer a slightly tart flavor.

This is the first beer of this type that we’ve made. We needed to wait until we had a separate brewing space for beers that have things like lactobacillus in them. That’s what we’re using our first brew space–the BARn–for these days. And we’re calling these beers “Farm Raised”.

Right now Lizzie Twister is only in kegs, so we’ve had it at some events like the Springfield Craft Beer Bash and a St. Louis Craft Beer Week tap takeover at Three Kings in Des Peres. We’ll have it at the Great Arkansas Beer Fest this weekend. And we’re serving up pints of it all weekend, every weekend at the BARn tap room. We’re filling cr0wlers and growlers with it, too.

So let me tell you a little story about how the name Lizzie Twister came to be…

Waaay back, a long time ago, maybe even back in our home brewer days, Brian and I heard about this spot on the Big Piney River. This spot is upstream from us. It’s not even a spot we know well, but the spot has a great name…Lizzie Twister.

Brian and I both remember seeing that name on a river map and thinking to ourselves and saying to each other, “That would be a great beer name.” So we tucked Lizzie Twister away for a long time until the “right” beer came along that should be named Lizzie Twister.

Got a slightly tart, easy drinking beer? Got the name Lizzie Twister? Seemed like a match made in heaven.

If you’re like us, you know there isn’t a hill or holler or river bend in the Ozarks that isn’t named something for some reason. How in the world did a spot on the Big Piney River get named Lizzie Twister? Here’s what we’ve been told:

The Jackson Brothers were at wit’s end. Their raft had hung up in the bend below Hell’s Roaring Rocky Shoals on the Big Piney. It was hot, the river had been low, and now they were faced with untangling the mess that had occurred that day.

It was late in the day, they had some homebrew and food along, so they decided to just build a small campfire before dark, heat up some beans, have a brew or two before bedtime, and tackle their problem in the morning.

Right before getting the bedrolls out, there was a noise in the woods next to the gravel bar. They wondered what kind of critter would be coming toward the fire and the voices.

Out of the woods stepped Lizzie from Hazleton Springs. She had heard the voices from up river, walked down to check the boys out. The Jackson Brothers knew her well.

“Hey, Lizzie, we are in a jam,” they said. “Our raft is all twisted up. Can you help?”

Lizzie gave the boys a sly look from corner of her eyes. She clucked her tongue, put her hands on her hips and asked, “It depends. Do you have any Hot Date Ale in a can?”

And all the problems were solved.

The End.


If you come to the BARn to try Lizzie Twister, you can enjoy it plain or with a shot of fruit syrup (which is also traditionally added to Berliner weisse beers in Germany). From left to right we’ve got Blackberry Lizzie Twister; Peach Lizzie Twister; Raspberry Lizzie Twister, or just the unflavored version of Lizzie Twister.


Party Like It’s Been Five (?!) Years on the Farm

In Beer Events on February 24, 2016 at 7:27 am

5th aleiversary posterPiney River Brewing Company is celebrating their fifth anniversary on Sat., Mar. 19th at the brewery in Bucyrus.

The “5th Aleiversary” party will be held at the BARn—the brewery and tap room located off Junction ZZ—from 12 to 7 p.m.

“Once again, we are looking forward to enjoying a beautiful spring day in the Ozarks at our upcoming Aleiversary,” Joleen Durham, co-founder and owner, said.

Durham described the Aleiversary as “the biggest event in Bucyrus”. Last year’s event brought in almost 1,000 people from across the region to the Piney River Farm.

“The event is family-friendly, and there is no charge for admission,” Durham said. “Many Piney River fans look forward to this day at the BARn all year long.”

The Piney River tap room will pour several beers that are available year round in the tap room including Float Trip Ale, Black Walnut Wheat, McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, Bronzeback Pale Ale, Old Tom Porter, Missouri Mule India Pale Ale and Masked Bandit IPA.

Crankbait Cream Ale, the brewery’s spring seasonal will also be available. Paw Paw French Saison will be poured again for the day, and some yet-to-be-named beers may also be available.

“Our most anticipated limited release beer to be available at the Aleiversary will be our Mule Team India Pale Ale,” Brian Durham, co-founder and head brewer, said.

Mule Team IPA is an imperial India pale ale that was first brewed for Piney River’s 2014 anniversary event.

“This year’s Mule Team IPA has strong hop flavor and aroma,” Brian Durham said, explaining that the 2016 imperial IPA will be 10 percent alcohol by volume.

“All of the brewing staff is very excited about releasing this year’s version of Mule Team IPA at the Aleiversary,” Brian Durham said.

Mule Team IPA takes almost a month to complete from brewing to packaging. The “5th Aleiversary Limited Release” Mule Team label thanks the team—“dedicated employees, partnerships with distributors, support of friends, neighbors and craft beer lovers”—that has helped the brewery achieve success over the past five years.Mule TeamNEW

Mule Team IPA and the other beers will be available all weekend long, beginning on Friday afternoon when the tap room opens and going through Sunday evening, if they do not run out.

“Saturday’s party can be a little too busy for some people, so we will plan to have enough Mule Team IPA available to last all weekend long,” Joleen Durham said. “You will be able to enjoy a pint in the tap room or purchase a four-pack to take home.”

Durham noted that because Mule Team IPA is only released once a year, many people purchase multiple four-packs to ration it out throughout the year.

“Mule Team IPA is a beer that can be enjoyed a few months down the road if it is cellared properly,” she said.

In addition to the handcrafted ales, the Aleiversary will feature two bands providing live music—Casey Lynne and the Dealbreakers and Deep Fried Squirrel, both from Springfield. Both bands feature multi-talented instrumentalists and singers that perform Americana, folk and rock covers and original songs.

Two food trucks will be available on the 19th. Mike and Julie’s Smoked Meats of Huggins will provide unique handmade foods such as Irish nachos and smoked meat sliders. Twisted Mikes Food Truck of Springfield will provide a tasty twist on traditional sandwiches, tacos and fries.

Piney River Brewing is located on Durham’s 80-acre farm, operating out of a restored 70-year old barn. Durham founded the brewery with his wife, Joleen, in 2010 with a 10-gallon brewing system.

In 2015, Piney River Brewing produced over 2,200 barrels of beer. A $1.2 million expansion was completed on the farm, allowing the brewery to increase production with a new brewhouse, canning line and cold storage.

The brewery has distribution throughout most of Missouri and Arkansas.

A Grand Opening & You’re Invited

In Beer Events on January 7, 2016 at 11:14 pm

piney river farm with signPiney River Brewing is planning a grand opening weekend for their new brewing facility on February 5, 6, and 7, 2016. The weekend event will begin with ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. that Friday on the Piney River Farm in Bucyrus.

Piney River Brewing recently completed the largest expansion in the history of the brewery. The expansion includes a 12,000 square foot barn located near the current “BARn” production facility and tap room.

The new building houses a custom built 15-barrel three-vessel brew house from Criveller Company of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; four 60-barrel fermentation vessels and two 60-barrel bright beer tanks from Paul Mueller Company in Springfield, MO and a Series Three eight-head automatic canner from Wild Goose Canning in Boulder, CO.

This expansion is the third expansion since the company opened its doors in March 2011 as a nanobrewery, brewing 10 gallons of beer at a time.  The brewery was also the first microbrewery in the state of Missouri to can beer on site in November 2011 with an MC100 two-head Wild Goose canning machine.

The new brew house and cellar will give Piney River the capacity to brew up to 10,000 barrels of beer, with plenty of room for additional growth.  In 2015, Piney River produced just over 2,000 barrels of beer.

“Everyone that regularly visits the BARn has watched the construction progress at our brewery over the past year,” Brian Durham, head brewer and owner, said. “We are excited to have a weekend to celebrate with our friends, family and everyone that loves Piney River beer.”

The ribbon cutting is open to the public at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 5th. Joleen and Brian Durham will give tours of the new brewing facility all weekend long at the top of every hour beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday until 8 p.m. that night. Tours will be available from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 12 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. There is no charge for a tour of the brewery.

In addition to the opportunity to tour the brewery throughout the weekend, Mike and Julie’s Smoked Meats will be available for purchase on Friday and Saturday.

“None of this growth would have been possible without the great support from our local community, the craft beer lovers throughout Missouri and Arkansas that have been drinking our beer for the past four years, and our distribution partners,” Durham said. “We hope that everyone that is able will join us during the grand opening weekend. We are proud to share this beautiful addition on our farm with them.”

Currently the brewery is distributed in most of Missouri and in Arkansas. Distribution is available in Missouri through Bluff City Beer in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff and Herculaneum; Grellner Sales in Rolla, West Plains, Camdenton and Sedalia; Heart of America Beverage in Springfield and Joplin; NH Scheppers in Jefferson City and Columbia; and Summit Distributing in Saint Louis. Glidewell Distributing in Fort Smith distributes Piney River beer throughout the state of Arkansas.image


How Piney River Runs Through St. Louis

In The Beer on October 15, 2015 at 8:38 pm

A couple of years ago, Brian and I poured beer at Augusta Bottoms Bierfest. We met John Hummel from Summit Distributing for the first time at that festival.summit

Like many people in the St. Louis area, John and members of his family had found a little convenience store near St. Louis where they could sometimes find Piney River beer. They wanted more.

John had also heard about Piney River through the Missouri wholesale distributor network. He let us know that he would like a seat at the table when we began talking to distributors in the St. Louis area. I’m pretty sure that we had no clue when that conversation would ever take place.

St. Louis? That’s a huge market. St. Louis? They have lots of great craft beer there already. St. Louis? How could we ever possibly meet the demand?

Fast forward to spring 2014. We began looking at ways to meet our current distribution needs. There were lots of thing we knew: We need a new brewhouse. We need a bigger place to brew beer.  And if we had a bigger place to brew beer and a bigger brewhouse, we would also need all the other stuff…bigger cellar, bigger cooler, bigger canning line. And If we had all of that, what would that mean for the Piney River brand?

IMG_3094Earlier this year, we picked that conversation with John back up. It was a beautiful Friday in April at the BARn. John, Brian Dix and Ryan Carolan stood on the new concrete waiting for the construction of a bigger barn. They tried our beers. They listened to our story of brewing beer on the kitchen stove and hauling old hay out of a barn loft to winning a World Beer Cup.

IMG_3111About a month later, we visited Summit’s offices and warehouse in St. Louis. We met more of the Summit management team. John and Kim Barrow gave us a tour of the warehouse (Wow!), and we talked some more about how the Piney River brand could fit into the Summit portfolio.

Later this summer, a contract between Piney River and Summit was executed. More importantly, John and members of his team came back to the BARn in August. At Piney River, we believe in sharing beer while enjoying nature, and that’s exactly what we did.

With the Summit team, we drank beer, we floated and flipped our canoes on the Big Piney River, we drank some more beer, and we worked out a plan for Piney River to flow through St. Louis.

IMG_3434 IMG_3435 IMG_3436 IMG_3443

For as long as we’ve been brewing beer in Missouri, we’ve had the craft beer lovers in St. Louis and Kansas City asking for our beer in their bars and restaurants and on their store shelves. For the first time in about five years, we have finally reached the point where we are able to brew enough beer to begin to meet the demand a large metropolitan area places on a brewery. With every batch of beer on our new system, we are able to quadruple the amount of beer we turn out.

Why St. Louis?

Our microbrewer, Andy, shows our team a little love.

Our microbrewer, Andy, shows our team a little love.

We love the Cardinals. We love the Missouri Botanical Gardens. And City Museum. And Ted Drewes.

Seriously, the reality is that we are only 2.5 hours from St. Louis, so that’s a little easier to work around with our first foray into a major metro area. Brian and I still try to be at and do as many events as possible. We love the opportunity to share a beer with the people that enjoy our beer.

With this brewery expansion and the ability to provide lots more beer to the good people in the Ozarks, we have hired our first salesperson. Yay for Rick Lange, and the ground he’s helping us cover! Rick will also help us in the St. Louis market.

We are working diligently to fill the orders our current distributors—Grellner Sales, Heart of America Beverage, NH Scheppers Distributing, Bluff City Beer Co., and Glidewell Distributing have placed with us. We hope to help all of them grow the Piney River brand in their respective markets. And we’re excited to add Summit Distributing to the Piney River family of distributors.

So, the cat’s out of the bag. Piney River will be available in St. Louis city, St. Louis County, St. Charles county and Lincoln county. You’ll find Piney River in cans and on draft in bars and restaurants and on shelves. And if you don’t see it, ask for it.

A huge thanks to John Hummel for his efforts to bring Piney River to St. Louis. We are really looking forward to working with the entire Summit Distributing team. This is really happening!  The first week of November, Summit Distributing is will spread a little bit of the Piney River Farm all over St. Louis.

The Piney River Farm

The Piney River Farm

3rd Annual Drink Your Part for the Houston Education Foundation Event

In Beer Events, The BARn on September 2, 2015 at 7:45 am
Houston Schools recently completed a major construction project. HEF purchased new computers for the new media center that is in the 2nd floor of this new construction.

Houston Schools recently completed a major construction project. HEF purchased new computers for the new media center that is in the 2nd floor of this new construction.

Piney River Brewing is hosting a fundraiser for the Houston Education Foundation (HEF) on Saturday, September 5th at the BARn Tap Room.

Houston Education Foundation board members will be at the BARn from 2 to 7 p.m. selling bratwurst and hot dogs to raise funds for the local charity which benefits the students in the Houston School District. Piney River will donate a portion of all pint sales from the day to HEF.

Scott Dill, superintendent at Houston schools, and other musical professionals in the district will sing and play for tips that will also be donated to HEF.

Lucas Clem and Stacey Uchtman, brewers at Piney River, have brewed two specialty beers that will be released exclusively for the benefit. “Teacher’s Pet” is an apple beer highlighting the flavor of apples in an easy to drink ale. “Apples in the Fall” is also an apple beer featuring the flavor of apples and spices commonly found in apple pie or apple butter.

The event is free and open to the public, including families. Andy’s Homemade Root Beer is a non-alcoholic option available at the BARn.

Beginning this weekend, the BARn is open all weekend long, too...Friday, Saturday & Sunday!

Beginning this weekend, the BARn is open all weekend long, too…Friday, Saturday & Sunday!

Brewcyrus Does Portland, A CBC 2015 Recap

In Beer Events on April 20, 2015 at 10:13 pm

“This is insane,” the cab driver said to Brian and I.

He was talking about the 11,000+ people in attendance at the Craft Brewer’s Conference in Portland last week.

“We aren’t able to handle groups like this,” the cab driver said. “We had a big coffee convention here, but those people didn’t go out to big events every night and need rides everywhere.”  (Which leads me to believe that the coffee folks just don’t have nearly as much fun as the beer folks.)

This was our 5th time to attend a Craft Brewer’s Conference, our first time to visit Portland, and the first time we were able to take our brewers—Amber and Lucas—to the conference, too. I’m sure we can all do much more damage to the Portland experience in the future, but while we were there we went hard and jammed as much fun as we could into the hours our feet were on Oregon soil.


Left Bucyrus about 4:15 a.m. (CST) on Tuesday morning. Our plane landed in Portland about 2 p.m. (PST), and we were at Breakside Brewery drinking their GABF Gold Medal winning IPA and Pale Ale within two hours. Special thanks to the staff at Breakside for showing us around and for incredible hospitality.

A barrel full of tasty pours at Breakside.

A barrel full of tasty pours at Breakside.

And if it isn’t a small world—while at Breakside, we met Breakside brewmaster Ben Edmunds, and he asked, “Piney River? Do you make a porter?”

Of course we make a porter. Our Old Tom Porter had been part of the “Best of Craft Beer Awards” held in Oregon in January (where we bagged a gold award for our Masked Bandit IPA), and Ben was one of the judges. He liked the porter enough that he snagged the extra can of Old Tom Porter to take home and enjoy.

Checking out the barrel room at Breakside.

Breakside brewer, Nao, showing us the barrel room at Breakside.

We went from the brewery to the circus-themed opening ceremony where we started catching up with our craft beer friends and family while noshing on piles of oysters and Voodoo Donuts, all paired with Oregon-brewed craft beer. And that was followed by a fun little party in our hotel hosted by Lagunitas Brewing. No naps needed, it was an hour or two into Wednesday morning before we closed our eyes.  Time change and jet lag?  Take that!

Opening Reception at CBC 2015

Darth Vader on Bagpipes, Opening Reception at CBC 2015

Fire hoops at the Opening Reception, CBC 2015.

Fire hoops at the Opening Reception, CBC 2015.

We ran into David, Kathy, Keith and Alex from Bluff City Beer and Logan and Rodney from Grellner Sales.  It's one big happy craft beer family!

We ran into David, Kathy, Keith and Alex from Bluff City Beer and Logan and Rodney from Grellner Sales. It’s one big happy craft beer family!

On the bazillion square foot trade show floor at the conference we all fought off ADD trying to keep track of where we had been, who we talked to, where we wanted to go, who we needed to talk to all while being distracted by things we had never seen. Shortly after the trade show opened, we were all aware that our new Wild Goose Canning Machine was part of their floor display. How exciting is that?

Wild Goose Canning!  Piney River Brewing!  We CAN! Part 2...coming soon!

Wild Goose Canning! Piney River Brewing! We CAN! Part 2…coming soon!


There were educational seminars every day on very exciting beer topics like “Yeast Management”, “Dry Hopping” and “Operating in Confined Spaces” that Lucas, Amber and Brian went to. Making high quality beer is numero uno at Piney River, but I attended classes that helped me stay in the know on the marketing and selling of craft beer in classes like “DIY Kick Ass Beer Festivals”.

We went to sweet parties at night hosted by Lagunitas, Oskar Blues and industry suppliers. We had the most fun on Thursday night at “We Can Jam” a canned craft beer party at the Wonder Ballroom hosted by Wild Goose, Crown and others supplying the canned craft beer industry. The event featured canned craft beer, music by Scott Pemberton Trio and The Supersuckers, and a photo booth.

Hey!  It's our West Coast craft beer family--Mike & Linda Hess and brewer, Frank.  We first met Mike & Linda in San Francisco at CBC 2015, and last CBC we both won World Beer Cup Gold Awards in Denver at CBC 2014.

Hey! It’s our West Coast craft beer family–Mike & Linda Hess and brewer, Frank Butler, from Mike Hess Brewing in San Diego. We first met Mike & Linda in San Francisco at CBC 2011.  Last CBC we both won World Beer Cup Gold Awards in Denver at CBC 2014.

This is called: How Many Brewers Can We Fit in a Photo Booth?

This is called: How Many Brewers Can We Fit in a Photo Booth?

The Supersuckers at Wonder Ballroom

The Supersuckers at Wonder Ballroom

A little Piney River fun in the We Can Jam photo booth.

A little Piney River fun in the We Can Jam photo booth.

(It was in the photo booth we determined that Brian lost his CBC badge. Have you seen The Hangover…everybody is having fun that they can’t remember the next morning, so they look at the photos. That was us. On Friday morning, when Brian couldn’t find his conference badge, we had to look back through photos from the night before. Brian was last seen wearing his badge in the We Can Jam photo booth. He must have accidentally removed it when he took off the feather boa he was posing with.)

It was at We Can Jam that we with the help of the Wild Goose employees dreamed up the idea of the best canning machine install ever—Canapalooza at Piney River Farm. We decided that it would take the entire Wild Goose crew to help install our new machine…and a bonfire…and beer…and Lucas delivering firewood…and beer…and a float trip…and beer…and music…and beer….all in the beautiful Ozark hills of Brewcyrus. No word on when the bus from Boulder will arrive….

We did not put our politics aside while in Oregon. Everyone from Piney River stopped at the Brewer’s Association booth and sent an emails to US Representative Jason Smith and US Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt asking them to co-sponsor the Small BREW Act because excise tax reform for small breweries is an important thing to all of us craft brewers and it will help create jobs and provide funds to reinvest back into our local breweries. And I stepped up into a board role for Missouri Small Brewer’s Guild.

The Brewer’s Association puts on an excellent conference every year. Not only is it fun, but it’s an opportunity for breweries of all sizes to come together and network and learn together. The commitment to high quality craft beer is unwavering, and the industry suppliers know that we want the tools to help us achieve that. We can see a lot of those tools first hand. We also were able to take part in a full slate of classes with excellent guest lecturers. Brewing is not always glamorous or high paying, but it is awesome to be able to connect with others in the industry in this way once a year.

Before 12 a.m., we were on the Friday night red-eye flight out of Portland.  Saw the sun come up in Detroit.  Found ourselves back in Bucyrus by 1:30.  Three time zones stops in 9 hours.  #howweroll

Next year’s conference is in Philadelphia. Brian and I are going back to the scene of the crime—that’s where we first met in September 1992 at small liberal arts college on the Main Line. And that’s when the next World Beer Cup Awards will be held, too.  We imagine that it may just be another good time.

Piney River Brewing Plans $1.2 Million Expansion at Bucyrus Farm

In The Beer on December 11, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Piney River Brewing will soon be available to more craft beer fans across the Ozarks with a $1.2 million expansion beginning this week at the Bucyrus, MO farm-based brewery.

The expansion includes a 12,000 square foot barn located near the current “BARn” production facility and tap room.

The new building will house a custom built 15-barrel three-vessel brew house from Criveller Company of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; four 60-barrel fermentation vessels and two 60-barrel bright beer tanks from Paul Mueller Company in Springfield, MO and a Series Three eight-head automatic canner from Wild Goose Canning in Boulder, CO.

This expansion is the third expansion since the company opened its doors in March 2011 as a nanobrewery, brewing 10 gallons of beer at a time. The brewery was also the first microbrewery in the state of Missouri to can beer on site in November 2011 with an MC100 two-head Wild Goose canning machine.

Piney River is on track to produce 1,800 barrels of beer in 2014, having produced 1,100 barrels in 2013 and 525 barrels in 2012. The new brew house and cellar will give Piney River the capacity to brew up to 9,000 barrels, with plenty of room for additional growth. The new equipment is slated to come on line by May 2015.

“Currently, the demand for Piney River beer is much greater than what we are able to supply,” Brian Durham, head brewer and owner, said.

Durham explained that retail shelves and distributor warehouses have been low and empty over the last few months because the brewery could not keep up with growing demand.

In October 2013 Piney River won a Great American Beer Festival gold for their Old Tom Porter, followed in April by a World Beer Cup gold for their Float Trip Ale. Both beers were seasonal brands until they claimed top accolades in their style.

“We are in a great situation for a small brewery, and with this expansion we are looking forward to being able to easily supply beer to all of our distributors,” Durham said. “We also hope to begin to distribute some Piney River in the major metropolitan markets in our state.”

Currently the brewery is distributed in all of central and southern Missouri and in Arkansas. Distribution is available in Missouri through Bluff City Beer in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff and Herculaneum; Grellner Sales in Rolla, West Plains, Camdenton and Sedalia; Heart of America Beverage in Springfield and Joplin, and NH Scheppers in Jefferson City and Columbia. Glidewell Distributing in Fort Smith distributes Piney River beer throughout the state of Arkansas.

Durham noted that it was important to his distributors that the brewery would remain on the Durham family farm.

“We have a great Ozark spring water supply that helps us make excellent English-style ales, and a visit to the BARn tap room is truly an original Ozark experience,” Durham said.

The original brewery and the tap room are located in a 1940’s era restored barn located on the Piney River Farm.

Joleen Senter Durham, brewery co-founder, explained, “It’s an honor to share our little piece of heaven with the world.”

“Our goal has always been to produce high quality craft beer that celebrates the Ozarks,” Joleen Durham said, “We are fortunate to be living the American dream here in the Ozarks, too.”

When the new production facility is running, the Durham’s plan to re-purpose the brewing portion of the current BARn to produce small batch beer, including barrel-aging and sour beer production.

“We are looking forward to having space to tinker with new recipes and to create some special beer blends that will only be available on a very limited basis,” Brian Durham said.

For more information on Piney River Brewing visit their website at

Joleen, Brian, the BARn and award-winning beer.

Joleen, Brian, the BARn and award-winning beer.

The Behind the Scenes Peek at Our First World Beer Cup Win

In The Beer on April 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I need to preface this blog post by saying that I feel like anything I write here is going to seem much less dramatic than Piney River’s first big win at the Great American Beer Festival.  Even in those moments after we won Gold at GABF last October, I remember thinking, “There will never be another moment like this one.”  There’s only one first time.

Shortly after the 2013 Great American Beer Festival, we were contacted to participate in the largest beer competition in the world–the World Beer Cup.  Also put on by the Brewer’s Association, the World Beer Cup is an international stage for the winning beers.  Gold, silver and bronze “cup” awards are given based on blind taste judging from a panel of judges–mostly from around the world.  A World Beer Cup is held for two years because the competition is only held every other year,  and this year, the World Beer Cup was scheduled to be held in Denver on Friday night following the Craft Brewer’s Conference.

Again, we entered the maximum number of beers–this time it was four styles.  In February, Brian and I sat at the dining room table with four packs of freshly canned beer around us.  We made our selections and sent our beers to Denver about a month ahead of the competition.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that Brian and I had more than one conversation about the possible “huge year” that we could have with a GABF gold followed by a World Beer Cup win.  Was it possible?

We arrived in Denver last Monday evening.  We attended our first Craft Brewer’s Conference (CBC) in San Francisco in 2011.  Over the past four years, we’ve watched the conference more than double in size.  The trade show floor has grown too large to leisurely walk through.  But the quality of the programs and the access to industry tools and information is unparallelled.  Although we get up early and stay up way too late every night, Brian and I really enjoy taking a vacation from our day jobs to attend the CBC.

Most importantly, we get to be with “our people“.  The longer we are in the industry, the more people we know.  Sometimes we only see these people once a year, so it’s sort of like a mini-family reunion–with lots of beer!

cbc 2014 denvercbc 2014 mile highcbc 2014 stringdusters

Some highlights of the week–Great meal and craft beer at Euclid Hall.  CBC opening reception at Mile High Stadium.  Canarchy at Star BarThe Infamous Stringdusters in concert at the Ogden Theatre hosted by Oskar Blues Brewery.  Interesting seminars on everything from dissolved oxygen in your beer (yes, this is something we do worry about) to forecasting sales of seasonal beers.  We even got to see Andy  featured on the trade show hall floor in the You Tube I made of our labeling machine in action labeling cold, wet cans coming off our Wild Goose canning line.

Friday night and the World Beer Cup Gala rolled around really quickly.  This time there were no dreams of winning gold while sleeping the night before.  No “signs” on the trip to Denver.  Again, we found ourselves sitting amongst a bunch of folks from California.  Charlie Papazian had his tuxedo on.  The lights dimmed.  The awards ceremony began.

cbc 2014 wbc gala 2cbc 2014 wbc gala 1

Four-thousand seven hundred fifty-four beers from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries were included in the competition.  (This was a 21 percent increase over the 2012 World Beer Cup.)  Stiff competition.

I’ve always teased Brian about being an immediate gratification kind of guy, and that’s exactly what we got on Friday night.  American-style wheat beer was the first category.  Bronze and silver were announced and popped up on the large screens in the ballroom.  “And the gold goes to…”

“Float” was all that Chris Swersey was able to say before Brian was whooping and jumping up out of his chair beside me.

Things were moving in slow motion for me.  I remember hearing Brian start getting rowdy, but I sat and watched our name fill the screen.

There it was “Float Trip Ale” in large print with “Gold” right next to it.

High fives.  Hugs.  And then we were standing next to Paul Gatza getting ready to walk on stage for a photo with Charlie Papazian.  AGAIN!

world beer cup award by hess

As we left the stage, there were arrows pointing us back behind some curtain where our actual award engraved with our name was given to us.  Andy Sparhawk, the craft beer coordinator at the Brewer’s Association, came running over to us, eyes as big as saucers.  Andy was the one that asked back in October last year, “What will you do if you win?”, referring to the possibility of a GABF award.

Andy, Brian, and I had an “Oh my god, how is this possible?!” moment together.  More high fives and yelling.  This is the stuff dreams are made of !

This time, Brian had the shakes.  He went to get us celebratory beers, and he couldn’t hold the glasses still.  As we weaved our way through the crowd to get back into the ballroom, our friends from The Public House Brewery in Rolla were on a back row with high fives and hugs.

Hey Brian--It's a World Beer Cup GOLD!

Hey Brian–It’s a World Beer Cup GOLD!

When we got back to our seats, one of the ladies from the California group, said, “You freaked us out.”  Then she wanted to know exactly who we were.

That was the only award for Piney River that night.  But as we know, one is all you need.

Two hundred twenty-six breweries went home with one award that night.  Twenty-six breweries won two awards, and one brewery won three.  Twenty-eight percent of the awards went to breweries outside the US.  We saw World Beer Cup awards go to breweries from all over Europe, and also to breweries in Asia, Australia, South and Central America.

We were there to witness our friends from Mike Hess Brewing in San Diego as they received their first major award–a World Cup Gold for Rye beer.  Mike Hess Brewery started out as a nanobrewery, and we first met the Hess family in 2011 at the San Francisco CBC.  Mike Hess recently put in a larger brewhouse and canning line.  I got to yell, “Gold, baby!”  Brian ran up and high fived the whole crew on their way to the stage.  After the ceremony we all went to the top of the hotel and celebrated with a bottle of champagne.

Cloud 9--it's somewhere near the top of the Hyatt Regency in Denver

Cloud 9? It’s somewhere near the top of the Hyatt Regency in Denver.

The Hess crew celebrating GOLD!

The Hess crew celebrating GOLD!

Once again, we are fortunate to receive a huge honor for an extremely Ozark-centric beer.  Float Trip.  A “float trip” is a quintessential Ozark experience.  We’ve made a world class beer that celebrates something that we all love to do in the Ozarks.  Even better–this beer is a great beer to drink when you’re on a float trip!

Yeah, it’s still insane here at Piney River, but the time of our lives just keeps getting better and better.

cbc 2014 wbc award

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver on Friday night.  Shown here, left to right:  Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver.  Shown here, left to right: Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Prepared to be Overwhelmed–Our 3rd Aleiversary Tale

In Beer Events on March 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

“If you would have told me a year ago that I would be standing here tonight making potato salad for ‘my staff’ for the Aleiversary After Party, I would have laughed.” That’s what I told Brian on Friday night about 9 p.m.

Install a bar in the upstairs tap room before the 1st Aleiversary? We did that in March 2012.

Put together tables and chairs for 100 before the 2nd Aleiversary? We did that in March of 2013.

Every year we’ve been building something until hours before our big event. This year, we had professional help from Tim Prater at the Wood Mill installing a new cherry rail and standing bar area and Randy Hendricks from Hendricks Home Builders in doing some bathroom work. My dad also went into the picnic table making business, adding another 10 tables to our collection of outdoor furniture. The township sent their grader that week and smoothed out the potholes and rough spots in our gravel road. Larry Booker hauled in chat for our drive and our expanded parking lot. Other than that, we just made sure the beer was ready, and oh yeah, we purchased compostable cups—no glassware washing this year!

“We are prepared to be overwhelmed,” I told everyone that asked “What are you doing?” to prepare for the Aleiversary.

An “All Hands on Deck” bulletin was given out to all the Piney River co-workers in November 2013…Our Christmas Party is on December 21, please attend if you can. Our Aleiversary is March 15th,we need you to work that day, all day.


Brian and I trekked out to the brewery on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., and the rest of our crew arrived between 10:30 and 11. At 10, Brian said, “I’m not sure we’re going to have everything set up by noon.” He was wrong, our staff knows what to do, and with all of us working together, we’re a mighty team. We were ready to pour beer and party at 11:45.

We extended the size of the parking lot…it was too small anyway. We moved the girlfriends out of their favorite pasture into the back and side pastures so more cars and trucks could park in the front field. Brian and Jamie parked vehicles at the beginning, and it wasn’t any time before the front lot was filled and the pasture and roadsides began being filled, too. My dad did an “unofficial count” of 147 cars sometime between 2 and 3 p.m.

Amber and Caleb ran the beer tent—Cream Ale, Black Walnut Wheat, Leo Brown Ale and Bronzeback Pale Ale were all that many people ever drank. They found a picnic table, brought a camp chair, got some food and never bothered to step inside the brewery.


The line to Mike and Julie’s Smoked Meats didn’t end until they ran out of food.

The bands—The Farethewells from Salem and Deep Fried Squirrel from Springfield—pumped their tunes outside so you could dance just about anywhere on the farm.


Debra, Lucas & Jonathan ran the tap room bar—a never ending sea of people clamored for drinks for at least seven hours straight. The tap room and the deck were full all day long.


We brewed and canned a special 3rd Aleiversary beer, Mule Team Imperial IPA. Mule Team was available on draft and four-packs were for sale. The Mule Team was a big hit, and we got to be the proud parents of our first big batch of Imperial IPA (there’s still some left–draft and four packs if you’re so inclined).

We had guests from neighboring states, towns throughout Missouri and locals. We had friends, neighbors and family. We prepared to be overwhelmed, and everything went extremely well. We ran out of almost all the special beers–yay! We ran out of paper towels–oops! Our co-workers were on their feet for 9 to 10 hours straight. They didn’t get planned breaks. They barely got to go to the bathroom. They were awesome! Luckily we asked Mike to smoke ribs and pork butt for us to go with the aforementioned potato salad along with baked beans and brownies. I don’t know what everyone was most grateful for at the end of the day–a seat at the fire pit or food.

After everyone went home, the food and beer were put away, the bonfire was coals, Brian and I couldn’t sleep we were so stoked about everything that happened in the day before. We didn’t sit, we had little time to talk with friends and family, we ran upstairs and down, we hooked and unhooked kegs, we worked, but what’s new. It was a GREAT day.

At some point during the day we ran into each other in the brewery. “We did it!” High five. Hug. Kiss. We are having some of the most fun of our lives.

As our Mule Team Imperial India Pale Ale label says:

Two people with a dream, an old barn, a love for the Ozarks and craft beer cannot succeed on their own. It takes a team–dedicated employees, partnerships with distributors, the support of friends, neighbors and craft beer lovers. Thank you for pulling with us over the past three years.

We’re still having the time of our lives! –Joleen & Brian Durham

Thank you so much! Cheers!

Raccoons, Hops, Craft Beer & Good Times in the Ozarks

In The Beer on February 3, 2014 at 10:38 pm

As a brewer, there’s that moment when you send that first case of a new beer out to the distributor or when you hand the first new pint over to a customer.  You feel like a parent.  You want the best because, after all, you created this beer.  You want the beer to stand on its own.  You want the beer to be a great representative of you.

If you’ve followed Piney River Brewing for any time, you know that we’ve had a few proud parent moments…the consumer demand for Black Walnut Wheat, the GABF Gold medal for Old Tom Porter, the packaging option we came up with to brew and package seasonal beers–Float Trip Ale, Sweet Potato Ale, Hot Date Ale and most recently, Masked Bandit India Pale Ale.

Masked Bandit India Pale Ale is another one of those beers that we began developing over a year ago.  Brian and I are admitted India Pale Ale fans, but we also love black IPAs like Wookey Jack and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  Marshall Brewing in Tulsa makes a special release Black IPA, El CuCuy, that you need to try if you ever have a chance.  There’s something wonderful about a roasty, dark beer with a thick tan head that reeks of hop aroma and has a wonderful balance of roasted malt and hop flavor.

As we began playing with roasted malt and hops in search of our own black IPA, I thought of a way to pay homage to one of my favorite Ozark animals–the raccoon.  Thinking of animals that thrive in the dark of the Ozarks, my mind turned to the raccoon.


Raccoons and the Ozarks go hand in hand.  They rob the corn patch.  They steal the perfect watermelon the night before you plan to pick it.  We even caught a mama raccoon and her six babies stealing peaches from our tree in broad daylight.  If you frequent Ozark river banks, you’ll find empty mussel shells and crawdad carcasses littering the gravel bar where a raccoon or two enjoyed a little midnight dining.  Those glowing eyes on the edge of the yard or on your porch eating cat food at 2 am?  Hello Mr. Masked Bandit.

Little known fact–I was named after coon hunters.


Joel & Aileen Hatch on my first coon hunt.

My dad got college credit for raccoon hunting, and yes, he wrote a paper about it.  The first dogs I ever knew were coon hounds.  And some of my earliest memories involve sitting in the back of Aileen Hatch’s blazer while she and my dad listened to coon hounds howl in the Texas County hollows on cold, clear nights.  I thought, “This is what all four-year olds do on a weeknight.”  Right?


Me, my dad, a big ol’ raccoon and a coon hound in the yard behind us. The good life for a young girl in the Ozarks.

And just like the black mask that makes a raccoon face so distinctive, our Masked Bandit IPA is an IPA that doesn’t look like an IPA until it reaches your nose–a trickster of sorts, but a delicious one.  In addition to dark malts we’ve added some rye for a nice spice punch, and the Citra and Amarillo hops shine providing flavor and aroma for Masked Bandit.

Masked Bandit IPA

Masked Bandit IPA

Due to the limited availability of the hops we use for Masked Bandit, it will not be produced after February of this year.  We will have to wait to brew more Masked Bandit until next year when our new hop contracts become available.  Meanwhile, Masked Bandit can be found in draft and Piney pints throughout our distribution area until it’s gone.  Masked Bandit has been a featured beer at every tap takeover, tasting and beer dinner that we’ve done in the past few weeks, and it seems to be well loved.

Masked Bandit IPA is our newest offering to the craft beer world.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed crafting it, brewing it and naming it.  (And, as always, special thanks to Brooke Hamilton at Grindstone Studio for capturing our vision of the Ozarks with her graphic designs.)

In the Ozarks, the masked bandit is notorious for raiding the corn patch. Or, for finding—and eating—the perfectly ripe watermelon in the garden just before it’s picked. Our handcrafted Masked Bandit India Pale Ale is a black rye IPA that is raccoon proof…as long as the raccoon in your neck of the woods isn’t a hop head.