The Thirsty Beagle: November 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bourbon County Brand Stout drops in Oklahoma

Wasn't too long ago the idea of having Goose Island beer in Oklahoma was far-fetched.

The idea that we would ever get Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout was even more wild.

Well, this isn't your older brother's Oklahoma beer scene, folks.

The 2015 vintage of BCBS -- featuring a new 16.9 oz. bottle -- already surfaced in some stores on Tuesday and is expected to hit more today.

The beer is traditionally released on Black Friday, eliciting long lines at stores that have it in stock. Looks like we'll likely be able to avoid the lines here in Oklahoma as the beer slowly surfaces at various stores.

And for those who want to try it on tap, you'll be in luck there as well. TapWerks has announced they will tap a keg of BCBS at 11 a.m. on Friday. Oak & Ore will also tap a keg at 11 a.m. as part of a larger Black Friday Brunch and Beer Bash, including Elk Valley Coffee Nemesis (with branded coffee mugs), Elk Valley Pumpion, Omnipollo Yellow Belly, Founders Backwoods Bastard, Prairie Christmas Bomb and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.

A good time will be had by all.

In the meantime, let's talk a little bit more about BCBS. For years, this was akin to some sort of mythical beast of a beer for us in Oklahoma. Many had heard of it, but few -- mainly the traders and beer travelers -- had tried it.

When Goose Island was bought out by Anheuser-Busch, it created a natural conundrum. How can we as beer fans covet/worship a beer that ultimately is made by the evil overlord? Some have chosen to no longer kneel at the BCBS altar.

For example, in scanning the local beer social medias this week, I noticed several people being dismissive of BCBS, some specifically citing the A-B tie-in.

Let's not be mistaken: BCBS is a good beer. The beer is made in the same way it's always been made, with the same technique and the same type of ingredients, and in the same brewery in Chicago. While you may find the ownership situation unsavory, the beer itself is indeed something to savor.

Goose Island describes it like this:

"A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer."

If you want to learn more, read this blurb lifted from an article in the Chicago Tribune from earlier this year:

As notable as what’s in the bottles will be the bottles themselves: All BCBS beers will be packaged in new 16.9-ounce custom brown bottles that will be sold individually. Designed by marketing and design firm VSA Partners, the bottles include prominent raised lettering and a small label affixed to the bottleneck.

Goose Island's manager of brewing innovation, Mike Siegel, said the new bottle is an effort to heighten the Bourbon County drinking experience. Though the beers are some of the most sought after in the world, they have until now been packaged in the same 12- and 22-ounce glasses as much of the Goose Island lineup.

This beer is something we put a lot of effort toward, and people stand in line all over the country for it,” Siegel said. “The challenge was to come up with a package that elevates it to the next level.”

Before we dig in a little more on each beer, here’s the context promised above: To celebrate the brewery’s fifth birthday back in 1993, Goose Island’s then-brewmaster, Greg Hall, brewed the most audacious beer he could: a rich, boozy stout aged in barrels that previously held Jim Beam bourbon. Hall called the beer Bourbon County Stout.

The beer was a quick hit and helped launch a movement; aging imperial stouts in whiskey barrels has become an industry touchstone. Most “best beer in the world” lists include a healthy number of barrel-aged stouts, and at least a few are likely to come from the Bourbon County family. (Though Goose Island was sold to Anheuser-Busch in 2011, and some of its beer production has been exported to A-B breweries outside of Chicago, the Bourbon County beers continue to be made at Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery.)

Twenty-two years later, the annual Black Friday release of the Bourbon County series has become a beer calendar event, drawing ever-larger crowds that begin gathering ever earlier.

And for more about the flavor profile specifically, read this, also from the Tribune:

As usual, BCBS will be a blend of imperial stouts Goose has aged for nearly a year in bourbon barrels from several Kentucky distilleries. Drinkers can expect a beer similar to past releases.

“We’re very happy with the beer, and we’ve got a process down that works for us,” Siegel said. “We just focused on making more this year.”

Goose pulled beer from about 4,500 bourbon casks this year — up from about 4,000 last year.

A Goose Island spokeswoman said the suggested retail price for Bourbon County Stout will be $9.99, which would be approximately the same suggested price-per-ounce cost as last year. However, retailers are free to price the beer as they wish.

Early word is that it is retailing in the $11 to $13 range in Oklahoma stores.

In addition, this year Goose Island will release several special variants of BCBS. It's not clear at this point if any of those will make their way to Oklahoma.

Monday, November 23, 2015

OKC establishments offer Thanksgiving, Black Friday beer fixes

Federal holidays typically mean liquor stores -- and a lot of your favorite local drinking establishments -- are closed. But fear not, here's your run-down of how you can escape your in-laws, avoid the Black Friday shopping madness and beat those post-turkey blues -- even on Thanksgiving Day.

-TapWerks is not scared. They are open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Black Friday.

-The Patriarch is open Friday and they encourage you to take a biscotti break from Black Friday. They'll be tapping a keg of Evil Twin Biscotti Break at 3 p.m.

-Roughtail Taphouse will be open on Black Friday and Saturday. On Friday, they're offering 32 oz. growler fills for $8 and 64 oz. growler fills for $16. On Saturday, they'll have free tours at noon and 2, 4 and 6 p.m. They ask that you make tour reservations at

-The Prairie tap room will be open 1 to 5 p.m. on Black Friday and Saturday.

-Marshall Brewing is open at 11 a.m. on Black Friday for tour, pints, merchandise sales, food truck offerings and the debut of a new Session Series release.

-The Brew Shop will be closed for Thanksgiving, but open regular hours the rest of the week.

Pints and Pins

-Speaking of Thanksgiving and turkey, if you're still not sure how you'll prepare your bird this year, there's still time to try a beer brine.

-Your weekly Monday pints at the McNellie's group: Sam Smith Winter Welcome in OKC; Prairie 3rd Anniversary in Tulsa; Weihenstephaner Vitus at Tulsa-South; and "Bourbon Barrel Stout" at Norman. (Not sure from who, but swing by if you like bourbon barrel stout in general.)

-Black Mesa has rolled out a snazzy new website.

-Mustang is putting out a mixed six pack next month featuring Strawshita Strawberry Wheat Ale, Farmhouse Ale and Tractor Therapy IPA.

-Mashall is accepting reservations for group events and holiday parties at the brewery in December. Email kyle@marshallbrewing to book your spot at the tap room.

-And along those same lines, The Patriarch also offers rooms for private events. Email to book your event.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Visit to Anchor Brewing a trip to where it all began

It's hard for me to talk about craft beer and go more than five or 10 minutes without mentioning "The Audacity of Hops."

The book is considered the most detailed account of the modern history of American craft beer, and it especially highlights the role that Anchor Brewing Co. played.

To sum up: Prohibition wiped out hundreds of small craft breweries in America, and the ones that came back fizzled out over the next few decades under the weight of Big Beer. By the mid-1960s, Anchor Brewing was the last small commercial craft brewery in business. The last one.

And it too was on the verge of going out business, before it was scooped up by Fritz Maytag, the great-grandson of the founder of the Maytag appliance company.

Maytag found the brewery in poor shape. It was filthy, stocked with run-down equipment and was one or two days away from shutting down for good. As Maytag described it, he purchased a 51 percent share of the brewery in 1965 for less than the price of a used car.

Through hard work, determination and the insistence that Anchor should never cut corners in its beermaking, Maytag saved the company and in the process, laid the foundation for the American craft beer scene we know today.

For years following Maytag's purchase, anyone who wanted to start a brewery would stop by Anchor first to take a tour, or to try to pick Maytag's brain, or they were just inspired by Anchor's beers. It's not an overstatement to say that the tree of American craft beer -- with some 4,000 branches now -- grew from a trunk called Anchor Brewing.

So, when I had the chance to tag along on my wife's business trip to San Francisco last week and set up a tour at Anchor, you'd better believe I jumped at it. In fact, within about an hour of landing at the airport, we found ourselves walking through the doors of the Anchor brewery.

When you first walk in, the building is not all that inspiring. In fact, it looks a lot like a 1960s or 1970s law office, with a small reception and waiting area giving way to a concrete staircase. The staircase leads you to the tap room, where you start to get a feel for the history of the brewery. 

It's plastered with old-school tin beer logos and memorabilia, photos and old beer bottles. In one tall glass case is every version of Anchor's Christmas beer ever brewed, starting with the first one in 1975:

(Interesting story about Anchor Christmas: The labels have been hand-drawn each year by the same person. He lives on a houseboat and draws a different tree each time.)

After you get a short lecture on the history of the company and each of its beers... get to go back to the brewhouse, where you see Anchor's iconic copper kettles:

The three kettles, imported from Europe and in use for decades, are used to make every drop of Anchor beer. Anchor is distributed in all 50 states and several foreign countries, so you might think it would be hard to produce enough beer in only three kettles. To solve that issue, they brew pretty much around the clock, taking a break only from about 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

After leaving the brewhouse, you see the open-fermentation room, the hop storage room and the glycol chiller room. From, there, it's on to the bottling line:

And from there, it's back to the tap room to sample pretty much all of the beer in Anchor's main-production lineup.

Overall, it was a super-cool tour, and I came away appreciating Anchor probably even more than I did before. A word of warning if you try to make your own trip: The tap room is not open to those who don't have tours reservations, and they also don't serve beer for sale. You can stop by and visit the gift shop any time, but really your best bet is to get a reservation so you can take the tour and sample the beer.

Pints and Pins

-Evil Twin meet the brewer and glassware night at Oak & Ore is 5 p.m., Wednesday, followed by an Evil Twin beer dinner at TapWerks set from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. You can get tickets for the dinner here, but sticker-shock warning: they're listed at $69.57.

-Republic is hosting a Beer Social today at 6 p.m. The cost is $20 and gets you "A line up of pub favorites paired with small bites."

-Black Mesa is holding a beer dinner at Lottinville's on Wednesday. Call the restaurant for reservations.

-A date has been set for the annual Mashed In homebrewers showcase. Next year's event is set for Feb. 28.

-Oak & Ore is launching its new brunch menu and brunch drinks on Sunday, and everyone who shows up in their pajamas will get a free side of bacon.

-Super-cool deal coming up at The Patriarch -- they're accepting art that combines beer and Star Wars for a Dec. 10 art show. More details right here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Marshall Brewing set for annual Big Jamoke release

Tulsa's Marshall Brewing Co. is set to celebrate the 2015 release of its delicious Big Jamoke Porter, and the brewery is throwing a little love to the folks in Norman.

A Marshall beer dinner featuring Big Jamoke is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at McNellie's-Norman. You can see all the details on this event graphic:

Seating is limited, so best to act quickly if you want to scoop up one of the remaining spots.

On a side note, any event that pulls together El Cucuy (one of my all-time favorite Oklahoma beers), This Machine and Big Jamoke is an event worth attending. And while I may not rate Sundown Wheat as one of my top beers, it does sound like an excellent choice to partner up with pumpkin soup.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

International Stout Day activities abound in OKC

The annual International Stout Day is on Thursday, and some of our local bars are delivering with some stout beer lineups. (See what I did there?)

Let's start off with TapWerks, which has planned a fairly jaw-droppingly good series of flights and pints. Like IPA Day in August, TapWerks is rolling out hourly flights, at $12/flight. Here they are:

5 p.m.
-Roughtail Bait and Switch
-Mustang Udderly Awesome Peanut Butter Milk Stout
-(405) LHB, Batch 1
-Iron Monk Somethin' Pumpkin
-Anthem Sour Small

6 p.m.
-COOP 2014 Coconut TROAIS
-COOP 2014 Cherry Coconot TROAIS
-Roughtail Shore Leave
-Anthem Imperial Stout
-Anthem Coffee Coconut Uroboros

7 p.m.
-COOP 2014 Coffee TROAIS
-Elk Valley Coffee Nemesis
-Black Mesa Los Naranjos
-Roughtail Midwatch
-(405) FDR, Batch 1

8 p.m.
-COOP 2014 Tequila TROAIS
-COOP 2015 TROAIS (non barrel-aged)
-Prairie Vanilla Noir
-Marshall 2014 Black Dolphin Stout
-Goose Island 2014 Bourbon County Brand Stout

Some of those beers will not be familiar, so how about a little primer on a few of the one-offs?

-Roughtail Bait and Switch: A white stout; a stout disguised as a light beer (8% ABV)
-Iron Monk Somethin' Pumpkin: Pumpkin pie butterscotch stout (7.3%)
-Roughtail Shore Leave: Tropical stout with rum, oak, Scotch bonnet and vanilla (7.6%)
-Anthem Sour Small: Session sour stout (4.5%)
-Anthem Imperial Stout: With vanilla, strawberry, coriander and cocoa nibs (9.5%)
-Black Mesa Los Naranjos: This year's coffee stout collaboration with Elemental Coffee (8%)
-Roughtail Midwatch: Imperal stout with coffee, bourbon, vanilla, oak and chocolate (10%)
-COOP 2014 Tequila TROAIS: Whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout aged one year in tequila barrels (13.1%)
-COOP 2015 TROAIS: This year's yet-to-be-released TROAIS, prior to barrel aging (13.1%)

TapWerks is also offering up a selection of starters, entrees and desserts featuring stout-infused recipes. Really, you can't go wrong.

But let's say you can't make it to TapWerks. Fear not, others are joining in the fun.

-The Patriarch is getting in on the festivities with a variety of stouts promised to be on tap, including a special offerings from Roughtail. Also, the first 24 people to order a stout after 6 p.m. will receive a special glass. The full list of beers is expected to be released on the TapHunter app today (Wednesday).

-Pub W in Oklahoma City and Norman will celebrate Stout Day by featuring a number of brews, including Evil Twin Biscotti Break.

Bonus side note: McNellie's OKC is hosting a Lagunitas Beer Dinner at 7 p.m. Nov. 10. Email for more info or to reserve a spot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Annual OKBIO BrewFest set for Thursday

One of the better beer events in the state is coming up on Thursday as the OKBIO Brewfest is set for 5 to 7 p.m. at the Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.

This is the fourth year for OKBIO BrewFest, and the event continues to grow with each edition. Check out the lineup of beer, wine and liquor vendors set to participate:

Just about the full contingent of Oklahoma brewers will take part in the event, which was launched as a way to showcase Oklahoma breweries, raise funds for the Oklahoma Bioscience Association and increase the public profile of biosciences across the state.

After spending two years at the Harn Homestead, the event was moved last year to the Bricktown Ballpark, in order to accommodate its growing attendance.

Tickets are $30 and are available here. Walk-up tickets will also be sold, for $40. The first 300 to register will get a BrewFest T-shirt.

If you're feeling lucky, head over to The Thirsty Beagle Facebook page for a chance to win a free pair of tix to the event.