The Thirsty Beagle: September 2016

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New DFW brew pub scores high points

I have relatives in the DFW area -- Rowlett, Texas, to be exact -- and there's one thing the Beagle family has always known when traveling down to visit family:

Stock up on beer before you get into city limits.

While the DFW area has seen a massive proliferation of craft beer choices, the northeastern suburb of Rowlett was generally not involved in the boom. The grocery stores there have been allowed to sell craft beer, but with the city being partially dry, liquor stores and craft breweries were not welcome.

Until 2015, that is, when residents there voted to go fully wet. Within the past year, we've seen two liquor stores open up in Rowlett, and more recently, the city's first craft brewery has come alive.

Bankhead Brewing Co. has been open about a month now, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised following my visit there this past weekend.

I actually went into the trip with relatively low expectations. That was certainly influenced by the fact that Rowlett has zero reputation as a hotbed for craft beer. But Bankhead scored some major points.

I sampled through all eight of their tap offerings and immediately noticed that all were brewed right on the money when it comes to style accuracy.

And they were brewed quite well, too. The beers ranged from the accessible Devil Wagon Munich Helles lager to the aggressively hopped Hop In IPA. I especially enjoyed the Gussy Up American raspberry wheat and Janet's Brown, the American brown ale that any good homebrewer would recognize from the "Brewing Classic Styles" handbook.

Brewery officials told me they wanted to craft a variety of beers -- like the lighter lagers and their hefeweizen -- to cater to beer drinkers in the area whose palates may not be suited to aggressive hops just yet. At the same time, they've tipped their cap to hop-heads who would appreciate a four-hop blend heavy on Citra and Cascade.

And they're eyeing some more envelope-pushing brews as well, including a barrel-aged Gose and a bourbon-chocolate oatmeal stout.

Aside from the beer, the decor and vibe at Bankhead were on point -- a great blend of brick, wood and steel that gave the pub a modern-yet-rustic feel.

You can see the old Ford bar-front in that pic. The brewery is named after the old Bankhead Highway, which was constructed in 1916 to connect Washington, D.C., with San Diego. Several hundred miles of the roadway crossed through Texas, including right through Rowlett. So the brewery is named after the roadway, and you can see the automobile imagery carried trough in its branding.

You can score beer in four-ounce samples, by the half-pint or pint, or by 32- and 64-ounce growlers. If you're sticking around to drink your selection, you should take up a seat in the patio area, which was terrific. Even better, the food was tremendous. I ordered a salmon-brussels-risotto combination that was off the charts. They also feature a brick oven to spin out a selection of fire-roasted pizzas.

So, overall, two enthusiastic thumbs up for Bankhead Brewing. It's a must-visit if you happen to be in the east or northeast DFW area.

I'll leave you with a few bonus shots of their brewhouse:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sliding into the weekend with musings on Roughtail, Marshall, SQ 792

Happy Friday, y'all. What better time to pass along a few musings and odds and ends...

-Roughtail is releasing the much-anticipated Wheat Dreams at the brewery today at 4. The brewery-only beer will be available in cans, growlers and pints. They're also putting out a draft-only run of Everything Rhymes with Orange. Roughtail is expecting a big crowd; they've even provided a snarky parking tutorial on their FB page. I think this is a really interesting release because we're starting to see how things are changing for brewers now that the newness of being able to sell from the brewery is wearing off. I've spoken to several brewers who said they were thrilled with the reaction and crowds on Aug. 26, but the real test would come several weeks down the road. Would foot traffic sustain on a regular basis? I think the key will be in the content, like with any business. Brewers will have to maintain a focus on giving consumers a reason to get out to the brewery. That's likely going to mean a pretty interesting proliferation of one-offs and special beers. Certainly it will be interesting to see if those offerings continue to pull people in.

-Seems like every bar and pub is hosting a stein-hoisting competition right about now. It is the season for Oktoberfest beers, and all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with that. While you certainly have all kinds of options when it comes to Oktoberfest beer, you should remember you have some very solid local choices available. Both COOP and Anthem are doing good things with their Oktoberfests, but I want to shine the spotlight on Marshall for a minute. Brewmaster Eric Marshall apprenticed in Germany and his history and experience is conveyed in the company's outstanding lineup of lagered beers. And those beers will be the stars of the brewery's Marshtoberfest celebration on Oct. 1. The brewery will be open from noon to 6 p.m. that day with German beer, food and music. Marshall Oktoberfest is a must-get beer for me every fall, but you also don't want to miss out on Klaus Hefeweizen if you haven't had the chance to try that one yet.

-I'm seeing more and more media -- both online and in various newspapers and television shows -- about State Question 792. With about six weeks to election day, we should only expect things will heat up more. One thing that continues to irk me is that the anti-792 crowd/liquor store owners continue to complain about only being able to have two liquor licenses under SQ 792. Now, if the liquor store owners want to complain about Walmart making a power grab for cheap wine sales, that's fine by me, because that's a fair argument. But as I've pointed out numerous times, liquor store owners (before they left the bargaining table) were offered the opportunity to own several licenses. As state Sen. Stephanie Bice has said, they rejected that offer because they wanted to protect themselves from the likes of Spec's and Total Wine coming into the state. I continue to be dismayed, although I guess not surprised anymore, that some liquor store owners are sticking to this talking point. It's truth-bending at best, and straight-up disingenuous at its worst. 

-In case you missed my blog post from earlier this week, we've got a crazy boatload of beer events coming up in the OKC area in the next couple weeks.

That's all for me today -- have a great weekend beer peeps!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beer events galore lined up in OKC

Don't you dare say you've got nothing to do! Check out what's on tap for the OKC beer scene in the next couple weeks...

-Oak & Ore is serving up several limited-edition Clown Shoes beers starting tonight at 6 p.m. More info available here.

-The Root is hosting a Unibroue Beer and Cheese Pairing at 7 p.m. tonight. The cost is $20 and seating is limited. More info here.

-Slaughter's Hall is hosting one of them Sam Adams Octoberfest stein-hoisting contests. That's set for 7 p.m. tonight. They are also hosting an Oktoberfest celebration from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday. More details on that here.

-The Patriarch is staging a Founder Breakfast Stout PJ Party from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday. Prizes for best (tasteful) pajamas. More info on that event right here.

-Roughtail this week announced its next brewery-only can release. Wheat Dreams will be for sale this Friday at 4 p.m. From the Roughtail FB page, Wheat Dreams is "an American Pale Ale brewed with copious amounts of flaked white wheat and hopped intensively with Galaxy and Citra. Fermented with yeast made famous in Vermont. Plus we will be releasing fresh Everything Rhymes with Orange, growler fills only." Fresh ERWO? Yes please.

-One of my favorite events -- which I will sadly have to miss this year -- is the annual ZooBrew beer tasting at the Oklahoma City Zoo. This year's event is Friday night. You can get ticket info here.

-And there's one more annual tasting event set for Friday night: ARTonTAP at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art will be 7 to 10 p.m. More information available here.

-Also at The Root, they are holding a Six Point Bengali Pint Night at 7 p.m. Sept. 29.

-Slaughter's Hall is hosting the official OKC launch party for Vanessa House Beer Co. This is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 30.

-Interesting-sounding event set for Oct. 1. OKCtoberfest 2016 is set for 2 to 11 p.m. at the Farmer's Market District. You can get more info by clicking here.

-TapWerks is hosting Belgian Beer Week from Oct. 3-7, including a visit on Oct. 7 from a special guest from Petrus Sour Beers to provide a class on blending. Seating is limited for the class, and tickets are $25.

-Back at The Patriarch, they are holding a Vanessa House launch party at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 6. This will be one of their Beer Cinema nights as well -- the movie this time is "Ghostbusters." Details here.

-The Brew Shop is hosting a free beginner's homebrew class at 11 a.m. on Oct. 8. You'll need to block off at least three hours of time to work through the process, but honestly, any time spent at The Brew Shop is time well spent.

-McNellie's-OKC is holding its next Beer University on Oct. 18, featuring winter beers. Email to reserve a spot. Also, McNellie's is offering $5.50 Boulevard The Calling IPA this week.

-Also a bonus note: Republic is hiring for its new Chisholm Creek location. They are holding a job fair from 2 to 4 p.m. today -- you can find more info about that at their FB page. In the meantime, that means we're getting closer to having another good beer option available for northsiders like myself.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Local homebrewer announces plans for OKC brewery

The positive bounce from the enactment of Senate Bill 424 appears to be continuing, as another brewer has announced formal plans for an Oklahoma City brewery and taproom.

Talented homebrewer Ross Harper has long branded his beer as Angry Scotsman Brewing, and this week he announced plans to turn the Angry Scotsman into a real-deal commercial brand.

Harper said he is eyeing a late-2017 debut for Angry Scotsman, in the form of an Oklahoma City neighborhood brewery with a focus on growlers and on-site retail.

He also will look at offering draft choices around the state for his year-round and seasonal beers. The plan would call for offering special beer and one-offs at his taproom.

It's too early to identify a specific location, but Harper has suggested in the past on social media that he may look at the downtown Oklahoma City area.

I've been fortunate to sample several of Harper's beers over the years through my involvement with the Red Earth Brewers homebrew club, and it's safe to say this will be a very nice addition to the local market.

What's more, it's proof that the small, neighborhood brewery is a concept that's a good bet to take off in the coming years.

(Blogger's note: This post has been edited to reflect plans for a brewery and taproom, as opposed to a brewpub. Sorry for any confusion on that point!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mustang Brewing eyes huge changes

When former Mustang Brewing Co. president Tim Schoelen announced July 30 that he was stepping aside, and news followed shortly thereafter that the brewery would be moving to a new location, it left a lot of people asking questions.

Where will the brewery go? What will become of the company?

I've been pursuing some answers to those questions, and I can report to you that Mustang is in for a huge shakeup.

Mustang is now under the direction of its new owner, local businessman and investor Scott White, who has been making his living in oil and gas and real estate, but recently has started to flex his muscles in bar and restaurant development.

White has his eyes set on continuing the Mustang brand, but not at its current location. And also, not at a location near Classen Curve, as had been rumored.

Instead, White is taking Mustang north. Although he wouldn't confirm an exact location, he said the brewery will move to the north Oklahoma City/Edmond area, and he is eyeing a grand opening as early as February.

It was not clear if this would be a new build, or a takeover of an existing space.

White said the new brewery will feature food, games and entertainment/live music options, as well as several dozen taps -- as many as 100 handles. What's more, he said plans call for the brewhouse to act as a brewing co-op, with space to host several up-and-coming brewers.

White said he's actively seeking brewers who would like to use the co-op, and in a twist that I thought was surprising, he confirmed that one such beermaker might be Schoelen himself, working under the on-again, off-again Redbud label. You may or may not remember that Schoelen acquired the Redbud label as part of the deal that netted him the original OK City Brewing Co-op. That deal was made possible when current American Solera founder and former COOP, Redbud and Prairie brewmaster Chase Healey left his job at Redbud.

Of course, there is another brewery that has to be mentioned in relation to Mustang's move. Elk Valley Brewing has been operating out of Mustang's Meridian Avenue location for some time now. White said Elk Valley is welcome to make beer at the new location, although he speculated that brewmaster John Elkins may be looking to parlay his run of successful releases into his own new location.

However that shakes out, White said he will continue with Mustang's core lineup of beers, including Rocket Fuel (soon to be released in cans), Farmhouse Ale and Washita Wheat, among others. Plans call for the development of several new beers, as well. 

And White is not stopping there. He also confirmed plans for a new pub in Edmond, in the same area as The Patriarch. White said he's an Edmond guy, and is looking to bring increased options to the Edmond/north OKC area.

If you're in that area of the metro, it appears that fairly soon you won't need to drive that far for more craft beer options.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Twisted Spike on track for fall opening

Many local craft beer fans got a chance to visit and tour Twisted Spike Brewing Co. on SB 424 Day, and if you liked what you saw, you'll be happy to know that brewmaster Bruce Sanchez is eyeing an October public opening for his commercial brewhouse and taproom.

I'm especially excited for Twisted Spike because not only does Sanchez make good beer, but he has the most intriguing location of any of the Oklahoma City-area small craft brewers. It's the first brewery that will be located firmly within one of Oklahoma City's existing entertainment districts.

If you couldn't make it out to the Automobile Alley location on Aug. 26, fear not, I was able to visit the brewery the day before and did a little bit of a photo essay. Take a looksy...

First we have the sign on the outside of the building:

Inside, you have a row of fermenters. Twisted Spike will brew at COOP Ale Works, and have the wort trucked to Automobile Alley for fermentation.

You've got some kegs ready for action inside the walk-in cooler:

Here's where the taproom will be located. A lot of Twisted Spike's theming pays homage to the railroad track that runs along the east side of the building. The storage car on the left will be the bar -- they're going to cut an opening into the side of the car where you can amble up and order a drink:

Looking from the taproom through to the brewhouse:

One of the coolest aspects is the walk-in cooler. The cooler is comprised of two storage cars welded together, insulated and fitted with a cooling unit:

The building still maintains a lot of its original character, including wooden ceiling rafters and brick walls:

Just outside the taproom you can see the railroad tracks that run along the length of the building. Things might be a little noisy when the train rolls by:

And finally, you can see a branded keg:

There's a lot of promise in the building -- and Sanchez appears to have a good vision. Here's hoping the final few construction goals stay on track for that October opening.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Colorado brewery set for Oklahoma debut

We have a little bit of beer news to start off your Wednesday, folks.

It turns out while some Colorado breweries -- cough, cough New Belgium -- will expand into every state and foreign country before arriving in Oklahoma, at least one beermaker has eyes on Oklahoma as one of its first export markets.

The Thirsty Beagle has confirmed that Oklahoma will be the landing spot for a line-up of beers from Grand Junction, Colorado's Kannah Creek Brewing Co.

Kannah Creek has been brewing since 2005, and features a core line of brews including Broken Oar IPA, Standing Wave Pale Ale and Land's End Amber Ale, plus a series of sours and seasonals.

The beers are available throughout Colorado, but it appears Oklahoma is one of the first states Kannah Creek will ship beer to. 

I'm working on gathering a little more information, but I can report that you can expect an Oct. 1 arrival for Kannah Creek. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Longtime TapWerks GM joins Choc/Prairie team

Happy Labor Day, beer fans!

In a fitting development, I have some news today on someone who has always worked hard for advancement of the Oklahoma craft beer scene.

Greg Powell, longtime general manager of TapWerks Ale House, last week started a new job with Choc/Prairie.

Powell has been hired away from TapWerks and will head up the team that will run the new Oklahoma City Prairie brewpub set to open next year near Automobile Alley.

Powell has had an exemplary run at TapWerks -- the bar was really THE destination for local craft beer prior to 2010. TapWerks was probably one of the first, if not the first, pub to serve firkins from local brewers.

And of course Powell and his team were the founders of the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival, now the state's largest, most significant craft beer fest.

Powell told me he will remain involved with OCBF, but one might still be inclined to wonder what will become of the fest.

And clearly TapWerks will have big shoes to fill. Making that effort is the new GM, Garrett Sullivan, who boasts a wealth of experience in pub management, including with the Bricktown Brewery chain.

In the meantime, Choc is continuing its string of aggressive moves, the latest of which is snagging one of the founding fathers of our current craft beer scene to head up their newest brewpub project.