Near the intersection of State Farm Road and Buffalo Bill Ave. stands the first brewery in North Platte — Pals, which celebrated its one-year anniversary on Saturday, April 14.
The copper-roofed building is nestled on four acres of the Platte River Valley.
The brewery is fed by a 200 feet-deep, reverse osmosis well that purifies the natural silica in the water from 60 parts per million to 5 parts per million – meaning it is essentially pure.
Well digging aside, Pals’ claim to fame is family-oriented entertainment, tasty beers, fundraisers and live music. They have a large outdoor patio and plenty of space for gatherings and games.
Pals brews its beers onsite and strives to have 9-12 different varieties on tap at a time.
And every week the micro-brewery hosts events, including weddings and rehearsals.
A new Pals brew is released each Sunday, to the tune of live entertainers. On Sunday Feb. 4, country singer Joel Warren was the entertainer.
When Mark and Mindy Oettinger suggested to Mark’s brother Paul and wife Amy that they open a brewery in North Platte, the idea was originally brushed aside. But eventually Amy and Paul saw the opportunity in the town of 24,000 people.
Thirteen years later, the partnership formed and North Platte became the target destination, opening in 2015.
The three-year-old brewery actually began as a sparkle in Paul’s eye in 1995 when he spied a sign that read “brew beer for cheaper than you can buy” in a Wine and Hop Shop window.
The homebrew kit carried a $90 price, high enough to make a college student cringe.
Regardless, Paul made the investment. He continued his college studies in microbiology/bacteriology. Soon after graduation, he took a position as an environmental monitor in a clean room for a pharmaceutical company in Kalamazoo, Mich.
This background helps him understand the sterilization of the fermenters, barrels and other equipment used in the brewery.
Paul recalls that the first beer he made — the Jed Hawk Porter — tasted like “brown water.”
Upon investigation, he discovered the key was to adjust the amount of hops. Just like that, his passion for brewing began to ferment.
To this day, he says the sign was right — you can brew beer for about half the cost of buying it at a store.
New beer ideas develop when Paul tweaks an existing beer design.
Employees influence the decision, too. The Pals Gals Cherry Stout is an example of a idea put in Paul’s ear by Amy and the employees. So is their Peach Mango IPA.
Altogether, the business employs just over 40 people. Amy and Paul give special thanks to employees Andrea, Tom, and Javin for their hard work and efforts to make the dream a reality.
The name Pals originates with Paul’s college Nintendo days. Back when three-letter names were the only save-worthy aliases, ‘Paul’ turned into ‘Pal.’
He experimented with brewing at the same time. His Nintendo friends were fans of his beer and asked him if he were bringing “Pal’s Brew” to their gatherings. Paul’s beers adopted the name.
The family believes the name Pals has a dual meaning.
Not only is it Paul’s Nintendo penname, it represents the opportunity to make some new pals at the brewery, or come with some of your own.
“This brewery isn’t just a business for us, it’s who we are. An extension of us as people. We welcome you to join us anytime because truly ‘You’re Always at Home with Pals,’” Paul and Amy say on their website.
The microbrewery brewed 500 barrels of beer in the first 10 months, and are on course to double that in the next 10 months.
The Oettinger family plans to reach a broader demographic of drinkers by canning and distributing their beers in a wide area by summer time.
Providing Pals beer in the can is “99% likely,” Amy said, “however, there are still many logistics and requirements for labeling that need to be settled.”
Beers up for canned consideration are Jerry Light, Cave Dweller, English Brown Porter, and Jalapeño Cream Ale. They believe canning their beers is the economically smart choice over bottling.
Jerry Light is Pal’s No. 1 seller, followed closely by the Jalapeño Cream Ale and Hershey Honey Wheat.
Among their plans for the future, an outdoor “Grain Bin Bar” is on the horizon.
The Grain Bin Bar will allow customers to buy drinks directly outside on warm summer nights, forgoing the need to come indoors to order.
The four owners, Mark, Mindy, Paul and Amy Oettinger, thrive with energy and excitement.
Their mission statement is: “Our family brews beers we would want to drink and serves them to you like we would want to be served, in an environment we would want to be served in – welcome to the family.” Pals goal is to be “the family-oriented entertainment hub of North Platte,” and strives to be a place that encourages people to get off their phones, have fun and socialize.
Pal’s features beer with a reasonable ABV (alcohol by volume) in order to encourage enjoyment of their food, longer stays, flavor appreciation and stress-free environment.
Typically, the ABVs of their beers are 5%. One of the highest is 8.5%, aged in a whiskey barrel for four months, called Midnight in the Daylight Stout.
Currently, Paul’s most recommended beer is called Phat Pumpkin.
Other than beers, Pals offers hors d’oeuvres, desserts and hand-crafted pizzas. Alcohol is available in the form of Oettinger family mixes such as the Oettinger Old Fashioned, from a recipe passed down through the family over two generations.
Other spirits are available as well. The brewery hopes to bring in some Lazy RW whiskey, which is made in Moorefield, and continue selling a popular rosé wine — Buzzard’s Roost Blush from Mac’s Creek in Lexington.
Local ingredients are used as much as possible. The hops hails from a farm in Brady. Live honey comes from Long’s Honey Farm in Hershey. Jalapeños come from Booty Farms in Sullivan and berries come from nearby farms during the growing season. Malt comes from Omaha.
The hardest part of getting started was the financial aspect of a microbrewery, Paul said.
Amy earned a certificate in the business of craft beer from Portland State University, and Mark has a bachelor’s degree in business. Their success is a result of “a super team effort of four people coming together at the right time in what we believe is the right place,” Paul said.
The owners and employees work as a team. Amy manages the tap room and plans events. Mark is the logistic guru. Mindy runs the kitchen and Paul is the brew master.
Fundraisers are an active part of Pal’s agenda. They donate time and money to many non-profit organizations.
Their event calendar is on their website, where you can sign up for notifications and specials.
They also have a facebook page and a blog.
The pub hours are 4- 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday; 4–10 p.m. on Thursday; 3–10 p.m. on Friday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday and 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. on Sunday. The pub is closed Monday.