The Thirsty Beagle: Get to know a brewery-in-planning: Frenzy Brewing

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Get to know a brewery-in-planning: Frenzy Brewing

We know that the impending enactment of State Question 792 and the approval last year of Senate Bill 424 have had a profound effect on the craft beer business in Oklahoma.

One example of that, which I have mentioned several times on the blog, will be the proliferation of local homebrewers who open breweries, taprooms and pubs.

One such homebrewer -- actually a homebrewer tandem -- are Edmond residents Matt and Beth Conner. The Conners are working to launch Frenzy Brewing. They've already seen a string of success in local, regional and national homebrewing competitions, and have announced plans to make the leap to pro status with a brewery and taproom.

You may have already had their beer -- they've poured at Mashed In and most recently at the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival. So let's learn a little more about this brewery-in-planning as I interview Matt Conner.

The Thirsty Beagle: How long have you (and Beth) been home brewing, and what encouraged you to now make the step to the pro ranks?

Matt Conner: I started homebrewing in 2011. A friend of mine was a home brewer at the time and I helped him with a couple of batches. My dad home brewed when I was in high school so I asked him if he wanted to brew with me. We did our first batch on May 7, 2011, and I was hooked. We did extract brewing for a couple years and switched to all grain in 2013. My wife and business partner, Beth, worked with me on a recipe for a beer to pour at a party for her running group. We brewed it in March of 2014.

The decision to go pro has a lot to do with our competition success. We joined the Red Earth Brewers a few years ago. I judged a few club competitions with REB and at FOAM Cup in Tulsa. I recognized that the quality of our beer was comparable and, in some cases, better than the beers I was judging. I was encouraged by my close brewing friends to enter some beers into BJCP competitions. We started shipping beers off to competitions all over the country. Success came quickly. We have won over 25 medals and ribbons over the last couple years, including two Best of Show. The feedback you get from the judges can really help improve the quality of your beer.

The passing of SQ 792 is another big factor in our decision. It’s a game-changer for breweries. Prior to it passing, the only option was to be a production brewery or a brew pub selling 3.2 beer. Now a brewery can sell full-strength beer on premises, and self-distribution will be allowed in late 2018. Profit margins are much better when you sell directly to the consumer, bar, or restaurant. There are more business model options for the next wave of breweries, which makes our brewery plans financially viable.

TTB: Where are you in the process of getting Frenzy off the ground? 

MC: We’ve organized the business, registered with the State of Oklahoma, and have tentative approval on a federal trademark for our name and logo. We are currently working on the business plan. Our social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is slowly growing as well. Recipe development and testing is also a big focus right now.

We have a number of recipes nailed down and a handful of others that need a little tweaking. We’d like to be open for business by late 2018, which would coincide with full implementation of SQ 792.

TTB: What type of format are you looking at? For example, a taproom with draft-only sales, or what?

MC: Initially, we are focusing on a taproom with on-premise drinks by the glass, growlers to-go, and keg-only self-distribution. Longer term we will consider growing our self-distribution and offer packaged product.

TTB: You guys are Edmond residents and had suggested you may be looking to set up shop in Edmond. Are you still looking at Edmond or have you expanded your search area?

MC: We have spent the last few months doing market research, and the local craft beer community has been amazing. We have been able to talk to OKC metro-area brewery owners, brewers, tap room managers, bar managers and a bar owner about their experiences. After all this research we feel Edmond isn’t quite ready for our business model. If the plan was for a brewpub rather than a taproom, we think it could be successful. We’re disappointed since we’ve called Edmond home since 1993.

We feel somewhere closer to downtown OKC makes more sense. The growth of downtown over the next decade is going to be amazing. The addition of the downtown park, new convention center, the streetcars and other MAPS 3 projects are going to fuel that growth. There are already breweries open in a few different areas in and around downtown and more in planning. We envision OKC becoming a craft beer destination for people all over the metro and for out-of-towners. Beer tourism is huge in some cities. With OKC being at the crossroads of two major interstates, we think beer tourism will be huge here as well.

TTB: How about that name -- where does Frenzy come from?

MC: Obviously you’ve never brewed with me! When people ask what a typical brew day consists of, I always tell them it’s waiting around, followed by frenzied activity, followed by waiting around, followed by frenzied activity.  Wash, rinse, repeat. Once I started brewing with others I realized I’m a bit high-strung during the brew day. Those who know me best would agree that frenzy is the epitome of me. Beth and I struggled to find a good name for a few months. We had a home brewery name that we felt wasn’t right. Finally, we sent one of our good friends, John Knight from Ment Apparel, a text asking him for some help with a name. We had talked to him about it in the past but this time we got serious. We bounced ideas off each other via text for a while, until I finally came up with Frenzy Brewing Company. We all loved it. A couple of weeks later we all agreed it was the one. John designed our logo and that’s when we established our social media presence.

TTB: What should people expect in terms of beer style and brewing approach?

MC: The beers we plan to brew are the beers we love to drink. Nothing will be off limits. We have no plans to be a niche brewery. Bars and breweries that have an eclectic mix of styles are our favorites and we want to provide that to our customers. We plan to brew somewhere around six to eight year-round offerings with four to six more one-offs, variants and guest brewer beers. Our taproom will offer American, English, Belgian and German styles. We will probably dabble with some sours and barrel aging.

TTB: Lastly, I have to ask about Vampire Glitter. How much of an asset is it to essentially already have a flagship beer established?

MC: The story of Vampire Glitter begins with Beth. She wanted to brew an IPA for a ladies-only contest that the Red Earth Brewers hosted in early 2015. After a little trial and error Vampire Glitter was born! It took second place at the ladies-only contest. She debuted it publicly at Mashed In 2015 and it took first place in the hoppy category. It has won quite a few medals in competitions including Best of Show at a BJCP competition in Arkansas. It has become our flagship beer.

Vampire Glitter has a bit of a following. It is recognized at every event we pour at. Having a beer with name recognition is fantastic -- until you can’t use the name anymore. Ours is a cautionary tale. One of the first things we did after organizing the business was to apply for a federal trademark for the name Vampire Glitter. We received a response back that our application was denied. It turns out there is an existing trademark for the word Vampire for beer use by a Belgian brewery. We were shocked and frustrated because it seems ridiculous that such a common word could be trademarked. It turns out the brewery that owned the trademark had gone after Clown Shoes for a beer they called Vampire Slayer, even though the beer was being produced before the trademark application was made. Clown Shoes had to settle with the brewery for an undisclosed amount. The Belgian brewery isn’t even making the Vampire beer anymore. Our attorney reached out to the trademark owner to ask for consent to use the name Vampire Glitter and they declined. The name is going away but the beer is not. We will open up a competition on social media for a new name. Whoever can come up with a name that we feel is worthy of the beer will receive one free pour per week at the taproom.

You can find out about the competition here.

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