The Thirsty Beagle: Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival enters new era

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival enters new era

The seventh annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival is only two days away – the two-day, three-session fest runs this Friday and Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

While OCBF has become an annual rite -- this year featuring more than 80 beermakers, food from Fassler Hall and a VIP session graced with numerous rare offerings from the TapWerks’ cellar -- this year’s edition may very well be one of the most intriguing we’ve had to date.

For one, this will be the first year that former TapWerks general manager Greg Powell will not be the
chief organizer of the event.

Powell founded OCBF in 2011, and in classic from-humble-beginnings form, staged the event in the
parking lot just to the west of TapWerks. Within a few years, as more brewers popped up in Oklahoma and more and more people bought tickets, the fest was beginning to outgrow the lot.

While space was becoming a problem, OCBF had another liability: Weather.

In 2013, during an especially hellish May severe storm season, OCBF narrowly wrapped before damaging storms rolled through Oklahoma City.

Two years later, it didn’t appear things would go as smoothly, as severe weather was predicted to hit
the festival head-on.

Powell went to his Plan B, shifting the event inside to the Cox Convention Center. The vibe that year was great, giving OCBF a more polished feel akin to fests in bigger cities, and the rest, as they say, was history.

OCBF returned to the Cox Center last year, and now appears settled in its new home. Of course Powell will not be running it this year. He left TapWerks last year to manage the build-out of the new Prairie OKC brewery and taproom.

Clearly, an operation as big as OCBF doesn’t hinge on just one person, but it will be interesting to see if organizers at TapWerks will be able to keep the fest on a steady path this year.

The second thing I’ll have my eyes on is the lineup of homebrewers at OCBF. Homebrewers have had a presence at many of the state’s beer tastings and festivals for several years now. In the past, you could count on very few of them ever taking the leap to turn their hobby into a profession.

That dynamic is starting to change, however, following the enactment of Senate Bill 424 last summer
and the passage of State Question 792 last fall. Since the latter was approved by voters in November
(it’s due to go into effect in October 2018), we’ve already seen several homebrewers – Angry Scotsman Brewing, Vortex Alley Brewing, Frenzy Brewing and Skydance Brewing to name a few – announce their intentions to build out breweries and taprooms.

Those measures have changed the game, giving up-and-coming brewers a much more straightforward and profitable avenue for turning pro. And that means this likely will be the first year for OCBF where you can take note of the homebrewers pouring there and reasonably expect to see some of them down the road in the pro ranks.

Of course, I would be doing everyone an injustice by not mentioning the state’s existing pro brewers.

OCBF is one of the biggest events of the year for many of them, and most everyone brings out their A-game, with special one-offs and rare offerings.

So, you’ve got plenty of reasons to get out Friday night or for one of the two Saturday sessions. You can find tickets and more info here.

So what else is going on?

-OCFB is just one of the events scheduled during the fourth annual Oklahoma City Craft Beer Week. The week kicks off this Thursday, May 11, and runs through Sunday, May 21. You can find the updated, full list of events right here.

-Speaking of OKC Craft Beer Week, I’d love to see you out at Elk Valley Brewing at 6 p.m. this Thursday as we launch the week with a special event: Elk vs. Beagle. We’ll be pouring the only keg of a special dry-hopped, tart farmhouse ale. In addition, I’ll be doing a live interview with Elk Valley founder and brewmaster John Elkins as we discuss his impending move to a new Midtown brewery building. We’re taking audience questions, or you can send me questions at nick@thirstybeaglebeerblog.com.

-If you’re looking to get warmed up for OKC Craft Beer Week, you should look to hit Oak & Ore tonight. They’re hosting a Prairie 4th Birthday Bomb Bash! at 6 p.m., featuring door prizes, birthday cake and several Prairie beers, of course.

-COOP Ale Works announced yesterday that they are once again expanding distribution in Texas. The Oklahoma City brewery will launch in Houston next month, and then will follow with shipments to San Antonio, Austin, Waco and El Paso by the end of the year. This follows earlier moves into the DFW and North Texas areas, as well as Lubbock, Amarillo and Abilene.

6 comments:

  1. Can you buy bottles or cans to take home yet? It seems like you could do that from wineries at the different festivals across the state. Is that still a no go for the craft beer industry here?

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    1. I mean buy bottles or cans from the breweries at these festival events.

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    2. Trey, that is a no-go for beer. The brewers can only sell bottles and cans at the point-of-production, as far as current law goes.

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    3. Bummer. Are wineries still allowed to do this? Seems like they still have an unfair advantage in the state with the way the laws are setup. Also are the limited to a certain amount of samples in a tour?

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  3. I've seen a couple of other events at other places, but this was my first time in here. It was amazing! Great Chicago event venues, somewhat smaller than those bigger places but it is still a fair sized venue. Food was great and I think it's recently renovated - it didn't seem old or anything.

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