The Thirsty Beagle: October 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Vortex Alley Brewing to open to public this week

We know that over the next year Oklahoma will see a big wave of new breweries opening.

One of the breweries on the front-edge of this particular wave is getting into the act in mere days, as Vortex Alley Brewing is set to open its taproom in Ponca City on Friday, Nov. 3.

The event will be 4 to 9 p.m. at 220 E Central.

I caught up with VAB co-founder David Thomas for a Q&A to learn a little more about his new venture. Check it out: 

Thirsty Beagle: Talk a little bit about your brewing history. How did you get into beermaking, and what made you decide you wanted to go pro?

David Thomas: Our brewing history actually starts with our brewmaster Marc Spaulding. Marc fell in love with Leinenkugel Honey Weiss in 2000 and decided that he wanted to learn how to make it himself. Marc bought books and homebrewer magazines and started studying. Marc is a welder and fabricator by trade so he was able to build almost everything he needed to start brewing. After Marc had introduced me and I feel in love with the world of homebrewing and craft beer, we were brewing in his garage and I was going through a Brew Your Own Beer magazine and in the back was a listing of breweries by state. I came across this one called Hank The Wiser out of Cheney, Kansas. I got on my computer and started looking up this brewery and found out that it was a father and son team that was brewing on a 1/4-barrel setup and brewing 30 gallons a week and opening on Friday night and if they had beer left over they would open again on Saturday. I fell in love with this concept right away and it started the day dreaming of the possibilities. When I started to hear the rumblings of the possibility of the Oklahoma laws changing, I looked at that dream as a real possibility and started putting some data together to show to the guys that our dreams could become a reality.

TB: You're going to be one of the few brewers in the state to open a taproom that's not in Oklahoma City or Tulsa. What does it mean for you to be the first to open in Ponca City?

DT: There was a small mention of VAB in one of your blogs back in late January 2017 and it read “There's a new brewery on its way to Ponca City, of all places!” I loved that when I read it. The reason why I love it because we love being unconventional and we love the thought of having the opportunity to bring a strong craft beer presence to our hometown.

TB: And building off of that, how do you assess the beer culture in that part of the state.

DT: Exciting! This is a great time to be a craft beer lover and Oklahoma brewers are doing some amazing work. I consider us the next wave of breweries hitting the landscape and I have had a chance to talk with a lot of the other breweries in the development stages and I know that Oklahoma has just provided a peek at what we can do.

TB: Talk about your plans -- what type of beers are you looking to bring to the taproom, and then further down the road, do you have plans for distribution outside the taproom?

DT: This has been a constant question for us: 'What will be your flagship beers?' The answer to that is we don’t know what our flagship beers will be. I feel that because we are a nano brewery and we are doing 1.5-barrel brews that it has allowed us a freedom we may not get with brewing 30 barrels. We have the chance to create beer, do a lot of one off’s and to experiment while we let our customer base tell us what they like. Myself being a consumer of beer, I know I like to be offered variety and every time I go to the liquor store or brew pubs I always look to see what is new. Ninety percent of the time I will go with what is new. We will have some beers on heavier rotation then others because Marc has to have his honey wheat pretty much all the time. We have discussed distributing but it’s a little further out in the future. We could look at something once October 2018 rolls around to see what’s available. 

TB: Lastly, I think people have an idea where the name Vortex Alley comes from, what with Oklahoma's weather being what it is, but why did you feel you wanted to settle on that for your brewery's name?

DT: Marc’s fiancee was the one who brought the name Vortex Brewing to Marc and I, and at first I wasn’t over the moon about it, but Stephanie came ready to sell this name to us. Her first pitch was that vortex and Oklahoma is a no-brainer. Her second pitch was that during the whirlpool process of the brewed wort a vortex is formed at the bottom of the kettle. Her third pitch is what sold this name to me. One of the definitions of vortex is a center location pulling objects toward it; I was hooked with the last pitch. I wanted our brewery to be that force, to be the center location bringing people toward it. We had been trying to come up with a name for over a month and to get four different-thinking people to agree on anything is almost impossible. Even Vortex Brewing wasn’t a smash for everyone at first, and we needed a name to start the filing processes so I put it out there that if we didn’t come up with a better name in 24 hours that we were going with this one. The next day (co-owner) Spencer (Boatmun) asked that we add the word Alley into the name and we became Vortex Alley Brewing. I can’t think of being called anything else.

(Blogger's note: You can learn more about the brewery opening by clicking here.)

Monday, October 30, 2017

The week in beer: Stout Day, Angry Scotsman and brewery bike crawl

-McNellie's OKC is hosting a Rogue Dead Guy Pint Night today at 5 p.m.

-Red Coyote Edmond is hosting a Spooky Pack Pint Run on Tuesday at 6 p.m., featuring free COOP Negative Split at the end of the run.

-The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is staging a Crazy Mountain Beer Dinner at 6 p.m. Wednesday. That's about $60 a person, and reservations are required by calling (405) 235-6262. More details here.

-After a successful launch party at The Patriarch, Angry Scotsman is getting back after it with an All Suds Day event at Oak & Ore. That's set for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

-There are at least four different International Stout Day events happening in Oklahoma City on Thursday. In no particular order, you have The Patriarch opening its doors at 3 p.m.; 405 Brewing hosting an event beginning at 4 p.m.; COOP going with stouts on all 18 taps at 4 p.m.; and TapWerks promising "something special planned with our friends at Prairie," although I could not find a time for their event.

-For those on the east side on Thursday, Marshall is hosting a Stout Day celebration at its taproom. That event kicks off 2 p.m.

-Friday is big day for Vortex Alley Brewing, as they open their taproom in Ponca City. I'll have more to come on that on the blog shortly.

-The Brew Shop will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday for the 19th annual American Homebrew Association Learn to Homebrew Day. This is a great event if you're interested in learning how to make your own beer.

-The weekend heats up even more on Saturday as Stonecloud and Anthem team up for West Side Drank: A Stonecloud and Anthem Brewing Collab. Starting at noon, each brewery will tap West Side Drank, their collaboration brett pale ale. Each will also offer two fruited versions of the beer, and if you bring your receipt from one brewery to the other, you can get a free 4 oz. pour of West Side Drank.

-If you're in parts east on Saturday evening, the annual Hops for Hope is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Bartlesville Municipal Airport.

-Lastly, there's a super-cool event set for Sunday. The Pint Rider Brewery Bike Crawl is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with stops at Anthem, Stonecloud, Bricktown Brewery, Twisted Spike and Prairie OKC. Tickets are $40 and get you an event T-shirt and beer samples at all five stops. You guys -- we finally have enough breweries close enough to do cool crawls like this!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bricktown Brewery celebrates 25 years

Can you remember what you were doing 25 years ago?

Personally, I was rocking Hypercolor T-shirts as a freshman in high school. And while that's exciting and all, there was something else notable happening in 1992.

That was the year Bricktown Brewery opened for business in downtown Oklahoma City. Hard to believe that much time has passed, but now BTB is celebrating its milestone 25th birthday.

They are hosting a series of events from Wednesday through Friday this week. To get the scoop on what's going on, and to dive into the history of BTB, I caught up with general manager Charles Stout for a Q&A.

Thirsty Beagle: Bricktown Brewery is celebrating a big anniversary -- 25 years. For people who may not know, does that represent 25 years at the existing location on the corner of Sheridan and Oklahoma?

Charles Stout: Yes the original Bricktown location has been open for 25 years!

TB: What do you guys have planned to commemorate the occasion?

CS: We are tapping a 25th Anniversary Ale that honors our most popular beer in our history (Copperhead Amber Ale) on Wednesday, October 18. Then on the 19th we are hosting a Brew Crew Reunion to honor all past and current employees over the years (oh, and the Thunder open at home that day!). On Friday the 20th we will have a VIP reception to honor our anniversary and then throw a huge party with original DJ Cliff Davis and the always popular Superfreak playing a concert on the second floor.

TB: Has anything changed in the Bricktown Brewery philosophy over the years when it comes to making beer? Or do you guys have a formula/approach you've tried to be loyal to over the years?

CS: We stayed true to 1992 original recipes and added several seasonal beers up until 2011. Then with new ownership and leadership we made a move to improve and elevate all of our products, from beer to food. We have made an even-more-focused effort on consistency of each of our flagship beers.

TB: Speaking of formula, a lot of people want to know what will happen on Oct. 1, 2018, when the statutory distinction between high- and low-point beer goes away. Will Bricktown Brewery begin making stronger beers?

CS: When the law changes we are excited to brew beers that have an ABV that is style-appropriate. Some beers, like the IPAs and the browns and stouts, will see an increase in ABV along with our limited-time-offering seasonal beers. We have learned to embrace the "session" style (below 5.0%) and some of the lighter beers will stay in that category to promote a longer drinking session to enjoy in our restaurants.

TB: Bricktown Brewery seems to be quite active lately in terms of pouring beer at festivals and tastings. Why do you feel those types of event are important to attend?

CS: We are being approached more, and with the current ownership group have the resources to participate in more festivals. We love festivals and hanging out with the public and our brewery friends in Oklahoma.

TB: Tell us a little bit about the 25th Anniversary Ale you will unveil -- what is that beer all about?

CS: The 25th Anniversary Ale is an homage to our original "Copperhead" brand. Copperhead was our biggest-selling beer for the longest time and really kept people coming to visit. The style is classic amber ale, a beer with distinct malt profile and a balance of Fuggles hops that is unique and flavorful. This beer has a crisp body and an upfront sweet taste that finishes with a Fuggles hit.

TB: Lastly, as someone who has been a witness and participant in the Oklahoma beer scene for more than 20 years, what are your feelings now on where the industry is going in Oklahoma?

CS: Things are very exciting! Just seeing our own success in each Oklahoma market we come to, along with the fun crowds at all the taprooms it is clear Oklahoma is becoming a beer state. We are seeing a more diverse craft beer crowd to include those from rural Oklahoma, women, and of course all the many travelers to our state. The dedication to hard work and quality that we are seeing from the new surge of breweries is very refreshing and a good sign that beer is a viable Oklahoma industry!

You can find details on all of BTB's events this week at their Facebook page.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

New podcast: Everything you need to know about Angry Scotsman

Happy Saturday, beer fans!

Just in time for today's launch party for Angry Scotsman Brewing, check out the latest episode of the Thirsty Beagle Oklahoma Beer Podcast.

In this episode, we sit down with ASB founder/brewmaster Ross Harper to get the scoop on all things Angry Scotsman.

Check it out!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

So, what's the deal with the co-op?

A week ago about this time, Elk Valley pulled the plug on its planned re-launch party -- which had been set for last Saturday -- at the OK City Brewing Co-op.

Then last night, second verse same as the first as Angry Scotsman announced its re-launch party -- set for this Saturday -- had been switched from the brewery building on N Meridian to The Patriarch.

Then earlier this evening, Vanessa House followed suit, announcing their re-launch party (Oct. 21) has now been postponed.

All these developments have people asking me, and asking around on social media, what's the deal with the co-op?

While some have suspected some sort of nefarious scheme or fishy circumstances, the truth is actually a lot less sexy.

It appears the co-op has fallen victim to the same phenomenon that has caught up almost every single brewery that has ever tried to open for business in Oklahoma: Everything about opening a brewery takes longer than you think.

I spoke with co-op owner Brad Stumph last night and he confirmed as much, saying that they had set a very aggressive timeline for re-opening the brewery to the public, but they simply did not have all the T's crossed and I's dotted yet to do so.

Stumph said that production at the brewery is ongoing -- as we have seen with both Elk Valley and Angry Scotsman -- so you likely will still be able to find these beers around town, such as on Saturday at The Patriarch.

Speaking of that, festivities for Angry Scotsman are set to kick off at noon on Saturday, with Rusty Kiltpin (Scottish 80/export ale), Night Terror (American black IPA), Pale Ryder (American pale rye ale) and a secret special release set to be on tap (a release time for the special release has not been announced). There will also be a pair of food trucks on hand, and both OSU and OU football games on TV.

If and when new dates are announced for the co-op, I'll be sure to pass those along in this space.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Week in beer: Wine vs. Beer, Angry Scotsman and The Root

Good day beer fans. How about getting your week started with the latest goings-on on the OKC craft beer scene?

Here's your week in beer:

-McNellie's OKC is holding a Weihenstephaner Festbier Pint Night today at 5 p.m.

-Oak & Ore is hosting Wine vs. Beer II: OAKtobOREfest Cheese Pairing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, featuring four Marshall Brewing beers paired with four Artisan Fine Wines and Spirits wines and four kinds of cheese. Tickets are $35, with a portion of proceeds going to the Whole Kids Foundation.

-The Root is holding an Abita Bourbon Street Chocolate Stout pint night at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

-Anthem is hosting a beer and donut pairing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, featuring Holey Roller Donuts. Tickets are $35 and get you five donuts and five beer samples.

-The Patriarch is celebrating University of Central Oklahoma's Homecoming at 5 p.m. Thursday with Bronchtoberfest 2017.

-The Root is back at it on Friday with a rooftop, moonlight yoga session at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and get you a beer, cider or wine.

-The OK City Brewing Co-op launch party for Angry Scotsman is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.

-Busy week for The Root, as they are hosting a breast cancer awareness fundraiser Saturday at 8 p.m. Breast Intentions will feature music, art, beer and food, with proceeds benefiting Oklahoma Project Woman.

-Twisted Spike is holding a session of Beer Yoga at noon on Sunday. More info here.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Elk Valley re-launch to feature rare beer

I wrote earlier this week about the Angry Scotsman debut event coming up at the OK City Brewing Co-op, but as we all know, that is not the first event on tap this month at the co-op.

This Saturday the spotlight belongs to Elk Valley, as they celebrate the re-launch of the brewhouse on N Meridian.

The festivities are set to kick off at 11 a.m. and continue to 9 p.m., and Elk Valley is promising some fresh batches of Magic Juice, Pale Ale, Coffee Nemesis and Cheap Sunglasses.

There also was a cryptic mention on the FB event page about cracking open "something special," and I can confirm that this is indeed something very special.

Elk Valley will tap a limited supply of Wyld Pumpeon -- a 2015 batch of Pumpion that has been aged with Brett. That is set for 4 p.m., although you may be able to score a sip of this beer a little earlier if your table tennis skills are up to snuff.

Saturday's event will include a ping pong tourney set to begin at 3 p.m. (or 2:30 p.m. if more than 20 people sign up) with the winner of the tourney getting the first pour of Wyld Pumpeon. How awesome is that?

In addition to ping pong, there will be a food truck (Fat Sosa) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., games, music, mini-tours and raffles for glassware, beer, growlers and some yet-to-be-determined prizes.

Sounds like a pretty solid time.

In related/unrelated news, Elk Valley filed for label approval for a new beer recently. You can see below a keg label for Firefly Crew. This is a witbier brewed with coriander and lemon peel, and you should expect to see it in the market in about a month, give or take:

There's also new beer news from another of the co-op partners, Vanessa House. They filed for label approval for a new barleywine, Rent's Due:

Seems like an interesting take on a barleywine -- it's a little on the low side for both ABV and IBUs, per BJCP style guidelines (although still within the appropriate limits). Perhaps we're talking about a more sessionable barleywine, if there is such a thing? The release date for this beer has not been set, per Vanessa House reps.

And then, there's even more new beer news! COOP has filed for label approval for the next in its DNR Cask-It Series line: Tequila Barrel Aged DNR.

As someone who has embraced tequila and homemade crafty margaritas in the past year, I'm especially intrigued by the way DNR and tequila will intermingle in this one. Look for a release date on this a little closer to the end of the month.

So what else is going on?

-The Root is hosting a Boulevard Hibiscus Gose Pint Night at 5 p.m. today.

-The 14th annual ARTonTAP beer tasting hosted by the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is set for Friday night at 7. More details here.

-STASH in Norman is hosting its Hair of the Dog Oktoberfest at 6 p.m. Friday. You can get more info on that here.

-The 2017 OKCtoberfest is set for Friday and Saturday at the OKC Farmers Market. All the details on that are here.

-Roughtail is releasing Adaptation 10.2 (Citra) and 10.3 (Mosaic) at noon on Friday.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Angry Scotsman set for official public debut

It's been a little more than a week since the announcement that the OK City Brewing Cooperative was being relaunched, but already one of the co-op members is making the most of the opportunity.

Not only has Angry Scotsman Brewing (ASB) founder and brewmaster Ross Harper been working away in the brewhouse on N Meridian, Harper is getting ready to debut his beer to the paying public for the first time.

The official launch is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at the co-op, 520 N Meridian.

In the meantime, you can start to get a feel for ASB's plans for branding and product line-up based on label approvals filed with the federal government.

The brewer was approved for keg collars that show four mainline beers and also a pair of rotators -- a special release and a rotating IPA:

The label filings also show plans for canned releases, as evidenced here:

ASB has taken the approach of filing a generic label for approval and then updating the design at a later time. One can also check this image from the event page for ASB's release event for a feel at the potential design/look of the brand:

In terms of the Oct. 14 event, here's a blurb from the event page:

"We'll have our flagships Rusty Kiltpin, Pale Ryder, and Night Terror pouring, plus a selection of small batch releases to enjoy, too. You'll also be able to get growler fills of Rusty Kiltpin and Night Terror to take ASB suds home for the first time.

"We're lining up food trucks, yard games, music and more to make this the party it needs to be. 21 and up only per OK law, but well-behaved furry friends are always welcome."

If you can't make the event on the 14th, consumers should expect to see ASB kegs hit the market this month as well.