New Brew: Casper’s Gruner Brothers Brewery producing first batch

Gruner Brothers Brewing co-owner Daron Gruner takes a look in the lauter tun tank, where the malt mash is separated into clear wort in the early process of brewing. Gruner Brothers is preparing their first ever batch of beer in their new facility, housed in the former Petroleum Club. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The unmistakable sweet smell of malt and barley floated through the shiny new brewhouse at Gruner Brothers Brewing on Thursday morning.

Owners and crew carefully monitored panels, checked displays and referenced clipboards filled with notes as the early stages of brewing progressed.

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The fragrant morning came after two years of construction and planning by owners Daron and Ben Gruner, who built a craft brewery into the old Petroleum Club building.

Co-owner Ben Gruner looks over charts as the crew gathers around the control panel as Gruner Brothers produces their first ever beer in the new brewery on Thursday, Oct. 18, in Casper. The brewery is housed in the former Petroleum Club building. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The first Gruner Brothers beer to see the light of day will fittingly be their Octoberfest variety, which should be available in under four weeks, according to Ben Gruner.

“Our real goal is to be real strong in Wyoming and be a really good community craft beer,” said Ben.

The brewery’s capacity is ambitious. Right from the start Gruner Brothers is capable of brewing around 8,800 barrels a year. That’s roughly the same as Sheridan’s successful Blacktooth Brewing and the ├╝ber hip Melvin Brewing in Afton.

The brewery also contains a full canning line to package and distribute the Gruner Brothers beers at their freshest.

“We’re going to market with six beers that we can,” said Ben. Additional varieties and seasonals will be offered in kegs.

Gruner Brewing is mainly shying away from the IPA and sour trends that have overtaken the market, instead focusing on the rich, malty profiles that proliferated in the earlier days of the craft beer revolution.

“We’re more on the malty side and really nice pilsners,” explains Ben. “We’re set up as a lagering facility, where a lot of microbreweries only make ales because they can make them fast.”

The brewery will make other styles, including IPAs. “That space is already crowded, we really feel the malty, drinkable beers have been crowded out,” said Ben.

Their main six beers have been formulated and named.

A full-strength pilsner named “Petrol Club” in honor of the Petroleum Club is their signature beer.

Next is a light pilsner cheekily named “Ben Light”, named after Ben Gruner and “our little poke at Bud Light,” said Ben.

Third is their year-round Octoberfest called “AOK”, meaning Always October. “Octoberfest is so good you should drink it all year round,” said Ben.

Fourth is a porter on nitrogen. “Imagine a little sweeter, nicer version of Guinness,” said Ben.

Next is “Devilito”, a high-alcohal Belgian style ale.

Finally is Beulah Brown, a brown ale named after Ben’s wife’s hometown, where she grew up on a ranch.

The Beulah name also harkens back to the brothers’ brewing roots. “Our logo truck was their original ranch truck, they bought it new in 1927,” said Ben.

The truck was used to haul grain, which gives the vehicle an almost spiritual connection to the new brewery. “We’d home brew out of my shop where we rebuilt the truck,” said Ben. The truck that became the inspiration for the brewery was driven by Ben and Daron in the downtown parade this summer.

The Petroleum Club has been completely remodeled to house the massive tanks and other equipment. However, when the brewery’s tap room opens up later this year visitors will recognize some of the original features saved from the old club and restaurant.

“I wanted people to have some memories here,” said Ben. “I figured, why take that out?”

The tap room will feature 14 to 18 taps. A new patio extension was built with a view of Casper and the mountain.

The brothers are keeping their day job, which is running the successful Compression Leasing Services business they started together 20-years ago.

“Without that business we could’ve never done this, it would be impossible,” said Ben.

Gruner Brothers beer should be on the street by the middle of November, according to Ben. They hope to have the tap room ready by then as well.

Gruner Brothers Brewing head brewmaster Pat Kealiber watches the control panel on Thursday morning. Kealiber was hired from a large independent brewing facility in Michigan. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Mash is separated from the wort in the early brewing step at Gruner Brothers Brewing in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The Gruner Brothers Brewing facility is a 4 vessel, 30 barrel brewhouse. It can produce up to 8,800 barrels a year. The tallest tank rises 24 feet. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Some details from the Petroleum Club were preserved, such as the etched windows at right, rock fireplaces and antique-looking ceiling fans. The upstairs dining area has been opened up and will be a large tap room. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

A deck, seen still under construction, was built in back and is accessible through garage doors from the tap room at the new Gruner Brothers Brewing in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The Gruner Brothers Brewing tap room is seen under construction in the old Petroleum Club building. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The canning line is seen in front of the aging and carbonation tanks in the downstairs section of the old Petroleum Club. The area was the downstairs banquet room and bar where many events were held over the years ranging from company holiday parties to political events. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The Petroleum Club is being transformed into Gruner Brothers Brewing in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)