OKC’s first Native American brewery is a family affair

Published Friday, October 15, 2021
by Janice Francis-Smith

Oklahoma City’s first Native American-owned brewery opened on Saturday. Skydance Brewery, at 1 NE Seventh St., represents a new perspective on the city’s bustling craft brewery industry.

“This was a dream for me and my dad,” said owner Jake Keyes during the brewery’s soft opening Thursday, looking around at the crowd enjoying his handcrafted brews in the modernly elegant-but-cozy space.

The brewery, measuring about 11,000 square feet, has traditional tables as well as areas with big screens and comfortable chairs and sofas in a more living room-like setting. A second-floor area provides a bit more intimacy and may be rented for private events.

Just past the patio area and inside, guests are greeted by a large statement of a painting from renowned Oklahoma Choctaw artist D.G. Smalling. Keyes said other artists’ work will be showcased in the brewery as well.

Registered with the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma but also family with the Osage Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Keyes was raised in Little Axe by a single father with a knack for brewing. As a child, Keyes would get into his father’s brews – formulated with help from Charlie Papazian’s Joy of Homebrewing book – and try to add his own flair. Eventually, his father figured out what kept happening to his batches and began formally educating his son on the art of home brewing.

When his father was diagnosed with MS and went into nursing care, Keyes came across that Joy of Homebrewing book while cleaning out his old house and revived the old dream. While working in the gaming industry, Keyes studied brewing, came up with a business plan and set about obtaining the funding needed to open a brewery that would honor his father’s dream and his culture.

Keyes’ brew, based on his father’s recipes, won a home-brewing conference competition in Dallas just before his father passed away.

“In the nursing home, there were so many people who regretted not doing the things they always dreamed about,” Keyes said. “I knew I didn’t want this dream to end up that way.”

Keyes began producing beer at the Brewers Union, which provides workspace for aspiring commercial brewers at 520 N. Meridian Ave. in Oklahoma City. Then, just before the pandemic, the business went looking for commercial space of its own.

“We knew we wanted to be in this area,” Keyes said of the brewery’s current location on Seventh Street. The area, extending north up to 10th Street, is an up-and-coming district increasingly populated with restaurants, art houses and a new multifamily residential that is attracting the younger demographic that flocks to places that offer a unique experience and exceptional craftsmanship.

Soon, the brewery will host live music and welcome food trucks. The brewery offers branded merchandise, reflecting the aesthetic of the business and the culture it reflects. Brews with names like Fancy Dance and Rez Dog reflect current trends in brewing, offering light, refreshing and sometimes fruity flavors for the beer connoisseur.

Skydance was able to make use of a program through the Bureau of Indian Affairs that guarantees business loans up to 90%, giving banks the reassurance needed to provide the funding needed.

This story originally ran on the JournalRecord.com. 

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