The Thirsty Beagle: January 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Study: Oklahoma craft beer industry has $415M economic impact

A recently released study from the University of Central Oklahoma paints an encouraging picture for the economic impact of the Oklahoma craft beer industry, and points to even loftier numbers if craft-brewer friendly alcohol law reforms are passed.

The study, commissioned by the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild, states that in 2014, the Oklahoma craft beer industry had a $415.7 million economic impact in the state. A chunk of that impact -- $128.3 million, or 30.8 percent -- is tied directly to income of workers in the craft beer industry.

The remainder is made up of so-called indirect effects, like tax revenue and employment and purchasing in other sectors along the supply and consumption chain, according to the study.

Numbers that are perhaps even more interesting are those derived when you analyze economic impact on a per-barrel or per-glass level.

The study shows that each barrel (approximately 31 gallons) of beer produced by Oklahoma craft brewers had a $16,353 impact in 2014. Each 12-ounce pour of beer had an impact of $65.94.

Some other interesting facts and figures:

-The average pay per employee in the Oklahoma craft beer industry was $49,870. This compensation ranked Oklahoma sixth in the nation in for craft beer employees -- higher than even Texas or California, for example.

-The Oklahoma craft beer industry had the 33rd highest economic impact in the U.S., despite being 47th in total craft beer production.

-The median reported production growth for Oklahoma craft brewers in 2015 was 51 percent.

-Based on that rate of production growth, the Oklahoma craft beer industry's expected economic impact for 2015 would be just shy of $470 million.

While the study naturally could not calculate the exact economic impact in Oklahoma if craft brewers received favorable alcohol law reform, it did presume such a development would help the industry grow tremendously.

"The full potential of this industry remains untapped" in Oklahoma, the study reads.

"Given the existing laws that restrict craft beer production and consumption, there is a large amount of growth potential that could result in a substantial economic benefit to the state."

The study states that in 2014, the industry was responsible for approximately $5.6 million in tax revenues contributed to the state. With a production growth in the industry of only 10 percent, that tax revenue would grow to approximately $7.7 million, the author estimates. That doesn't seem like a big deal -- roughly a $2 million difference -- but in a state looking to diversify its tax base, surely every extra million doesn't hurt.

The study goes into significant details comparing Oklahoma to other like-sized states in terms of production and economic impact.

In production, Oklahoma checked in with 25,425 barrels in 2014. Compare that to Oregon, which produced more than 1 million barrels.

Even subtracting Oregon from the average of like-sized states, Oklahoma still lagged in production, failing to keep pace with an average of more than 66,000 barrels.

It seems pretty clear from everything we know anecdotally that several new brewers would pop up on the market given more forgiving and business-friendly alcohol laws. That leads to one dynamic the study simply cannot predict -- how many barrels would be pumped into the pipeline by brewers who aren't in business right now?

That's just one of many interesting questions we may get answers to as we move through 2016.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Reaction: Beer fans, insiders sound off on blog post

My blog post on Thursday -- about the process of getting the state question written up for alcohol reform -- elicited a lot of reaction, both in agreement and disagreement with what I wrote.

And I think that's great. I don't claim to have all the answers, or know everything about beer, or that my opinion is better than anyone else's.

What I was really hoping to accomplish was not just to share my opinion (which, in case you were wondering, is built on covering, reporting on and writing about the Oklahoma craft beer scene for seven and a half years, and also covering politics and elections in Oklahoma for the Associated Press and The Oklahoman going back to 2002). It was also to make people continue the conversation on this topic in a public forum.

Despite any criticism of what I wrote -- and I did think everyone's opinions were valid, even those that disagreed -- I truly believe we cannot let this conversation happen only within the walls of the Capitol.

So I'll continue that conversation a little bit here by sharing some of the reaction to the blog post from my Facebook page (for fairness, these comments are unedited).

First, you have state Sen. Stephanie Bice:

I'm a bit surprised by the post. First, the "we're" references ALL the interested parties. I have had NUMEROUS meetings with every involved entity to understand what their top priorities are. That includes the craft breweries. Adam and Eric Marshall can attest to this. I will fight like hell to allow the breweries to sell their product. I wanted to see SB424 pass independently last session but it got caught up in the bigger 383 discussion and didn't get heard on the House side. I also want them to have the option to self distribute if they so choose. I WANT Oklahoma craft breweries to succeed and will work to support them. Anyone who thinks otherwise is misguided.

Second, the notion the "some entities" I referenced that would be affected if we "lose control and this goes the initiative petition route" are the big distributors and AB is again, false. Do they have a seat at the table? Of course, but so do the NRS'/Brokers, Retailers, Wholesalers, Groceries, C-Stores, Craft Brewers and others. I've advocated for all of them in some way or another.

I hope this public response clears up some of the assumptions made.

We also had one of the state's beermakers join in. Mustang Brewing Co. founder Tim Schoelen shared this thought:

Thank you, Nick! Someone is finally saying, publicly, what this "movement" has become. This new bill is not for the brewers, it is for the distributors. Oklahoma craft brewers and their fans are being left behind; hopefully, just for now. I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of something more.

Schoelen returned later to respond to a commenter who respectfully took issue with what Schoelen was saying in the thread:

Charlie - I did not take any disrespect from your post, nor did I mean any in my earlier comments. I have immense respect for Senator Bice, Kevin Hall, Zach Prichard, Eric Marshall, and all who are carrying the torch on this issue. We have made great strides forward over the past, few years and there is momentum. I am, however, pessimistic that SB424 will be passed this session in a way that will allow local breweries to sell our products direct to consumers [as do wineries]. The larger issues with SB383 that concern distributors with far deeper lobbying dollars than the small, Oklahoma breweries will garner most of the focus. It is how the system works. I could be mistaken. I certainly hope I am. I have only been in the craft beer game for a little over six years. I am far from an expert. This is solely my personal opinion.

And the Kevin Hall that Schoelen mentioned shared some good insight as well. Hall is the founder of LOCAL -- the League of Oklahomans for Change in Alcohol Laws. Here's what he had to say:

There are two bills. One is SB383 and the other is SB424. SB383 is a bill that was originally only about refrigeration, but it grew to abolish the dual strength system. This means that it impacts the business models of retail outlets and distribution. Additionally, the bill now moves the state to a three tier system. All of these things touch on consumer choice, retail, and distribution.

There are two major areas, concerning 383, where there is conflict. One is the retail fight. One side wishes to move wine over to grocery stores and convenience stores and they do not want an ABV cap on the beers they can sell. The other wants to keep wine mostly in package stores and wants to put an ABV cap on traditional 3.2 outlets. (The last I heard, there was something of a Colorado agreement on the table.) Either side could leave the table with their own initiative petition.

Second area of conflict is distribution. On the weak beer side, ABInBev owns a distributor. They would like to be able to own this distributor when we go single strength. The Beer Distributors of Oklahoma do not want ABInBev to own a distributor. They favor independent distributors. Either side could leave the table and start a petition.

I know this because I have been asked by numerous people to do a petition initiative favoring their side.

There are pluses and minuses, from a consumer perspective, about all of these changes. Additionally, they have pluses and minuses concerning their impact on craft beer. I'm anxious to see what the language looks like. I am opposed to certain things that may make it in, and I'm curious about the shape of the language. But ultimately I'm a bit in the dark about them. I do know that Senator Stephanie Bice has been open and willing to talk about most of this. She is tenacious.

I do agree that there is a need for a consumer voice. Which is why I founded LOCAL a year or so ago.

I honestly felt like the whole thread was a very respectful, civil discourse. It's the type of discussion we have to be able to have. And, in hearing from Sen. Bice and others within the industry, I do believe there is collaboration happening and that some compromises will be made -- more so than I would have considered prior.

That being said, I still maintain my position, which I explained in the thread -- that Anheuser Busch and the Beer Distributors of Oklahoma will ultimately steer the ship on the language of the state question.

When all is said and done, I just have trouble with the idea that this state question somehow will be different from every other big political issue in terms of who wields the most influence at the negotiating table.

Either way, I'm engaged and curious to see how this shakes out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oklahoma beer legislation a wolf in wolf's clothing?

I've had a full week to sit back and reflect on the first Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit hosted at Oak & Ore, and I think waiting this long to formulate a written opinion on the topic was a good idea.

Taking time to digest what happened at Oak & Ore was good primarily because it gave me time to visit with some industry folks and really get a pulse for where we're going from here.

First, how about some general impressions on the event?

I'm always amazed at the turnout for beer events here in OKC. Maybe I should stop being that way, since most events end up being well-attended. The summit at Oak & Ore, held on Jan. 13, was no exception. Clearly the craft beer culture is growing, and people are showing out to prove it.

The representation from the state's craft brewers was excellent as well. Short of TapWerks' Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival, or Wild Brew, that may have been the most local brewers I've seen in one place at one time.

I've heard some complaints about acoustics and logistics. While improvements could have been made so people sitting nearer the front door could hear the speakers just as well as those sitting near the podium, some of that simply has to be chalked up to the layout of the pub.

But let's move on from the formalities. What about the messaging? A lot of it was not surprising.

We're behind the times. Prohibition sucked. Better laws will allow more business and tourism. Craft beer in Oklahoma is primed to grow. All important points, but all points that won't take anyone by storm.

What stood out to me was the short speech given by state Sen. Stephanie Bice.

Bice has been adopted by the craft beer community as the sweetheart of the movement. She introduced Senate Bill 383, which started out humbly as the refrigeration bill, but has now morphed into the chariot that likely will carry Oklahoma's alcohol reform state question right onto the ballot in November.

Even Bice admitted being surprised by the reaction to her bill, which she explained she introduced because "I like cold beer." Who can't get behind that, right? She professed her admiration for all of the state's craft brewers, and her desire to make things better for the consumer. But her answers to a couple questions have stuck with me more so each and every day since the summit.

To a question about what her colleagues in the Senate think about alcohol reform:

"I will not speak for my colleagues, because I think in all fairness, I think they need to see the legislation. We're currently writing that -- we're in the process of writing the referendum, or the state question, and how that will be laid out. And then there is an unbelievable amount of rewrites to Title 37, which is where all the alcohol statutes are. To give you some perspective, there are I believe 200 pages to Title 37. It's a tremendous amount of information that we have to look at and analyze and potentially rewrite."

And then to a question about whether we have a realistic chance to get reform passed:

"I feel very confident about it. I've been working ever since the end of last session to bring these parties together and get perspectives from everyone to put together what I thought was reasonable legislation. That being said, there is also the possibility of an initiative petition by an outside group. If that happens, the Legislature will have no control over it. That sounds great in theory to some, but the reality is, we lose a lot of control over things that are really important to some entities. So, I want to fix this legislatively. I don't want it to end up in an initiative petition route, which is collecting signatures and getting it on the ballot that route. But I do feel pretty confident that something will be done, one way or another."

OK, let's read between the lines here. The first answer seems innocuous enough. But if I could put on my amateur psychologist hat, I think it's a classic scene-setting statement. Listen people -- I'm going to tell you how hard this will be. It's so difficult, you wouldn't believe it. You should be happy we're (and just who is "we're" is the question we all should be asking) up here at the Capitol figuring this out for you. Hold on to this point for a second.

Let's look at the second answer. This one is more to the point, because without saying it, I'm fairly certain Bice is tipping her cap to Anheuser Busch and the state's other big distributors (read: the people with the most money and seemingly the most to lose if things don't work out their way). "We lose a lot of control over things that are really important to some entities," she said. Who are those entities that won't get what they want if we go the initiative petition route? The consumer? To me, that's who drives the initiative petition process.

Tell me if I'm wrong -- and I'd be happy to be wrong on this point -- but I think we all know the "we're" in the "we're in the process" is the same as the "some entities" Bice mentions. It's the lobbyists for AB and the Beer Distributors of Oklahoma. (Insert dramatic music!)

Seriously, though, we shouldn't be surprised to know money talks. That's how the political process works in Oklahoma and in America. And that's what is at work in the fight for alcohol reform now. I think I've been pretty consistent in making that point.

Still, you'll notice I called it a fight. While to me Bice's language made it seem like the text of the state question and our future constitution is somewhat predetermined at this point, I do believe there is room to fight.

First and foremost, if you're a craft beer fan, you need to fight for the right for brewers to sell their full line-up of beer on-premise. I can't underscore this point enough. Forget refrigeration. Forget grocery stores. Even forget single-strength. The absolute most essential win for craft beer in Oklahoma is point-of-production sales. So take that message to Bice and your local legislator. Even if the little guy can't control what the state question will say, we should at least fight to have craft beer considered in the process. Hopefully that is what the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma can accomplish this session (and to be fair, Bice did say she favors point-of-production sales).

So, I think that's all I got on this. When I thought about writing this, I didn't really expect to get so impassioned about it. I certainly don't mean to hate on Sen. Bice -- not for a second. I feel she's a very nice person and indeed a fan of craft beer, and she does have an incredibly tough job as the focal point of so many competing interests. I'm not suggesting in any way she's intending to pull a fast one on anybody, and I can admit it's easy for me to over-analyze what she was saying.

It's just that in the lead-up to the Craft Beer Summit, I was so filled with optimism, that I think I let my guard down. I let myself sort of drift away from the forces that I know are in play here. I even talked myself into thinking that big money may not totally ruin this for us. And then I was reminded about all that stuff in Bice's answers to those questions.

But I do know that running away from the process -- however daunting it seems -- won't accomplish anything, and I do know that fighting for the state's brewers and for craft beer in general is a worthy cause. So, fight on, craft beer fan.

Friday, January 15, 2016

COOP parts ways with longtime team member

There's a little bit of newsy news coming out of COOP Ale Works this week.

Following up on a tip from my network of beer insiders (OK, I don't really have a network of beer insiders per se, but it sounded cool to write), I was able to confirm through COOP that company co-founder and co-owner JD Merryweather is no longer with the brewery.

Merryweather has been a fixture on the Oklahoma craft beer scene dating back to at least 2009, helping get COOP off the ground and acting as the brewery's public representative.

The details of the split remain somewhat unclear -- COOP politely declined to issue a statement at this time and Merryweather did not respond to a request for comment.

It is not immediately clear what will become of Merryweather's ownership stake in the brewery, or of his role with the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild, where he sits on the leadership team.

One thing that is clear is that COOP is continuing on with the business of making beer, and they're getting ready to celebrate another anniversary.

Hard to believe, but COOP will turn seven this year, and they're planning an anniversary party on March 5 at the brewery.

The bash will be held over two sessions -- 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then 4 to 8 p.m. -- and will be a 21-and-older affair.

Tickets will be $20 at the door, or $15 if you purchase in advance at the taproom from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fridays or 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to support the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, which benefited from last year's anniversary party to the tune of more than $14,000.

Several food trucks will be on hand for your culinary needs, and COOP is asking people to use the hashtag #COOPis7 when you're social media-ing about it.

Sounds like a good time, but man, how is COOP seven years old?! (Answer: I'm old.)

In other COOP news, this year's Territorial Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine started popping up on store shelves this week. 

Says COOP: "This hop-forward interpretation was crafted with a generous dose of Amarillo hops late in the boil, and then aged in bourbon barrels for nine months. Just before bottling, the beer was dry-hopped with Citra, resulting in a well-aged barley wine with freshly hopped character. Enjoy now or age as you please."

Sounds like an interesting take on the barleywine style. And speaking of hops, COOP is getting ready to release its Alpha Hive Double IPA, as well.

COOP reports that the beer was not set for release until February, but that they were ahead of schedule and decided to push forward with a retail release around Jan. 25. 

It will indeed be nice to have another take-home option from COOP.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oklahoma craft brewers to release Collaboration for Legislation Ale

In an effort to raise funds for the newly formed Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma, brewmasters from eight Oklahoma craft breweries will meet at Tuesday at Choc Beer Co. in Krebs to brew Collaboration for Legislation Ale.

The low-point ale will be a joint project between brewers from Choc, Anthem, COOP, Iron Monk, Marshall, Prairie, Renaissance and 405.

Brewers will convene at Choc at 9 a.m. Tuesday to produce approximately 1,550 gallons of the beer, which will then be sold in brewery taprooms across the state for $5 to $6 a pint. The beer is expected to be available the first week of February, with proceeds from sales going to support legislative efforts of the CBAO.

"The current state of the craft beer industry in Oklahoma is strong," said Zach Prichard, president of Choc and of the CBAO. "We are looking for common-sense legislative reforms to ensure craft brewers have reliable paths to market.

"I am excited to to brew with other talented Oklahoma brewers as we work to modernize craft beer laws."

The CBAO -- the legislative and advocacy arm of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild -- held its first public event on Wednesday during the Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit at Oak & Ore, in Oklahoma City's Plaza District

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Oak & Ore, OK brewers go next-level for bar's anniversary

If you know anything about the restaurant business, you know that starting up a concept and seeing it through to success can be a dicey proposition.

Myself, I grew up in the restaurant business. My father owned a frozen food/restaurant distribution company in Toronto. In the summers, I would run on deliveries, mastering the art of using a dolly to get 150 pounds of frozen fries off a delivery truck and down steep, narrow flights of stairs to the restaurant's walk-in. My dad would pay me $20 a day -- not a bad deal for a 13-year-old.

When I was a teen, my dad got me jobs at the restaurants he worked with. I worked the grill, worked food prep, cleaned tables, cleaned bathrooms -- you name it.

Over the years, we saw a lot of restaurants come and go. We saw apparently successful restaurants that had trouble paying for their deliveries, running up tabs reaching tens of thousands of dollars. 

Running a successful restaurant or bar is tough. The hours can be rough if you have a family. There's no guaranteed income. It's hard to get staffed up with good people -- especially if you're working with a niche concept.

I say all that to make this point: It's worth extending a hearty congratulations to Oak & Ore, which is getting ready this week to celebrate it's one-year anniversary. 

While the bar and restaurant has been open for a year now, the idea of Oak & Ore goes back more than half a decade. As I reported in 2014, the inspiration really took shape for founder Micah Andrews in 2010. 

Sometime after that -- the date is fuzzy now -- I met Andrews at a beer tasting. He introduced himself and let me know he was working on a concept that would be a new thing for Oklahoma City. It wouldn't be about restaurant guys who try hard at beer -- it would be beer guys who try extra hard at beer.

I stored that info in my back pocket like any good reporter would, but I really didn't expect to hear about it again.

Lo and behold, Andrews was serious. Now, all these years later, we have one of the top beer destinations in the state right in the heart of Oklahoma City. Kind of makes you think -- who else out there is sitting on an idea right now that we won't see for four or five years?

Anyway, I digress. Oak & Ore has made it through that always-tumultuous first year in business, and they are ready to party -- with a little help from their friends.

For starters, the first Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit is set from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at Oak & Ore, featuring an excellent line-up of speakers. You can find more info on that at the Oak & Ore FB page.

Then the bar is following that up by hosting its official anniversary party at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, featuring a pretty awe-inspiring line-up of local craft beer options.

Let's take a look at the list for Thursday:

(Times of release listed for special beers -- all beers while quantities last)

-405 ESP
-Anthem Coffee Pappy Burleson (7 p.m.)
-Anthem Smoked Pecan Pappy Burleson (7 p.m.)
-Anthem Cranberry Pappy Burleson (7 p.m.)
-Anthem Babalon
-Black Mesa ES-ESB
-COOP Bourbon Barrel Gransport Porter (6 p.m.)
-COOP Coconut Territorial Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (6 p.m.)
-COOP Pineapple Habanero Saison (6 p.m.)
-COOP Chai Brown
-COOP Wild Raspberry Hibiscus Saison
-Dead Armadillo Hoppy Ending
-Elk Valley Bourbon Oak Nemesis
-Elk Valley Rum Oak Nemesis
-Elk Valley Schank! Berliner Weiss
-Iron Monk Chocolate Habanero Stout
-Marshall Coffee Big Jamoke Porter
-Marshall Oat IPA
-Marshall Volks Pils
-Prairie Vanilla Noir (8 p.m.)
-Prairie Foudre Weiss (8 p.m.)
-Prairie Falcon Punch (8 p.m.)
-Roughtail Indian Curry Hoptometrist
-Roughtail Honey Rye Wheat

That right there is an impressive list. My must-haves, in no particular order: Anthem Coffee Pappy, COOP Pineapple Habanero Saison, Elk Valley Rum Oak Nemesis, Iron Monk Chocolate Habanero Stout and Roughtail Indian Curry Hoptometrist (FWIW, a few years back Choc did a curry OPA for IPA Day at TapWerks, and it was great!).

But really, as they always say, you can't go wrong with any of those offerings. So feel free to get out to Oak & Ore the next two days to take part in the festivities.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 promises to be a big year for Oklahoma beer

Back around January 2009, about four months after I started this blog (on, things certainly didn't feel like they feel now on the Oklahoma craft beer scene.

For one thing, we barely had an Oklahoma craft beer scene. Choc -- as we know it now -- was just a few years old, Marshall had just formed a few months prior, and COOP and Mustang were just barely getting off the ground.

Now it's 2016; we have 11 brick-and-mortar, strong-beer brewers licensed with ABLE (as of November), plus several gypsy/contract brewers who call Oklahoma home, and several more breweries-in-planning.

As we dive into the new year, one thing appears certain: Oklahoma is primed for big changes and perhaps even more significant growth as far as craft is concerned.

For example, on Thursday, Oak & Ore announced a series of one-year anniversary celebrations, highlighted by the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma's first Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit. The event is scheduled for 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at the bar, 1732 NW 16.

Guest speakers are expected to include state Sen. Stephanie Bice and Craft Brewers Association President Zach Prichard, who is also the president of Choc. While Bice is expected to discuss Oklahoma's liquor laws, Prichard is expected to announce a collaboration between Choc, Anthem, COOP, Iron Monk, Marshall, Prairie, Renaissance and 405 Brewing aimed at supporting the organization's goals in the 2016 legislative session.

Clearly, as a craft beer community, we're set to cover new ground this year. So, in the spirit of the new year, how about I share my resolutions and predictions for the upcoming year in Oklahoma craft beer?

-Voters will approve a state question bringing alcohol reform. Everyone in the industry -- from macro to micro -- agrees that it's time for changes to our alcohol laws. (Well, everyone apparently except for the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, which in 2015 argued for and against reform, seemingly switching positions depending on the tone of the latest public policy study released.) Of course the real trick of the matter is everyone agreeing on something else: What will the ballot language look like for the state question? A battle between Anheuser-Busch and the Beer Distributors of Oklahoma is already -- wait for it -- brewing on that point. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

-Oklahoma's craft brewers won't have to pick sides in the fight. Sort of. Both options -- aligning with either AB or BDO -- cause problems for craft brewers. If you pick the wrong side in the skirmish over distribution rules, you could end up compromising your small business if your side loses. So what will craft brewers do? We already know the answer -- they start up their own side. More than one brewer has told me over the years that a key to growing the influence of Oklahoma's craft brewers is simply having more craft brewers. A collaboration of seven or eight Oklahoma craft brewers wasn't even possible a few years ago, so it'll be interesting to see what influence they can ply at the state Capitol.

-Someone will sell out, someone will close up shop. Not to be a Debbie Downer here, but this is what happens in the craft beer business. It's what's happened since the first craft beer boom of the 1980s. In Oklahoma, we've been insulated to a degree from the volatility of the craft beer business because starting and operating a craft beer business in this state is extremely difficult. Those who have the fortitude to even get one off the ground are pretty dedicated and serious about what they're doing. Once things like point-of-production sales are on the up-and-up (and hopefully they will be as part of alcohol reform), there's no doubt that many fly-by-night and less serious operations will spring up. Plus, many more legitimately serious and talented brewers will get into the game. All of that will undoubtedly crowd the market and put pressure on the existing brewers. Most will come through just fine because the quality of what they're doing will win out, but don't be surprised if one or more brewers bows out of the game as the dynamics of Oklahoma's beer landscape change.

-Once the boom arrives, it'll really arrive. This may be more of a prediction for 2017 and beyond, but the passage of reform will send us down a path that I believe will boggle people's minds. I don't think it's unrealistic that by the end of 2020, Oklahoma would have between 30 and 40 brick-and-mortar breweries and/or true brewpubs. The state has a strong homebrew tradition -- some of the best beer I've tasted has been made by hobby brewers here in Oklahoma -- and I know the lure of making a career out of their hobby will make a lot more sense for a lot more people after reform.

-Get ready for corporate craft, too. We're already starting to see an influx of traveling, out-of-state beer festivals make their way into Oklahoma. Often they actually have very little local craft beer. And, organizers of such events typically try to get small, local brewers to donate the beer on the brewer's own dime. We should all resolve to choose first to patronize local events, where proceeds stay in the state, and that are supported by the local craft brewers.

-Oklahoma craft beer will gain more of a foothold in Oklahoma's bar and restaurants. Raise your hand if you're tired of seeing Stella, Blue Moon, Bud Light and Sam Adams Seasonal on tap at every restaurant. I know I am. As people choose more and more to patronize places with a good, local beer selection, I think we'll see more businesses come on line. Heck, not too long ago, I had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at Thai Kitchen in downtown Oklahoma City. If Thai Kitchen can have Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, there's no reason every restaurant in the city can't resolve to do better.

-The consumer will win. Maybe I'm just a dreamer. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic. Hey, I realize that big business is all up in our plans for alcohol reform, and knowing that, if you were a betting man, you'd probably feel obligated to bet on big business. But there's just so much about reform that equates to instant wins for the consumer: Point-of-production sales (good for quality and tourism). Refrigerated strong beer (good for quality and convenience). Sunday sales (good for convenience). Being able to pick up strong beer like any other grocery item (great for convenience). Sure, the issue of distribution rules looms, and people will make counterarguments ranging from potential higher beer prices to public safety concerns. Regardless, I think what's clear is that from the perspective of the craft consumer, things are looking up in a way they haven't before. It'll be fascinating to see how 2016 plays out.