Tom Gilbert , The Tulsa World - Sep 27, 2020
After being stuck in Tulsa for what seems like years, a short trip out of town was in order. I chose Duncan, which is only a three-hour trip from here.
I had never been to Duncan, which is just south of Oklahoma City and has a population around 24,000. But it has a new brewery, and what better way to know what is going on than to take a tour?
However, beer wasn’t the only attraction that made the trip worthwhile, there is some great lodging, food and shopping, too.
Kochendorfer Brewing Co. 1155 McCurdy Road
Beer and love brought Chris Kochendorfer to Duncan to start a brewery and raise a family. He was born and raised in the Tulsa area and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he met his wife and partner, Laura. The brewery, Kochendorfer Brewing Co., is just north of downtown Duncan. Kochendorfer started homebrewing with some buddies in Oklahoma City in 2010 as a hobby. “I didn’t even know that it was possible. I didn’t know that homebrewing existed. I started Googling ‘how to brew beer.’ Lots of failed experiments and putting carboys of beer in the closet, making my wife’s jackets smell like alcohol and yeast,” Kochendorfer said.
His mother-in-law knew of another beer lover, Lenny Cripps, so she introduced them.
“We came down to Duncan from Oklahoma City, and they drove us through the woods on their Kubota and it was nighttime and we pulled up and there was this house in the middle of the woods. There was this metal building behind the house and there were big beer signs that were lit up. There was a full bar, beer lights, bottle openers, all kinds of old eclectic beer memorabilia that he’s collected for years and every single inch of the wall is covered in it. You know, an ultimate retired man cave,” he said. “It was just, like, eye-opening for me, you know? I knew that beer was good. I’ve been drinking beer for years, but I didn’t know what good beer was. He had nine beers on tap and that night I asked him, ‘Why haven’t you opened a brewery?’” Cripps’ dream was always to open a brewery. He had traveled around the world with his wife, Kathryn, who was a retired Army dentist. But the Oklahoma laws were restrictive and he wouldn’t brew beers at 3.2% ABV.
Kochendorfer loved Cripps’ beers, and he still wanted to open a brewery. He had been looking in Oklahoma City but nearly all the locations would have to be retrofitted. After the laws changed, he convinced Cripps to go in together and build from the ground up on around 6 acres of land in Duncan. “We wanted to control our destiny and every part of the brewery. We wanted to make the beer that we wanted to drink. We wanted the atmosphere that we wanted that we felt was right. So it was really important to us that we be the only interest in the company. We didn’t want to take outside interests,” Kochendorfer said.
The city of Duncan was all for the brewery start-up.
“We didn’t necessarily know if the market was ready for it. Craft beer has just been growing in Oklahoma. We knew that we would have to educate people and we’d have to kind of build the craft market here in this town and this area,” he said. The brewery was built from the ground up using ideas from Cripps and Kochendorfer and what they had experienced in all their travels to other breweries and taprooms. A large bar with loads of taps, lots of tables and memorabilia from Cripps’ years of travels around the world hang on the walls and his two pinball machines sit next to the wall. Outside there is a covered, heated patio with windows to the brewhouse and an outside bar. There is tetherball, fire pits and a stage for entertainment. Also, a food truck is serving up food. Just about everything you need for a relaxing time. Kids of all ages enjoying themselves. “It was raw land when we got it. We personally pushed down trees, cleared the land for the building. We have almost been open for a year, we’ve accomplished a lot. Within the next year, we will build our pond, and we want to put a deck on it where kids can fish from. It’s all about building the community with a family environment, getting people out here to enjoy themselves and kind of get away from their normal day to day. And, if we can serve a great beer at the same time, I mean, I think that’s a win for us,” he said.
Kochendorfer Brewing keeps about 13 styles of beer on tap and rotates other beers in as the seasons change. It has a pumpkin, a cranberry Hefeweizen and a chocolate cherry stout.
The most unique thing about Kochendorfer Brewing is that it uses well water for its beers. It has been tested and is blended to get the bicarbonate level for the beers.
“That big tank in there, that’s our beer water. We build our water for our beer, and we make sure that it’s good. We don’t have to mess with fluorines or chloramines or anything like that. And then we refill that after brew day, bring it back up. So this is straight clean, Oklahoma water. Honestly. I think it’s kind of what gives us our finish on our beer. I think it’s what sets us apart a little bit, that and Lenny, I mean, he’s the man. I tell him that all the time. I mean, my name’s on the building, but he’s the man. There’s no denying that,” Kochendorfer said. Their motto is: “If you don’t like beer, you just haven’t tried the right one.” Kochendorfer Brewery hours are 2-10 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 2-10 p.m. Sunday. For more information about the brewery or tours, go to kochendorferbrewing.com.
PLACES TO STAY, SHOP AND EAT
Lindley House Garden Cottages, Bed & Breakfast, 1211 N. 10th St.
Duncan has hotels, but to get into the spirit of the local community, stay at a bed and breakfast. The Lindley House Garden Cottages has a variety of English country-style cottages and rooms in the main house. It is close to downtown Duncan and not far from the brewery. The landmark home was built in 1939 by Dr. E.C. and Helen Lindley.
A wonderful breakfast was prepared and served by Cecil Brewer, who welcomed us the night before. He gave a personal touch to the experience and told us of the great shopping in downtown Duncan.
He stated that many people come there from out of town and would take a short drive to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge or the Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge. If we had a few more days, that would have been on the to-do list. The Lindley House is just down the street from the 1921 Perry Maxwell designed Duncan Golf and Tennis Club, 1800 Country Club Road. The club also houses a new restaurant called Scratch Kitchen. Wishbone Scratch Kitchen, 1800 Country Club Road
A Southern food restaurant that opened about a year ago was on the dinner plans. My shrimp and grits were perfectly done and delicious. They also offer the classic Oklahoma chicken-fried steak and apple dumplings. Another night would have been good to try their other menu items.
Shopping and entertainment Duncan’s downtown is similar to downtowns of that era. Eclectic Echo and Company, 920 West Main St., had many items for the home, including furniture and some gourmet food items. It takes a while to get through the three stories of items. Another option for something to do is the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, 1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway. Lots of exhibits that are interactive for cowboys and cowgirls of all ages. True West Magazine deemed the facility a Top Ten Western Museum, and it is an Oklahoma’s Outstanding Attraction.
Story provided by The Tulsa World
Written by: Tom Gilbert