“If you don’t like beer, you just haven’t tasted the right one.”
That’s what the owners of Kochendorfer Brewing Company might say to you when you walk in the doors to the area’s first brewing company in 2019.
Lenny and Kathryn Cripps and Chris and Laura (Coast) Kochendorfer began working on the Kochendorfer Brewing Company several years ago. When the two couples first met, they discovered they shared one thing in common: the dream of one day opening a brewery.
The company began in Oklahoma City and was birthed by the “entrepreneurial spirit” of the Kochendorfers and the Cripps’ intellect on the craft beer industry.
Lenny’s education on craft beer began shortly before 1990 while he and Kathryn, who served as an Army dentist at the time, spent time in Germany. During Kathryn’s first tour in northern Bavaria, Lenny “quickly realized that he was no longer content with typical American light beers.” So in 1990, he began to brew his own, and the more beer he crafted, the more he realized this is what he wanted to do with his life.
Lenny, who has brewed his own beer for nearly 30 years, helped establish numerous breweries throughout the U.S. and Europe, including JD Nicks (Illinois), Jeremiah’s (Kentucky), Downtown (Asheville), and Yellow Rose (San Antonio).
During Kathryn’s second tour in Germany, Lenny interned at Park Brauerei in Germany and Hook Norton Brewery in England, while researching extensively on the nuances of European and British beer styles. Upon Kathryn’s retirement in 2005, the couple settled down in Stephens County where Lenny continued focusing on his craft.
According to Lenny, who has now mastered about 20 types of brews, several key factors play into crafting the best beer. These include a love of beer and a passion for brewing, sanitation and cleanliness, meticulous record keeping, creativity, research styles from all countries, a desire to try new things and research how they came to be, keeping up with the craft beer industry, learning from repetition to build experience, developing a good sense of taste and smell to build taste memory, and having lots of friends who enjoy different styles of beer and are up to trying new things to provide feedback on how it tastes.
Chris, who began brewing his own beer in 2011, continued to grow into the craft beer scene after meeting Lenny, who inspired Chris through his passion for brewing. Throughout the last seven years, Chris has also been able to travel to many breweries around the country with hopes of one day bringing those experiences closer to home.
The Kochendorfers also own an auto hail damage repair company and operate a small non-profit called Fostering Foundations. Chris has to travel frequently for the hail repair company and Laura wanted to find a way to bring him back to the family.
Laura said, “Because Chris travels constantly with the hail business, we have been continuously seeking other business opportunities that would allow him to be home more with me and our three children. When we talked to the Cripps about a partnership, it just made sense.”
While the company may have began somewhere else, the two couples decided Duncan would be a better fit, not only because the Cripps live in the area, but also because Laura had strong ties in the county.
The brewery will find its home at 1155 McCurdy Rd in Duncan, just south of the Lawton/Duncan Y. According to the owners, the brewery will sit on five wooded acres of land with a goal of being a destination for friends and families to get together.
“We will bring an amazing product to the area while expanding the community’s knowledge of the craft beer industry,” Laura said. “We will bring a safe, fun, family friendly environment for the entire community to enjoy. We are building a destination, a place where people can come enjoy themselves for the afternoon. We hope that this destination feel will provide opportunities for other businesses to gain traffic from visitors outside of the area. (Gas Stations, shopping, restaurants, hotels, golfing, etc.) We hope to bring new life to the community in a way that is outside-the-box for this area.”
While the couples plan to man the brewery themselves in the beginning, they will be looking for an assistant brewer. Once their taproom is up and running, Laura said they will begin to hire bar and service staff.
“We have a very particular vision of what this will be, and will only hire employees who have knowledge of the industry and share our ideas relating to hospitality, ethics and conduct.”
The brewing company will begin by releasing their original six beers.
“These will range in style and flavor from a cream ale to a stout to appeal to our consumer’s unique preferences,” Laura said. “Lenny has mastered over 20 styles of beer, so we will release those as we see fit, tailoring them to consumer demands. We will also have limited release seasonal beers throughout the year.”
The brewery will host tours, as well as maintain a taproom for craft beer purchases. Plans include a large covered patio space, bandstand, food trucks, dog park, family-friendly outdoor games, walking trails, as well as a fenced-in playground so that families can get away for the day and enjoy the outdoors together.
Laura said, “We will host everything from large scale community events to family movie nights outside on the grounds where patrons will be invited to bring their lawn chairs and enjoy a family-friendly production. Working so closely with the City of Duncan has opened up an endless amount of possibilities of what this can become, and we are very excited about the future.”
The owners are aware that a brewery may be considered “taboo” for some in the area, but want to ease community members who may be worried about the future of Duncan after the addition of such a business.
“Growing up in Marlow and understanding the strong Christian values of this community, I understand that there may be some concern as to our intentions for this business,” Laura said. “My husband and I have three young children, homeschool our oldest, and run a small non-profit benefitting foster families and young children and teens in need. “The Cripps are pillars of the community and are involved in numerous community outreach projects with various local charities. Setting a good example is of the utmost importance to both families involved. This brewery will not be your typical bar scene. Craft beer lovers aren’t entering a taproom environment to get drunk; they are there to appreciate the craftsmanship behind the beers. With a setting that enables you to bring your family, friends, and fur babies, the community can rest assured that we have a vision for this establishment that is based on strong ethical values, camaraderie, and community involvement.”
According to the Cripps, establishing the brewery here in the City of Duncan came from the tireless effort of staff with the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation (DAEDF).
“The Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation is truly responsible for cinching the deal to establish this brewery in Duncan,” the Cripps said. “Their staff is energetic, knowledgeable, and a joy to work with. They have been monumental in finding the perfect location in the North Industrial Center. Lyle Roggow, DAEDF President, has introduced us to scores of community leaders and has helped us maneuver through the many challenges we’ve faced in the building process.”
And now, the dream the couples had has become a reality.
The Kochendorfers said: “We have been working tirelessly on this brewery for the last three years. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions with ups and downs, excitement and disappointment. Being to the point of finally breaking ground on this project feels surreal. We are beyond excited and are so thankful to all of the people who have helped to make this dream a reality.”
The groundbreaking for Kochendorfer Brewing Company is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 at 1155 McCurdy Rd, Duncan.
Story provided by The Duncan Banner
Written by: Charlene Belew