Donnie Eldridge is a man of complex taste.
The 50-year-old brewmaster can often be found alongside his staff at Emersumnice Brewery concocting different flavors and formulas of beer.
“It’s kind of like a couple of mad scientists back there,” Eldridge said. “I like the creativity of it; it’s just a cool industry.”
Eldridge opened Emersumnice on May 1, anchoring the Mowery Retail and Lofts complex at the First Avenue and Main Street intersection in the heart of Owasso’s newly developed Redbud District.
He developed the idea for the microbrewery while stationed overseas on his second deployment with the Army National Guard in April 2018. After serving more than 30 years in the military, he decided to try his hand at entrepreneurship.
“I sat down in Al Asad, Iraq, right outside the Syrian border, and wrote a business plan in a tent,” Eldridge said. “(I) talked to the wife, and we thought, ‘Let’s build a brewery.’”
His love of brewing beer didn’t start in the Middle East, however. Eldridge has been bottling the beverage on his own as a side hobby for around 13 years. It was only a matter of time until he turned the concept into a full brick-and-motar operation.
Living in Verdigris at the time, Eldridge and his wife Jennifer still shared close ties with Owasso, and decided to lay the groundwork for the site within the burgeoning downtown district.
“Owasso was always kind of like a second home,” Eldridge said. “We were always having lunch here, always having dinner, always shopping here, and love the community … It just made sense to put a brewery here.”
Emersumnice, jargon for “them are some nice …,” encompasses 4,100 square feet downstairs and 1,600 upstairs in an area that also can be reserved for events, such as wedding receptions and business luncheons.
Eldridge has designated much of the space behind the dining room’s counter to a row of large, stainless steel vessels used in the production of the microbrewery’s eight original beers. Twice a week every two weeks, he turns out around 220 gallons of fresh product, followed by around 400 gallons of his more popular selections.
Some of those recipes include Ram’s Head Wheat, a hefeweizen with a crisp flavor and sweet finish; the Blonde Moment, an anytime beer with a smooth taste and citrusy aftertaste; and Lunar Ops Stoute, named for the Lords of Darkness UH-60 Helicopter Assault Unit.
“I like making beers that change your perspective of what you think something should taste like,” Eldridge said. “Witnessing the finished product and having the consumers come in here and getting instant feedback from them is probably the most rewarding thing.”
The kitchen also has a pizza oven and churns out dishes like cheese curds, chicken wings, beer-battered fries, a BLT grilled cheese sandwich and a wood-fired T-bone pork chop, to name a few.
Regular guests like Dakota Sunday, who recently ordered the butterfly shrimp, and Nicole Bevins, who tried the woodfire pizza, complimented the menu.
“The food’s delicious; it’s amazing every time you come in,” said Sunday, who visits Emersumnice about twice a week. “The beer’s phenomenal … even the beers that I’m not fond of are phenomenal.”
Blevins added, “Every time we’ve come here, it’s been a really great atmosphere, and everyone’s been very welcoming. They have really great beer, all types of beer that you may prefer, and everything’s just super fresh.”
Eldridge buys nearly everything local, from the honey he gets from Bee Farmee in Collinsville to the basil leaves he picks from the outdoor garden behind the brewery. Likewise, his process behind brewing Owasso’s most authentic beers comes full circle to help the environment.
“The grain goes right down to a local farmer to feed his livestock,” Eldridge said. “… At the same time, we’re helping the city sewer system and its wastewater plant by the products that we put down the drain.”
Despite its alcoholic staples, Emersumnice is a family-centric establishment, offering a range of events and activities for guests of all ages to enjoy, Eldridge said.
“It’s not a bar,” he said. “You can come in here on the weekdays, and there’s some businessmen, there’s moms, dads and kids in here, it’s just kind of a melting pot of people … This place offers something for everybody.”
On Mondays, for example, Eldridge hosts brewery bingo, followed by cornhole league on Tuesdays, motorcycle bike night on Wednesdays and live music sets on Fridays and Saturdays.
When asked what it means to see his dream come to fruition, Eldridge replied, “This is easily been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, definitely the most proud thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
For more information about Emersumnice Brewery, 102 S. Main St., call 918-330-3973 or visit emersumnicebrwery.com.