The Piney River Story

Would you believe that Piney River Brewing Company was born around a bonfire while drinking a Belgian quad? It’s true.

 
 
 

OUR STORY

A Brewery in the Ozarks?

Joleen and Brian Durham, the founders and owners of Piney River, bought their home and 80-acre farm in Bucyrus in 1998. Joleen’s background was writing and communications. Brian’s background was accounting and business. They had a few beef cattle on the farm and they enjoyed living in the Ozarks, but they wanted something more.

“We wanted to make some type of investment in ourselves, and if possible, we wanted to use our land and bring additional value to our rural area and community,” Joleen said.

Cue the banjo music, light the fire pit, and break out a bottle of Ommegang’s Three Philosophers! These two homebrewers decided to start a brewery.

“We really enjoyed drinking craft beer, and whenever we traveled, we would ask for local beer or even visit the local brewery,” Brian said. “Craft beer is about the area that it’s from and where it’s made, and at the time there were no breweries in the Ozarks making beer that went out on store shelves or into area bars and restaurants.”

So, Piney River Brewing Company was born.

Piney River is Born

In July 2010, Joleen and Brian had a new, deeper well dug on their farm to better tap into more delicious limestone filtered Ozarks water, and they began cleaning hay, manure, and 70 years of farming detritus out of their 1940’s-era barn.

The refurbished old barn, today called the “BARn,” was the official brewery for Piney River Brewing Company when it opened its doors to the public for the first time in March 2011. Not really knowing what to expect in public interest for a local craft brewery, Joleen and Brian’s first brewhouse was a 10-gallon Sabco Brew Magic. Their homebrew recipes were tweaked to become the original recipes of Piney River Brewing.

Early Days at Piney River

Demand quickly outpaced supply. Grellner Sales in Rolla came on board as Piney River’s first distributor, and Joleen and Brian purchased a used 7-barrel brewhouse, related equipment, and a two-head canning unit so they could put Piney River brew into 16-ounce cans for store shelves.

In November 2011, Piney River was the first microbrewery in the state of Missouri to can beer at the brewery! Missouri Mule IPA and McKinney Eddy Amber Ale were the first two types of cans and kegs that went out to area retail locations, and Joleen and Brian also began going out in public telling the Piney River story to anyone who was interested.

Piney River Grows

Piney River continued to grow, adding more fermentation space and packaging more products for distribution in more parts of the Ozarks. In 2013, Piney River won a Gold medal for Old Tom Porter at the Great American Beer Festival, followed by a Gold award for Float Trip Ale at the World Beer Cup in 2014. Piney River’s commitment to making high quality, handcrafted beer was receiving recognition outside the Ozarks!

By 2014 Joleen and Brian were receiving requests for more beer than they could make, so they began looking at ways to expand production. The BARn equipment was at maximum capacity with about 1,800 bbls per year.

Ground was broken for a “bigger barn” on the farm in December 2014, and Joleen and Brian made a $1.3 million investment in a new 15-barrel brewhouse and related equipment as well as a new 8-head canning line.

“We have our roots here on this farm, and that’s where we decided to stay because this farm is Piney River Brewing,” Brian said.

Piney River Today

The BARn is still home to a thriving taproom that’s open every weekend. The old brewhouse space and some of the equipment is where Joleen and Brian are “playing” with their new Farm Raised Funk beers. The first mixed fermentation beer, Lizzie Twister, was released in mid-2016. With oak barrels, oak foeders, and a koelschip, Joleen and Brian intend to make some very limited release beers in the future.

“We’ve always had excellent Ozarks water to capture our sense of ‘place’ in our beer, and we’ve used locally harvested and grown ingredients in some beers, too,” Brian said. “We are very excited about utilizing wild yeast in mixed fermentation projects to make beer that’s even more local.”

Capacity at the brewery has greatly increased, and Joleen and Brian continue to travel around Missouri and Arkansas telling the Piney River story and growing the Piney River brand.

“Six years into this amazing adventure, Brian and I are very proud to bring people from all over the world to our farm in the Ozarks to enjoy a pint,” Joleen said. “And we are looking forward to growing our brand to be one that is sought out when beer lovers come to the Ozarks.”

The Insanity Continues

Back in 2010 when Joleen and Brian told someone they were starting a brewery, they were asked, “Are you insane?”

No, they aren’t insane; they’re just working hard, playing hard, and having the time of their life.

Today you may find Joleen and Brian giving a brewery tour on a Saturday, pouring pints behind the bar, or meeting folks at the places that sell their beer. Their son, Andy, knows his way around the brewery, too, brewing up “Andy’s Homemade Root Beer” for kids of the craft beer lovers that visit the farm.

You can continue to follow the Piney River story at the Piney River blog. Cheers!

AWARDS

  • 2014 & 2016 Editor’s Choice
    Best Microbrewery Rural Missouri magazine

  • Gold, 2013 Great American Beer Festival
    Old Tom Porter “Brown Porter”

  • Gold, 2014 World Beer Cup
    Float Trip Ale, American-style Wheat Ale

  • Gold, 2015 Best of Craft Beer Awards
    Masked Bandit IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale

  • Gold, 2015 US Open Beer Championship
    Crankbait Cream Ale, Cream Ale

  • Silver, 2015 US Open Beer Championship
    Black Walnut Wheat, American-style Dark Wheat Ale

  • Silver, 2015 US Open Beer Championship
    Hobby Farm Ale, Herb & Spice Beer

  • Silver, 2015 US Open Beer Championship
    McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, Irish Red Ale

  • Bronze, 2016 Best of Craft Beer Awards
    Float Trip Ale, American-style Wheat Ale

  • Bronze, 2016 US Open Beer Championship
    Black Walnut Wheat, American-style Dark Wheat Ale

  • Bronze, 2016 US Open Beer Championship
    Bronzeback Pale Ale, International-style Pale Ale

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