The first brewery in Devils Lake will be opening soon and it comes under the guidance and ownership of possibly the most unlikely of people.
Jeb Oehlke practiced law in Devils Lake for four years. He’s opening Black Paws Brewing Co. in August to follow a passion he has had for most of his life.
“Practicing law was no fun,” Oehlke said. “It was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
He entered the service industry after he quit practicing law and became a server and bartender at The Ranch Steakhouse in Devils Lake in the meantime. As he worked, the idea he had years earlier percolated in his brain, and he began to hatch a plan.
He remembered that he had considered opening a brewery long before he even thought about going into law. He began homebrewing in 2010 and fell in love with it from there.
“I just started developing recipes of my own four or five years ago,” Oehlke said. “I just saw a need for it in Devils Lake. It’s kind of a tough place to get a craft beer.”
He officially decided this was going to be the path he would take in 2017. Starting a new career was his goal, and in 2019 he found a building at 424 Fourth St. he thought was suitable for his dream and purchased it.
It had been sitting empty for an unknown length of time, but that didn’t scare him away from it. He knew this building from his time living in Devils Lake, and the familiarity spoke to him.
“Before that, it was a clothing store on one side and a vacuum repair on the other,” Oehlke said. “When I was growing up, it was the Ben Franklin.”
Oehlke will introduce a full menu of specialty craft beers he has curated himself. Black Paws Brewing Co. will also serve food.
“All the beer I serve will be made in-house,” Oehlke said. “We’re not going to have any other brewery’s products. The tap system I’ve put in is 24 faucets, so I’ll probably do 14 beers and a couple of seltzers, and then homemade root beer and cream soda, and I plan to mix Italian sodas. We’ll also serve panini sandwiches, soft pretzels with beer cheese dipping sauce and flatbread pizza.”
Oehlke said his days have become easier, even though he is in the final throes of opening his first small business. He is experiencing the joy of finally following through on a passion of his for the first time.
“I’m infinitely happier,” Oehlke said. “It just seems like no matter what I’ve done in the past, I always go back to the hospitality industry. I just think the industry I’m supposed to be in is the hospitality industry, and I’m just really excited about bringing something new to Devils Lake. It’s not all that often that a person gets to introduce something to a town that’s just not there yet.”