Parris, partners transform fire station into brewery
Cherokee Nation citizen Bill Parris, left, stands with his partners representing Muskogee Brewing Company at an event. COURTESY
An early 1900s fire fighter’s hat is displayed on the wall the separates Station 1 Restaurant and Muskogee Brewing Company’s taproom. Muskogee Brewing Company is housed in Muskogee’s first full-time fire station, Fire Station 1. GRANT NEUGIN/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Several 500-gallon brewing tanks are visible from the taproom of Muskogee Brewing Company. All beer is made on site. GRANT NEUGIN/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The custom-built bar back, two of the 15 taps and the growler-packaging machine are on display just a few feet from the bar at the Muskogee Brewing Company. GRANT NEUGIN/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
MUSKOGEE – Cherokee Nation citizen Bill Parris, his family and some close friends have transformed a tattered historic old building in downtown Muskogee into a vibrant business.
The Muskogee Brewing Company is housed in Muskogee’s first full-time fire station – Fire Station 1. Built in 1904, it was active until 2000 when the city built a new station.
“This one (the fire station) set empty for 15 years,” Parris said. “The city used this building as basically a catch-all so all the stuff that they didn’t want at city hall, they hauled in over here. They were about to tear the building down. Me and my partner were looking for a building when we kind of stumbled upon this one. We got to talking to the city and we were able to save it.”
He said they kept and used as many original items as possible.
“The ceiling is original…I had to fill in a few places, but the best thing that we found in the building, underneath the concrete floor, is the original brick floor,” Parris said.
Parris said refurbishing the building was a three-year project to get the brewery going. He said the roof leaked and there was moldy and mildewed garbage piled in the main taproom. He said they used heavy equipment to clear the room before they were able to progress to the next phase.
The first phase of getting the brewery, he said, started before acquiring the building. “It started as what we called plan a, which is…two guys in a shack in the middle of the woods just making beer. This (the brewery) was originally my partner’s ideal and it…just spiraled, which is a good thing.”
He said the city announced that it was getting a brewery so they opened the restaurant first to establish themselves.
“This is not an overnight thing. Licensing alone, for the federal side, took over a year and a half,” Parris said. “So it was important to us to get our restaurant open so the people could see the actual progress…and that things were happening on this (the brewery) side.”
The restaurant, called Station 1, is housed on the side where offices and common areas would be, and its décor is firefighter gear and equipment.
“We were able to get a lot of historical fire equipment…jackets and hoses and that type of thing,” he said.
The menu includes sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups and desserts.
On the brewery side, half of the room that housed the fire truck and equipment now houses large brewing tanks. The other half is the bar area that features original brick flooring, a bar face made from repurposed bricks, a stage for live music, a sitting area with tables and 15 craft beer taps.
“When we opened the doors for the taproom, we had six beers on tap but we had 15 taps,” he said. “So we planned on filling all 15. We consistently keep all 15 filled.”
Parris said with exception of a few beers their flavors are never the same and that their style of craft beer doesn’t taste like any other brewer’s.
“Every craft beer should taste different cause their made by a different brewer,” he said. “We do our menu with the thought of ‘a beer for everybody.’ For the people that don’t typically drink beer…that’s why we have the flavors so they find flavors that they like. We have our staples that are always here, but then we have new styles...new flavors.”
He said they have three brewing systems and that their recipes are created in-house. They typically start with a small batch and then “step it up.”
“We have a five-gallon, a 50-gallon and we have the 500,” he said. “So we’ll run a small batch…and then we’ll put it on the 50, and from there we’ll step it up and put in on the 500 if it’s going to…a restaurant or send it to be canned.”
Patrons can also buy 32-ounce growlers directly from the tap, and Parris said there are two establishments in Tahlequah and two in Muskogee that sell their beer.
The Muskogee Brewing Company and Station 1 Restaurant is located at 121 S. 2nd St. The brewery is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Station 1 is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
For more information, visit muskogeebrewingcompany.com
or its Facebook page.