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Pitcher Perfect

Surrounded by Stunning Views with Centuries of History, at Lone Oak Farm, the Beer is Just the Beginning

Article by Lauri Gross

Photography by Ana Gutierrez Covarrubias

Originally published in Columbia Lifestyle

There’s more to the drink, than just the drink. That’s what Chris Miller will tell you about the craft beer (and other offerings) at Lone Oak Farm Brewing Company. And after a few minutes, you know what he means. And you believe him.

“My brother and I grew up on small local farm,” said Chris, referring to his brother Charlie who, like Chris, is an owner of Lone Oak, since the pair bought the nearly 30-acre property in April 2019. Chris continued, “We love that farm lifestyle and wanted to get back to that, and keep farming alive. We farm the products that go into the beer and we create an atmosphere where others can come enjoy the farm lifestyle. Get off the computer. Come outside to a beautiful place. Get connected to where food and drinks come from.  Slow down, get outdoors and connect with the earth and each other. Unwind and experience beauty.”

See. I told you you’d believe him. And we haven’t even talked about the farm’s namesake. Estimated at 250 to 300 years old, the oak sits on the property line between the farm that bears its name, and land owned by Montgomery Parks.  “It’s a magnificent tree of life,” said Chris. The crown spreads about 150 feet above the 90-foot-tall trunk. Chris estimates it would take about six adults to encircle the tree if they joined arms around it. “It gives you a magical feeling, just from the sheer size,” Chris added.

The father-and-son team of Ralph (the father) and Ryan Mollet are also owners of Lone Oak and, like Chris and Charlie, they maintain their day jobs. Chris is an arborist. Charlie is a mortgage loan officer. Ralph and Ryan build homes. General Manager and brew master Kevin Hilton rounds out the Lone Oak team.

While most of the farm acreage is currently pastures or hay fields, there’s about an acre of sunflowers, plus a pumpkin patch next to the oak.  The sunflower seeds, the pumpkins, and a planned future crop of berries (and of course, barley), will all be used as ingredients in Lone Oak beer and seltzer. There’s also a brew house and a tap room partially crafted from trees milled on the farm.

An area of about five acres includes picnic tables, a swing set, and room where families, kids and dogs can roam (on leashes. The dogs; not the kids.)  In addition to beverages, the Lone Oak menu includes pizza, soft pretzels and other fare made fresh and brought in from local restaurants and/or food trucks. Their non-alcoholic beverages include traditional soft drinks, kombucha and more.

This fall, Lone Oak will host an October Fest. Because of the pandemic and because the full vision of the farm is still unfolding, this year’s event will be smaller than future events where Chris hopes to include pick-your-own pumpkins, hay rides, live music and possibly lederhosen. “We will capitalize on each season,” said Chris as he began generating more ideas for a bright future at Lone Oak.

The process

Malting the barley (or wheat, corn, rice, etc.)

To release starch from the barley, it’s malted, which includes steeping, germination and kilning, and takes about a week. This converts the starch to glucose.

Milling and mashing

The barley is crushed in a roller mill and mixed with water. This takes about an hour. At this step, each batch generates a few hundred pounds of a by-product known as spent grain.  In what Chris describes as the circle of life, Loan Oak takes the spent grain to a nearby farm where it becomes livestock feed.

Brewing

At this point, the product, called wort, is transferred to a kettle to boil. This releases flavor profiles. Hops and other ingredients are added. This takes about two to four hours or longer, depending on the style of the beer.

Fermentation and maturation

After cooling, the mixture is transferred to a fermentation tank for one to four weeks. Yeast is added, which consumes the sugar and creates the by-products of alcohol and Co2.  

Final steps

The beer (depending on the style) goes through filtration and/or pasteurization and finally, packaging.

The product

Since Lone Oak opened a few months ago, they’ve created close to 30 beers and hard seltzers, with about eight to 12 on tap at any given time. The ever-evolving list of beer includes Lone Oak Lager, Sandbar, Plum Crazy, Deep Root, Amber Waves, 24/Session, Xylem, Little Hefe, Raspberry Goldenrod and Barley Reaper. Hard seltzers include blackberry, lemon-lime, key lime, and coconut. Hard sodas include cream, iced tea and orange creamsicle.

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