Tulsa Brew History

Brewing in Tulsa

B rewing in Tulsa dates back to the late 1930s with the Ahrens Brewing Company and their Ranger Beer line. The Ahrens Brewing Company opened in May of 1938 as a large scale production brewery which employed more than 30 people at its onset. Their Ranger Beer, Ranger Special Brew, and Ranger Winter Brew were popular among Tulsans of the time; however the brewery experienced only a short existence. They were forced into bankruptcy in February of 1940. The details of what went wrong with the brewery have been lost over time, but it is believed that the Ahrens were put out of business by “unfair” practices from the breweries in Oklahoma City. Additionally, Ahrens Brewing Company conducted operations at a time before Prohibition was repealed in Oklahoma, which occurred in 1959. Therefore, all beer produced by Ahrens was limited to 3.2% alcohol by weight, which was considered “nonintoxicating” until 1995 when the Oklahoma ABLE Commission reported that 70% of all alcohol-related deaths and injuries in Oklahoma were caused by such “nonintoxicating” beer. Until the law changed in 2018, all “brewpub” operations (i.e. restaurant/breweries) in Oklahoma were limited to producing 3.2% ABW beer.

with the zest of the west

Ahrens Brewing Co.

opened in May of 1938 as a large scale production brewery which employed more than 30 people at its onset. Their Ranger Beer, Ranger Special Brew, and Ranger Winter Brew were popular among Tulsans of the time.

The mid 1990s

The mid 1990s saw the return of brewing to Tulsa, but this time in the form of brewpubs and private labeled contract brewing. Both Cherry Street Brewing Company and Tulsa Brewing Company attempted the brewpub model, which consists of operating a restaurant and bar as well as tending to brewing operations. Both were met with early success; however multiple factors caused Tulsans to see the downfall of both brewpubs just at the time they were establishing a loyal following. T-Paul’s Beer Company, whose signature beer was T-Town Red, used the contract brewing and bottling services of aDubuque, Iowa based brewing company to produce its beers. While their attempt at incorporating local appeal with their T-Town beers met initial success, the beer was limited to 3.2% ABW to enable the company to market and sell its beer in grocery and convenience stores. This put the company head-to-head with such brewing behemoths as Anheuiser-Busch, Coors Brewing, and Miller Brewing Company, which at the time was a nearly impossible mountain to climb. The beer was met with predatory distribution practices by the Big Three and the company found it difficult in the long-term to compete and they were unable to garner any sustainable market share.

2008 and beyond

In 2008, with craft brewing growing faster than any other segment in the alcoholic beverage industry, Marshall Brewing Company ushered in a new era of Tulsa Brewing. Employing a production model, Marshall Brewing Company focused on hand-crafting full strength ales and lagers for distribution, unlike the low point brewpub model that other Tulsa breweries had tried.

Meanwhile, Adam and Eric Marshall pushed for legislative changes, eventually earning breweries the ability to do free public tours & samples in 2014. With the rise in numbers of breweries statewide, and the establishment of the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma, SB424 was passed in 2016 allowing full strength breweries like Marshall the ability to serve full strength beer direct to the public from their own Tap Rooms. Within the round of legislation also came the removal of 3.2% ABW (or Low-point) beer, taking the state to a single strength model.

Marshall’s beers have enjoyed success over the years and established a very loyal local following, including Atlas IPA and Sundown Wheat, which are still going strong after 11+ years in the market. This success can be attributed to a blend of market timing, brewing expertise, passion, and great products. Marshall Brewing Company continues to grow, thanks to the support of customers statewide who have supported us for almost 12 years now. We pledge to continue producing products that Tulsans can be proud to call their own. Cheers to the future of brewing in Tulsa!