“You should get yourself a hobby,” Lisa McIlroy told her husband, Austin. This was back around 2015 as they sat relaxing in a big log cabin – one that Austin and his friends built for his parents.

“Well, I like beer,” said Austin. “That could be my hobby.” 

What began as an off-hand joke became a life-long passion: Austin’s new-found vocation led him to schools in Chicago and Munich. The former English teacher then became a certified master brewer, and a year later, he and Lisa founded a brewery in Tulsa named after that very moment on the porch. Thus, Cabin Boys Brewery, located at 1717 E. Seventh Street, was born. Earlier this year, they acquired a large building on North Main in the Tulsa Arts District, which last housed Prairie Brewpub until early 2021. 

Austin, brewpub manager Erick Cravens and their workers spent the first half of the year rebuilding, making the space their own, preparing for the mid-July opening of their new venture. (But don’t worry – they plan to keep the old venue open, too!) 

“It’s going to have polished but rustic vibes,” says Geoffrey van Glabbeek. “Austin made the sturdy wood tables and the long wood bar. Our tagline is ‘crafted for community.’ That’s why those tables are so big; we want people to come in, meet new people, have a good time, share beer and eat great food.” 

And that great food is where van Glabbeek comes in; he’s the executive chef. He’s a great choice because he used to spend summers in Holland with his uncles and, perhaps influenced by his Munich schooling, Austin also brews in German and Belgian styles. The beer is a lot like what van Glabbeek remembers, he says.

Of course back then, he had no idea he’d be a chef. When he was five, he wanted to be a policeman, and later on, a computer engineer. He’d always loved to cook, but he never thought of it as a potential career until the day he took a summer job at downtown Tulsa’s upscale Adam’s Mark hotel. The hotel’s head chef, Jacques Lissonet – a French native – was extremely passionate about food. That passion was contagious.

That next fall, back in college, van Glabbeek found himself phoning Lissonet asking for a part-time job; he missed the kitchen. Soon after, he started working full-time, first at Tulsa’s Biga, then Stonehorse, and then he became a student at the Culinary Institute of America. After graduating, he had his pick of jobs, but he chose to work in small, innovative restaurants that were far ahead of their time, such as the now-closed Lava Noshery and 105 Degrees. 

He’s similarly trying to push the envelope here at Cabin Boys, but subtly. He wants to serve dishes that are approachable and fun. 

“We’re baking a pretzel the size of a small pizza and serving it with charcuterie,” he enthuses. “I’m blending chocolate ganache with bruleed marshmallow; that’s a dippable smore! We’re making our own nduja sausage and we’ll serve it warm with shishito peppers. That and a glass of our Belgian single ale would make a great afternoon. 

I use Cabin Boys beers a lot in cooking, not as a gimmick but because they always elevate the taste. I use our IPA to make the demi-glace for our steak. It also goes in a dish I make with shallots that I pickle in-house. We have a great, rich Belgian Quad, and I use it in a caramel sauce for our tunnel fries. It also goes in the mushroom gravy for our poutine. 

“I challenge all my line cooks to come up with new dishes that include beer. I want to hear my line cooks’ ideas, because I never want to be the kind of chef who just hands his cooks a recipe and orders them to make it.”

Photo credit: Boundary-pushing yet familiar cuisine will be a new addition to Cabin Boy’s location in downtown Tulsa. Options include the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich (left) and the pub burger (right). Photo by Jess Karin

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