The Thirsty Beagle: July 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hop to it: OKC brewers, bars ready for IPA Day

The annual IPA Day celebration is set for this Thursday, and bars and brewers around the OKC area will be commemorating the occasion in style.

Here's a rundown of who's got what planned:

-COOP Ale Works is getting things started off right on Thursday with an IPA Day special: one-minute old F5 IPA. They'll be selling it fresh off the canning line from 4 to 7 p.m., and will also feature several other special IPAs from their brewing team.

-TapWerks, which was one of the first destinations in OKC to celebrate IPA Day, is back at it again this year. They'll feature hourly IPA releases beginning at 6 p.m. from several Oklahoma brewers.

-The Root will kick off its IPA Day festivities at 5 p.m. They'll offer up a variety of state-made IPAs together with a limited amount of special glassware and brewery swag.

-The Patriarch is teaming up with Roughtail at 5 p.m. Thursday to put the spotlight on Everything Rhymes with Orange. They'll be pouring regular ERWO; ERWO with fruit; and double-dry-hopped ERWO. They'll also have Adaptation Ale and special co-branded glassware.

-Twisted Spike is open 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday and will serve up five different IPAs: West Coast, East Coast, Belgian, Blood Orange and Nitro.

Any events going on that aren't mentioned here? Drop me a line and I'll update this post. Cheers!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

One week to Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit

We're officially one week away from the second Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit, and organizers have lined up an impressive two days of events for attendees.

With early bird pricing expired, tickets are fairly steep at $75. But the promised lineup of tastings, panels and speeches looks to be a value well worth the expense.

Let's take a look at what's on the schedule.

-Festivities kick off at 5 p.m. Friday with a pre-party at Stonecloud Brewing. Summit ticket holders can pick up their registration packets, get a voucher for a free Stonecloud beer, and tour the brewery to learn more about the revitalization of the historic Sunshine Laundry building.

-On Saturday, registration opens at 9 a.m. at the Summit's home, the newly renovated Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City's Uptown District.

-There's no delay in getting into a full day of beer tastings. A Breakfast & Stout Beer Tasting is set for 9:30 a.m., featuring beers from Anthem, Twisted Spike and 405 Brewing. Remember to pace yourself!

-At 10 a.m., there's a beer quality panel featuring discussion on issues of beer quality and integrity as the number of breweries in Oklahoma climbs. This panel features a couple of Oklahoma craft beer heavy hitters as Prairie's Michael Lalli (the godfather of Oklahoma brewmasters) and Marshall Brewing founder Eric Marshall will take part.

-Another tasting session is set for 10:45 a.m., this one featuring session beers from Iron Monk, Renaissance and Bricktown Brewery.

-The State of the Brewnion -- an address by leaders of the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma -- is set for 11 a.m. This will feature talking points including post-Senate Bill 424 Oklahoma, modernization of local liquor laws and the outlook for local breweries.

-That discussion will give way to the day's third tasting, this one featuring strong ales. You can sample beers from Marshall, Twisted Spike, Anthem and Vanessa House.

-At noon, attendees can gather for the day's keynote address, featuring Damon Scott, technical brewing projects coordinator for the Brewers Association. Scott's speech is entitled "Craft Brewing Trends Across the United States."

-Scott address will be followed by catered lunch from Hideaway Pizza, accompanied by Marshall Brewing's Hideaway '57 Ale, which has been brewed specially for Hideaway restaurants.

-Attendees will want to get their palates ready for the post-lunch schedule, because it kicks off with a draft systems demonstration from BrewTru Beverage Services and a sour beer tasting featuring offerings from Prairie, Vanessa House and American Solera.

-At this point, things start to really get fun. At 1:30 p.m., and continuing until the Summit closes at 4 p.m., the tasting floor will be open. The floor will feature a collection of homebrewers, breweries-in-planning and pro brewers. You can see a full roster here.

-Yours truly will get involved at 2 p.m. as I moderate a Hops Panel and IPA tasting. The panel will feature folks from Roughtail, Anthem and 405 Brewing, as well as special guest Matt Hollingberry from Hollingberry & Son Hops. The featured beers for the tasting will be provided by Roughtail, American Solera, Bricktown Brewery, Twisted Spike and Elk Valley.

-The last scheduled event of the day is set for 3 p.m. It'll be a Malt Panel and barrel-aged beer tasting. Speakers include brewers from Iron Monk, Twisted Spike and Renaissance, and beer will be from Prairie, Elk Valley and Twisted Spike.

So, is all that worth $75? I would say yes. Tickets are still available, so act quickly if you want to take part in the festivities for this highly anticipated event.

And, if you have any questions you'd like me to ask the panelists on the Hop Panel, shoot them my way and I'll try to fit them in to the discussion.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Now posted: Episode 2 of the Thirsty Beagle Oklahoma Beer Podcast

Greetings and happy Monday, beer fans!

What better way to get into your week than with a fresh new Thirsty Beagle Oklahoma Beer Podcast, right? You can check out Episode 2 right here:

Big thanks to everyone who took the time to listen to Episode 1 of the podcast -- I got a lot of much-appreciated feedback.

In Episode 2, I am joined by co-host Wes Glinsmann as we tackle a variety of topics, including the closing of Mustang and the opening of Stonecloud; our vacation beer experiences; a look at the upcoming beer calendar, including IPA Day and the Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit; and our Hot Brewer of the Moment and Favorite Beer I've Had Lately features.

Give it a listen! Cheers!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beer, beer, beer! Plenty on tap for local beer fans

Howdy beer fans! As we head toward the weekend, how about covering some odds and ends on the local beer scene?

-Oak & Ore is hosting a Belgian Beer Week Invasion tonight at 6 p.m., featuring six different Belgian or Belgian-inspired beers, plus six different pieces of glassware -- buy the beer, keep the glass. More details here.

-TapWerks is also taking part in Belgian Beer Week activities, and today they're offering a pair of offerings and glassware from Westmalle.

-Twisted Spike is hosting a Sea Gypsy Oyster and beer pairing today at 5 p.m. Find out more here.

-If you're in or around Stillwater tomorrow night, stop by Eskimo Joe's beginning at 5:30 p.m. for the Rhythm & Brews Craft Beer Festival. They'll have live music and beer from several local breweries. You can find an event flyer on the Iron Monk FB page.

-Anthem is hosting another board game day at the taproom from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. More here.

-The Root is holding a Yoga on Tap yoga session from noon to 1:30 on Sunday. Details here.

-Reminder that Elk Valley is the featured brewer for the July edition of the Plaza Beer Walk. The night features Old Grizzly at Empire Slice; IPA Randall, Pale Ale and Magic Juice at Oak & Ore; Sunset Saison at Saints; and Par 3 IPA and glassware at The Mule.

-Pub W-Memorial is holding a fourth anniversary party kicking off at noon on Saturday, July 29. They'll be tapping as many as 12 special beers from from local and national brewers. You can get a better rundown here.

-Get out your calendars and mark down Thursday, Aug. 3. That's the date for the annual IPA Day. I'll have more details on who's planning what as we get closer.

-The second annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit is quickly approaching. The festivities are set for Saturday, Aug. 5. You can find more details and ticket info here. Yours truly is scheduled to moderate a panel on hops, so I hope to see you out there.

-Stonecloud has announced they will launch a new Sunday brunch beginning Aug. 6. That's set for 11 to 3 p.m. More info on their FB page. (Side note on Stonecloud: they announced they are working on a barrel-fermented -- not barrel-aged -- IPA right now, and expect to have it ready in a few weeks. Sounds interesting.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Thirsty Beagle Commentary: Beer Outrage Edition No. 2

Wicked Weed Brewing – the 5-year-old North Carolina beermaker known for its West Coast IPAs and its dedicated sour beer taproom, the Funkatorium – was not the first craft brewer to sell out to Anheuser-Busch.

When Wicked Weed did the deed and the news broke in early May, the macro-brewing behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev already counted the likes of Goose Island, Elysian and 10 Barrel as members of its business arm dedicated to craft brewer acquisitions.

ABI has been making waves – and few friends – in the craft industry by scooping up popular brands to join that business arm, which they call The High End. (It’s worth noting that The High End’s top two labels are Stella Artois and Shock Top – two very decidedly un-craft brands.)

The formula when The High End pulls the trigger has become somewhat predictable: The news is broken with a press release where the now-much-richer craft brewer trots out a series of stale talking points about how they now have access to a vast array of ingredients and resources, and how joining up with ABI will enable them to share their beer with even more people, etc., etc.

The reaction from craft beer enthusiasts to such maneuvering has also become quite formulaic. Add equal parts disgust and indignation, throw in a few condemnations and move on down the road.

In the case of Goose Island, for example, the buyout has not totally steered people away from fervor over the annual release of the popular Bourbon County Stout. The argument there is that, yes, Goose Island may be owned by ABI, but if they’re making Bourbon County – the rich, decadent stout – the same way they always did, we’re still going to clamor to get our hands on it.

Unfortunately for Wicked Weed, their buyout was not met with some tame or muted version of frustration. When news of that buyout was announced, simply put, people lost their s---.

The news sent shock waves through the craft beer community and elicited outrage like we had not seen with any previous ABI shenanigans.

Drinkers and fellow brewers alike lashed out, most notably when dozens of beermakers pulled out of an annual festival organized and hosted by Wicked Weed in protest.

But why the fury?

Wes Alexander, sales and marketing director for Tulsa’s Marshall Brewing and a leading advocate for the growth of craft beer in Oklahoma, said consumers felt “betrayed.”

“Consumers feel a part of independent American breweries,” Alexander said. “In many respects we owe a great deal of gratitude to craft drinkers for growing our businesses organically. With the rapid rise of Wicked Weed, no doubt craft drinkers, pub owners, and retailers all had a hand in rapid growth and expansion. Those same passionate people feel personally betrayed by the brand they helped build.”

Freddy Lamport, who operates Craft & Barrel, an Oklahoma importer and broker for numerous niche craft beer labels, suggested the overt anger over the Wicked Weed buyout stemmed from that brewery’s historically niche status.

“(The) Wicked Weed (buyout) was bad because they are such a niche craft brewery,” Lamport said. “(Anheuser-Busch) goes against craft breweries directly.”

Clearly, the craft-admiring masses felt Wicked Weed sold out to the enemy.

The hurt registered even here in Oklahoma, where Oak & Ore owner Micah Andrews penned a heartfelt blog post about why the move hit so close to home.

“For most folks, Wicked Weed selling out to AB-InBev isn’t big news, but for us, for those of us in the industry or those who support craft beer and call it our own, this news is extraordinarily tough,” Andrews wrote. “…It feels very personal.”

Andrews continued:

“I’ve watched many friends over the years fight and claw to make something for themselves in this industry, almost always starting from nothing. Some of them have grown to be quite successful and make great beer. … That’s due to the effort of a whole lot of people who deeply love what they do and have worked non-stop for a long time.

“And, hey, that’s nice and inspiring and all, but if one business cashes in on their hard work and sells to a big corporation, isn’t that their prerogative as owners? Haven’t they earned that big payout? That’s a hard question to answer succinctly and, honestly, I’m probably not qualified to give the right answers.”

Ahhh, but that is the question at the heart of the matter. Throw all the shock and indignation aside, and can you really begrudge a brewer for grabbing a life-changing, multi-million-dollar payout?

As Andrews wrote, it definitely is a hard question.

Bring the example even closer to home in a hypothetical situation. Let’s take Roughtail Brewing. Brewmaster Tony Tielli (among others) built Roughtail from the ground up, making unapologetic, aggressive beers. Is Roughtail not the epitome of the truly independent little guy, staying true to its creative roots and fighting against odds to make a name for itself?

If ABI came calling and laid a contract worth $3 million, or $5 million, or $10 million on the table, how mad would you be at Roughtail for taking it?

Personally, I’ve seen Tielli sweating at the brewery by himself just so he could keep the lights on – I’d congratulate him for taking the gold.

Would you stop buying Roughtail? Even if you knew Tielli was still in the brewery making it?

Now, I’m not saying people can’t or shouldn’t get fired up when they feel like ABI is muscling in and trying to steal the soul out of craft beer.

But maybe deciding if you should be outraged is not always a clear-cut issue.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Oklahoma's newest brewer hopes to capitalize on farm-to-bottle concept

You can try to pay close attention to the Oklahoma craft beer scene, but every once in a while, things can sneak up on you.

That was the case this week when I discovered there is a new licensed, full-strength brewery in Oklahoma -- one I had never heard of before.

Devil's Claw Ranch is a working ranch located in Roosevelt, about 50 miles northwest of Lawton. In addition to conducting cattle operations on a 2,500-acre plot of land, the ranch is a licensed food manufacturer and facility. They produce breads, spicy pretzels, salsa, granola and other goods that are sold at farmer's markets and through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

"I really love the whole food and beverage business," said Seth Callen, one of the ranch's owners. "All the products that we have are products that have been created by me."

Now Callen is adding beer to the menu. In May, Devil's Claw Ranch was granted a license from the federal government to brew beer, and late last month the feds approved the brewery's first label, for a dark wheat beer called Shady 580.

I chatted with Callen to get all the details.

In addition to all his work on the ranch, Callen said he is a passionate beer fan and has been homebrewing for about five years. About two years ago, with an eye on producing beer commercially, he began dialing in a pair of recipes -- one light wheat beer and one dark wheat beer.

Callen said he will eventually produce the beer with wheat and barley grown and malted on the ranch -- the first time in modern Oklahoma beermaking that a brewer would grow its own malts.

He also said he believes he is the only brewer in Oklahoma with a license to self-distribute his beer to liquor stores.

Devil's Claw will not have a taproom, due to its remote location. Callen will deliver beer in 12-ounce bottles to stores, he said, adding that once State Question 792 goes into effect in October 2018, he'll be able to deliver to bars, as well.

"It is a very interesting, exciting business opportunity," Callen said. "But at the same time, I love everything to do with crafting beer."

He said he expects to be filling orders from stores by August or September.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mustang Brewing: Looking back and looking ahead

Back in January of 2016, I wrote a blog post about my predictions for Oklahoma craft beer in the coming year. 

Among upbeat predictions like getting alcohol reform legislation passed was a more somber premonition: Someone will close up shop and call it quits. What I never really said to anyone was that I had a particular brewery in mind when I wrote that. 

Wednesday, my hunch was affirmed – albeit a little later than supposed – when Mustang Brewing’s owner confirmed he will shut down the company. 

Following up on a tip I received, I reached out to the owner, Scott White (who bought the company from founder Tim Schoelen in 2016). White told me he has left the company permanently and that he would be shutting the business down. 

White, who posted on Facebook in June that his father had passed away, said he has left the state to attend to family matters. He did not disclose an exact date for when the brewery would shut down, but suggested it would be by the end of this month. 

Out of respect for White and his personal situation, I did not press for further details on Mustang when we communicated on Wednesday. I offer my condolences to him as he moves forward. 

I do take at face value the idea that White pulled the plug because of his family development. 

So the question is, why the earlier assumption that Mustang would call it quits? If anything, there was some evidence that Mustang may have recently been on the upswing. Following the departure of Elk Valley from the N Meridian Avenue brewery in late May, Mustang showed a renewed presence on its social media channels (that presence often was lacking, in terms of marketing best-practices). They had filled out as many as 15 taps at their taproom with some new and innovative recipes. 

And White had announced his intentions to move to a new building – possibly even featuring new construction – closer to the heart of downtown. 

What drove that earlier prediction was a sense of inconsistency and volatility within the company that, despite new ownership, it seemed it could never shake. Even though Mustang appeared to have a broad and loyal following, I always had a feeling they were scuffling to some degree. 

Their production plans seemed murky or scattershot – from the numerous suggestions that they would revive the Redbud Brewing label, to what appeared to be an ever-shifting roster of beers, to a lack of consistency and direction in their labeling and branding. 

And even while a shiny new taproom was built out in the front of the building on Meridian, the brewery in the back could be found looking more like a brewhouse-in-planning than a well-oiled machine. 

I reached out to Schoelen and offered him the chance to share any thoughts on the shuttering of the business. The founder, who said he sold any remaining interest in the company last year, described the news regarding Mustang as “unfortunate.” 

He said he did not wish to say anything else at this time, but may have more to share at a later time. 

Looking back, Mustang seemed perpetually at odds with some insiders in the Oklahoma craft beer industry. In the early days of the company they faced some thinly veiled – and some outright overt – criticism for the decision to brew beer out of state. 

One source with insight into the situation told me the company’s original business format – brewing in Wisconsin or Tennessee and having the beer shipped back to Oklahoma for sale – proved difficult to sustain and served to stifle growth, with shipping costs eating away at profitability. 

At the same time, Mustang was ahead of the curve in some regards. They were one of the first (if not the first) state breweries to get low-point cans in grocery stores. 

They formed partnerships with local musicians, sponsored local events to get their beer in front of the masses. They opened the state’s first craft brewing cooperative, where Anthem Brewing got its start. 

While any consumer could see those things, it was the other stuff, not visible to the average consumer, that led me to believe and predict that if any of Oklahoma’s young craft breweries were to close up shop, that it would be Mustang. 

Would White – by all accounts a successful businessman – have ultimately centered and invigorated the company? 

Unfortunately, it appears that’s a question we won’t get the answer to.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Check out Episode No. 1 of the new Thirsty Beagle podcast!

Finally! I've been planning and scheming for what seems like forever to get to the point where I could launch my own podcast.

And now we're here: I'm pleased to present Episode No. 1 of the Thirsty Beagle Oklahoma Beer Podcast.

In this inaugural episode, I give a brief history of the Thirsty Beagle Beer Blog, talk about the latest news for Angry Scotsman, Stonecloud and Elk Valley, and present an interview with Elk Valley brewmaster John Elkins (covering the collaboration beer we did for Oklahoma City Craft Beer Week, his brewing history and his plans for his new Midtown location).

I also cover my Hot Brewer of the Moment and the Best Beer I've Had Recently near the tail end of the podcast.

I'm flying solo on this episode, but I plan to bring on some co-hosts in future episodes to cover all that's happening on the Oklahoma craft beer scene.

So check out the podcast, and by all means, let me know what you think -- I'm doing this to hopefully inform and entertain Oklahoma's beer fans, so I want to deliver what you guys want to hear.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Elk Valley, Stonecloud stepping out in July

Hello beer fans! Hope everyone is doing great and perhaps enjoying a cold drink to help beat this heat.

I'm settling back into the groove after the annual Beagle Family Disney World Summer Vacation, and there's a ton going on on the local beer scene, so let's get right to it.

For starters, this is a big week, and month, for Elk Valley. Now officially out of the Mustang Brewing building, Elk Valley got some brewing time at Roughtail and we're about to see the results.

On Thursday, Oak & Ore is hosting an Elk Valley Magic Juice Double IPA release at 6 p.m. Elk Valley brewmaster John Elkins told me he's pleased with the way the Northeast-style, double-dry-hopped IPA turned out. Once it drops on Thursday, you can expect broad distribution in bars and liquor stores.

Two weeks after that, Elk Valley will be the featured brewery in the monthly Plaza Beer Walk. That's set to kick off at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 26 at various venues in the Plaza District. I'll have more details as the lineup for that is revealed.

What else?

-Saturday is huge day for Stonecloud Brewing -- they're holding the grand opening of their taproom from noon to 9 p.m. with music, local food trucks, outdoor games and, of course, beer. For me, Stonecloud was a hit at the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they'll bring to the market. And also excited to see another brewery near the city center, naturally.

-Also Saturday, Prairie is celebrating Christmas in July by holding an Ugly Christmas Bike Crawl. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. at McNellie's OKC, then move to The Mule at 6:45 p.m., before winding up at The Venue at 8, where there will be live music. Each stop will feature Christmas Bomb! and specialty Christmas kegs at each location, and there'll be prizes for best ugly Christmas outfit.

-Anthem will be the featured brewer at a new series of dinner events hosted at Mary Eddy's. Fork + Bottle is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20. That's a four-course, BBQ-style dinner with beer pairings. The cost is $69 and more info is available here.

-405 Brewing is hosting a fundraiser cornhole tourney at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 22. Bags for Bethesda will benefit Bethesda Inc., a local nonprofit that provides support for childhood victims of sexual assault.

Stay tuned, plenty more to come on the blog this week!