The Thirsty Beagle: Beer tourism dollars just slipping through our hands

Monday, July 13, 2015

Beer tourism dollars just slipping through our hands

So many beer events, so little time.

That was my story this past weekend as I went from Oak & Ore on Friday to four different stops on Saturday to the official The Brew Shop moving day on Sunday.

Let's cover Friday and Sunday first, then come back to Saturday.

The weekend started Friday with the unveiling of the name of the session pale ale produced by Anthem Brewing Co. for Energy FC. The name was selected through fan voting on the three finalists: Energy Pale Ale, Bruised Shin and Upper 90.

And your winner was... Upper 90! The name was announced by the Energy coach in front of a packed house at Oak & Ore featuring special Anthem glassware, Energy coozies and full-size soccer balls for the first 46 people to order the beer.

Yours truly also sat in on a panel to record a promotional video for Upper 90. No sign of the video on the team's website just yet, but I'm sure it'll show up at some upcoming games.

So, let's jump ahead to Sunday. A solid and dedicated group of beer fans assembled at The Brew Shop bright and early to start loading up the store and moving all manner of beer and wine kits, bottles, grains and equipment down Pennsylvania to the store's new location at 2916 N Penn.

I must say, we made quick work of it, and by about 11 a.m., this is what the old Brew Shop looked like:

They plan to be open today at the new location, which looks great, by the way, and features tons more space than the old layout. So make a mental note of the new location if you're heading out for homebrew supplies anytime soon.

So how about Saturday? All three of Anthem, COOP and Mustang were holding open houses/tours/tastings, so Mrs. Beagle and I decided to go on a whirlwind adventure and hit up all three:

We went to Anthem first, scooted down I-40 to COOP and then shot up Meridian to Mustang to round things out. We found good crowds and good beer at all three locales.

We ended up spending about 30 minutes at Mustang, and within that time, at least five people came up to the bar asking for pints of full-strength beer, only to be told they could only be served samples of those types of beer.

In that 30-minute window, two people who were visiting and/or passing through town came up to the bar and asked for growler fills to take on the road. Same deal: They wanted fills of the high-point stuff, but were told only low-point could go in the growler.

So, if those tourist types were undercover ABLE agents, good job Mustang. But, if as I suspect, those were legitimate beer tourists, it just goes to show that Oklahoma is really missing the boat here.

I know this has been a hectic year in terms of alcohol legislation and liquor law reform, but here's just one more log to add to the fire. The lack of ability for our brewers to serve their full repertoire of beers in a legitimate taproom environment is taking out-of-state (and in-state, for that matter) dollars off the table.

When I was reporting last year for my long-form beer piece in Look at OKC, all three of Chase Healey of Prairie, Tony Tielli of Roughtail and former Anthem brewmaster Matt Anthony shared the same sentiment: If brewers could open their own regular taprooms and serve their full line of beers by the pint and growler, the state's beer industry would explode.

Tielli particularly made a point that stuck with me, and that I've echoed since. If the laws allowed brewers that type of freedom, it would make brewing beer a more financially viable proposition. In turn, that would lead to a marked growth of breweries in the state.

Oklahoma has about a dozen brick-and-mortar breweries. There are several states with more than 100.

Do the math. That would lead to more jobs, more choice for consumers and more out-of-state money coming into Oklahoma's economy.

These are all points that people have made before, but Saturday's open houses just really drove it home for me again.

Mrs. Beagle and I finished the night with a stop at The Patriarch, which was busy as usual. And this is a place where pretty much the only thing on the menu is beer. People are serious about their beer in this state, and beer has the potential to be really serious business in Oklahoma.

If we can just get out of our own way and make it happen.

Pints and Pins

-The Patriarch's Beer from Here Week is in full swing. Festivities started Sunday with special beers from (405) Brewing and Elk Valley Brewing. Things continue today, and I could type out the whole week's schedule, or I could just post this photo:

-Your Monday pint nights at the McNellie's pubs: Mustang Tractor Therapy at Oklahoma City; Angry Orchard at Tulsa; Old Style at Tulsa-South; and Anchor IPA at Norman.

-Anthem is planning to be at a series of events this month: They'll be pouring samples of their full-strength beer on Thursday in the Paseo for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park; they'll be teaming up with Marshall Brewing for a joint tailgate party for the Energy/Tulsa Roughnecks game on Saturday (I'm a little fuzzy on the location for this, but I'm going to assume it's at Taft Stadium, and I'll let you know if it's not); and then they'll be pouring their low-point beer at the Myriad Gardens on July 24 for the Southern Sounds Concert Series #2.

-COOP is taking part in a beer and cheese tasting from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Whole Foods OKC.

-Marshall will have growler fills and pints starting at noon on Friday and will be open at noon July 25 for brewery tours.

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