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Monday, August 15th 2011

Piney River Brewing Brings
Craft Beer in Cans to the Ozarks!

Every one of America's close to 1800 breweries has a story to tell. Joleen and Brian Durham's story is one that a few others may share parts of but its also one that is uniquely theirs. For this husband and wife team a love of brewing became a business earlier this year in the form of Piney River Brewing Company. Now that brewery is expanding and adding a canning line and the years not even over yet! We sat down (virtually) with Joleen who was great about answering all of the questions we had about running a small craft brewery in the Ozarks and their upcoming move to cans. Thanks so much Joleen and we wish you and Brian all the best! Cheers!

CC) What's the background story on Piney River Brewing Company?

JD) Piney River Brewing Company is owned by Joleen and Brian Durham.  The brewery is located in the heart of the Ozarks in Bucyrus, MO, just upstream from the Big Piney River, a storied floating and fishing river that flows throughout Texas County.

Brian is the brewer. Joleen is the sensory panel and communications guru.  Together we do everything from cleaning the floors to filling kegs. It’s definitely a hands-on partnership. We both have day jobs, so brewery work involves weekends and late nights. As Joleen likes to say, “We can sleep when we die.”

True to the do-it-yourself Ozark tradition, we began brewing on our kitchen stove, fermenting our beer in the cellar of our 100-year old farm house.  Our friends and family were drinking our handcrafted homebrew faster than we could make it, which made us decide to take our entrepreneurial spirit, business know-how and love of craft beer to a new level.  Renovating a 70-year old barn on our property for a brewery and a tap room (renamed “BARn”), Piney River Brewing Company was born. We were licensed in December 2010, and we had a soft opening of the brewery in March 2011.

We weren’t really sure how long we would be a nanobrewery when we started the BARn renovation and applying for our federal and state licenses.  It became apparent very quickly that there was a demand for more craft beer options in the Ozarks.

We are currently in the middle of installing a 7-barrel brew house with 15-barrel fermentation vessels.  We’ve been so caught up in the brewing that we still have work to do to complete our tap room in the BARn, but the customers love checking out our progress as we have time to work on the tap room.


Piney River Brewing Company's Joleen and Brian Durham


CC) What made you decided to go with cans over bottles? Why 16 oz. cans and not 12 oz.?

JD) When we realized that the demand for craft beer in our area was there, we began discussing packaging options.  A friend had given us some Oskar Blues long before we were starting our own brewery, and we really enjoyed it.  We did our homework on cans versus bottles.  We knew that the best way to preserve the flavor of our handcrafted beer was to use a can.  We knew that cans made more ecological sense because they don’t weigh as much to ship and they are easier to recycle.  We also knew that a canned craft beer would be sought after in an area like the Ozarks where most outdoor activities benefit from beer in light, non-breakable packaging.  In fact, glass is not allowed on the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.  As canned craft beer has become more readily available, we have enjoyed craft beer while floating and fishing, and it takes craft beer to a whole new level!   You’ll see on all of our cans--“Pack it in.  Pack it out.  Enjoy nature.” 

We are very excited to be the first microbrewery in the state of Missouri to can our own beer on site!

16 oz. vs. 12 oz?  Since we are celebrating the Big Piney River, we thought it only appropriate to have “Piney pints”.

"...glass is not allowed on the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.  As canned craft beer has become more readily available, we have enjoyed craft beer while floating and fishing, and it takes craft beer to a whole new level!"


CC) What type of canning line will you be using?

JD) We will use a Second Generation Micro-Can MC-100, 2-head automated canning system from Wild Goose Engineering in Boulder, CO. We are excited to have the first Micro-Can system installed in the state of Missouri.


CC) Which of your beers will we see in cans first? When?

JD) Our first two beers in cans will be Missouri Mule India Pale Ale and McKinney Eddy Amber Ale.  We hope to have them available about the first part of October.


CC) Where do the names for your beers come from? 

JD) Our beer names are inspired by the Ozarks.  Here’s what you will read on our two forthcoming cans:

McKinney Eddy Amber AleIn the heart of Texas County, McKinney Eddy on the Big Piney River was home to our friend and master blacksmith, Charlie McKinney.  Charlie toiled over an anvil with purpose, passion and pure Ozark creativity—an inspiration for our handcrafted amber ale.

Missouri Mule IPA Missouri mules hauled hundreds of wagons across the West and packed supplies in World Wars I & II. For decades, mules were also the most reliable Ozark farm hands. Like a Missouri mule, you can rely on our handcrafted India Pale Ale. This IPA packs a hop explosion that will not let you down.


CC) You guys started as a nanobrewery brewing 10 gallon batches, are you officially a craft brewery yet?

JD) Piney River Brewing has always been recognized by the TTB as a microbrewery. However, about the time we were starting our microbrewery, the craft beer world began to buzz with nanobrewery news.  We’ve had a lot of fun with our nanobrewery status in the past few months as we’ve brewed our hearts out on our Sabco, 10-gallon system. Many people are interested in watching the success of a nanobrewery and whether or not the brewery can cross over to a larger system successfully.  We are very close to crossing over to a full-fledged microbrewery with our new brewing system. We will have the BARn taproom where we’ll have our five beers available year round as well as some seasonal beers. Through our distributors we will provide our canned beer and kegs to retail establishments.


CC) Where are your cans going to be available for purchase?

JD) Currently, we have a distributor that covers a lot of the Ozark region, Grellner Sales and Service, and when we have cans, they will supply them to retail stores in the Ozarks.  We also have interest in our cans from distributors in other territories near us, and we hope to bring additional distributors on board soon.


the BARn at Piney River Brewing Company


CC) What is something people might not know about Piney River Brewing Company?

JD) Between our web site, our blog, Facebook and Twitter, it’s hard to have any secrets.  One thing that some people find to be very interesting is that we feed all of our spent grains to our small beef cattle herd (which we call “the girlfriends”).  The girlfriends love the spent grain so much that when they hear us outside the BARn, talking or opening and closing doors, they will moo to us-just checkin’ to see if we might be bringing some warm grains out to them.


Piney River Brewing is located in Bucyrus, Missouri (pop. 1500)


CC) What makes the Ozarks a great place to live and brew beer?

JD) The Ozarks were settled by hard working people looking for elbow room, a place to scratch out a living and a place with great water for their homes and livestock.  Today in the Ozarks there is still a great respect for anyone that’s willing to work hard, and there’s a deep appreciation for everything from homegrown tomatoes to pasture raised beef to handcrafted beer.  We are blessed to have excellent fresh water sources in the Ozarks, and our beer comes from water pumped out of the ground just a few hundred feet from the BARn.  The water in our beer is simply fresh, pure and tasty, and we are excited to have the privilege of using it to craft our beer.



CC) Where is your favorite place to relax and have a beer?

JD) We have a large fire pit in our back yard where we enjoy building large and small bonfires.  There are no street lights, so it’s just us, the moon and stars and any Ozark night creatures in the shadows.  We turn some great tunes on and listen through our outdoor speakers, preferably something with a little banjo.  Then, we kick back in the Adirondack chairs and find that the beer goes down really easy.


CC) Cheers Joleen and Brian, best of luck with everything!

Piney River Brewing Company  Media Resources



Posted by Russ