The Thirsty Beagle: November 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Automobile Alley home to three breweries?

What if I told you that by the middle of next year you could go to Automobile Alley and walk to three different breweries?

That situation has a very distinct possibility of becoming a reality.

We know that Twisted Spike Brewing is nearing a public opening on NW 10 this month -- maybe within a few days -- and that Prairie's OKC brewpub along NW 8 is expected to open in late spring or early summer of 2017.

But you may not have known that Mustang Brewing is also looking at Automobile Alley.

Mustang majority owner Scott White had plans on moving his brewery from 520 N Meridian to a spot in Edmond, near Kelly and NW 150. Those plans fell through, and it appears Mustang has settled on a nice alternative near NW 9, near where Hillbilly's is located.

White said plans call for multi-unit development with several companies under one roof, including the Mustang brewery, a rooftop bar and event center, and a farm-to-table-style restaurant, He said he is looking at a June opening date.

The plans actually would not be that dissimilar from what Prairie has planned for the area.

Can one small area of the city sustain two such ambitious projects? Will there be enough companies to fill in the buildings and make things work?

If it does all works out -- I say if because things tend to change pretty quickly in the beer business -- the area could be established as Oklahoma City's first modern brewery district, featuring three breweries within three or four blocks of each other.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

No reason to be angry if liquor stores challenge SQ 792

You may or may not know who Jerry Fent is.

During my 12-plus-year career as a reporter and editor at The Oklahoman, I become quite familiar with his name.

Fent was often referred to as a gadfly -- by the dictionary definition, it's someone who "persistently annoys or provokes others with criticism, schemes, ideas, demands, requests, etc."

Fent was in the news because he took it upon himself to annoy our state's lawmakers. A longtime Oklahoma City attorney, he would scrutinize bills passed by the legislature and sue if he thought they were unconstitutional. He's actually still at it right now, taking on the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority most recently.

He has a enjoyed a great deal of success. Many people who know that the concept of legislative logrolling is unconstitutional probably know that only because Fent challenged several such laws that wrapped multiple unrelated topics into one bill. For me, Fent is the reason I know exactly what our single-subject rule is all about.

As court ruling after court ruling would side with Fent, throwing bills out as unconstitutional, people would complain -- why is he doing this? Why is he constantly challenging the will of the legislature, and by extension, the will of the people?

Of course, he wasn't doing anything wrong. Every court decision that went his way served to validate our governmental system of checks and balances. People actually should be thanking him for getting bills that are unconstitutional thrown out. Fent sends a firm message to the legislature time and again: You need to do better.

And so that brings us to State Question 792. The alcohol reform measure was passed overwhelmingly during Tuesday's election. Support came in above 65 percent -- a particularly emphatic result, especially for a state like Oklahoma (Surprise! We like our drinks!).

What's not a surprise is that the liquor store lobby is getting ready to play Jerry Fent on 792. They already challenged the measure in court to try and keep it off the ballot, and are on the record as saying they would challenge again if it passed the vote. They're currently soliciting donations to fund their legal battle. What will be troubling for some is that when they tried to get the measure stricken from the ballot, the judge on the case, while allowing it to stay on the ballot, openly expressed concerns about its constitutionality.

Now, since I'm fairly certain I'm blacklisted from pretty much every liquor store in the state at this point, I don't suppose it'll sting too bad to say that I don't believe those challenging 792 are as altruistic in their intentions as Fent would be.

Do I think they really care if 792 is unconstitutional as a matter of pure principal? No. Do I think they want to get it thrown out because they don't want Walmart to sell $10 wine and steal all their sales? Yes.

And that's fine! Thing is, it doesn't really matter what their intent is. It's totally their right to challenge the measure. If they take this thing to court, and it gets struck down as unconstitutional, it's not much different than what Fent has done numerous times.

While there will be much hand-wringing if it shakes out like that, I'm sure, and it may delay the inevitable reform that will one day come to Oklahoma's laws, it will serve an important purpose.

It will allow the voters to tell the legislature to get back to work and do better. To get a law on the books that is not unconstitutional. I for one have seen our legislature try any number of shenanigans, and I'm happy to see the courts keep them in check when they don't do the right thing.

To be clear, with 792, I don't believe there was any intent whatsoever to skirt the law. All the same, let's get something ironclad on the books.

And who knows, maybe the liquor store efforts will be in vain and 792 will stand. The crux of the liquor store argument right now is that 792 is unconstitutional because it doesn't treat all stores that sell alcohol the same. Many people believe that argument doesn't hold water because grocery stores and liquor stores aren't the same -- while both would have wine and beer, one would not be allowed to sell liquor, and one would. (Also, grocery stores wouldn't be able to sell beer above 8.99% ABV.)

How will the courts view that argument? It'll be interesting to see it play out.

In the meantime, the people of this state have spoken rather forcefully. Change is coming. We may just need to practice a little patience on the way.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Support SQ 792 and support the state's good liquor stores

There are some great liquor stores out there.

With great people inside. Some of them know a whole heck of a lot more about their products than I do. A lot of them are really nice people, too, always friendly and welcoming. And some of them have really great selection in their store as well, with an abundance of locally made products.

I think of 2nd Street Wine in Edmond, Freeman's and The Well when I think of all these traits. Those are just places I frequent. I know there are plenty of others as well.

This blog is about State Question 792, but it's about liquor stores, too.

As I've written on the blog over the past several months, I don't buy many of the arguments being forwarded by the liquor store lobby on why Oklahoma shouldn't pass SQ 792. There is one argument I do agree with to a certain extent, however.

That some liquor stores will go out of business if 792 passes. Emphasis on some, with more explanation to follow. I hope, and I believe, that places like 2nd Street and Freeman's will not go out of business. We need more of those places in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, the liquor store I happened upon last Thursday evening in Edmond is not one of those places.

It's not a store I would normally visit, but I was not taking my normal route home from work and when I passed it -- knowing I wanted to pick up some beer and a bottle of wine on the way home -- I decided to stop in because I wasn't sure if any other stores would be on the way.

When I went inside, I found a paltry beer selection. A grand total of three Oklahoma breweries were represented. Those opposed to 792 have said the beer selection at grocery stores won't be any good if the measure passes. Was this store a preview of the supposedly horrible selection I can expect at the grocery store?

The wine selection featured no discernible organization, other than reds mostly on one side and whites on the other. No signage indicated which styles were where. I was left to scan over pretty much the entire stock to find what I was looking for.

When I went to the register, I was second in line.

The man in front asked the clerk -- a middle-aged man who appeared to be an owner or manager -- what his opinion on 792 was.

The clerk at first attempted to defer, rather gruffly telling the man to read the measure and see what he thinks.

The customer pressed, saying he didn't want to read the measure, he just wanted the man's opinion.

The clerk relented. "If I told you that some other store could sell all the wine and beer that I sell here, what would you say that would do for me?"

"I would say that would probably hurt your bottom line," the customer replied.

"Well there you go," the clerk said.

And standing there listening to this conversation, I thought, "Is that your whole argument against it?" And it occurred to me that, yes, some liquor stores will go out of business when they lose a big chunk of their $10 wine sales.

And maybe that's sad. Not to sound too cold-hearted, but maybe it really isn't.

I'm thinking all this back-and-forth in my head as the man in front finishes checking out. Now it's my turn at the front. I move up and next to the counter, I see a grocery cart filled with bargain and close-out items.

Right on top is a bottle of Metaxa -- a Greek whiskey (more like fire water, as I can recall) that my dad always had around the house when I was growing up. I picked up the bottle just to see it, noticing it was covered in some serious dust.

"You want that?" the clerk said.

No, I replied, telling the clerk my dad was Greek and he used to have it around and I was just sort of admiring it.

"What's it like?" the clerk asked.

"Like fire water -- it's got some serious burn," I said out loud. In my head, I said, "YOU TELL ME! It's your store and your product! You don't even know what you're selling here? You couldn't even jump on the Internet and do some research for two minutes?"

And right then and there, the one argument from the liquor store lobby that I actually agree with -- some liquor stores will go out of business -- really became solidified as not all that important to me anymore.

(Of course, I disagree vehemently with the position that as many as half the state's liquor stores will go out of business. The math behind that assumption is fuzzy at best and based on apples-to-oranges reasoning. This, naturally, hasn't stopped anyone from making the argument repeatedly.)

After all, if you're running a retail business, you have poor selection, you make no effort to support local vendors, your store lacks organization and attention to detail, your customer service is sketchy and borderline rude and you lack knowledge about your own products, maybe you SHOULD go out of business.

Now, I understand there is a human element to this. The people who run liquor stores are not soulless, faceless nobodies. Many of the ones I've met over the years are very good people who work tremendously hard so they can pay their bills, save for their kids to go to college, and so on.

I don't WANT any of them to go out of business if 792 passes.

But in trying to move this state ahead, the possibility that some really sub-par retail establishments could close shop is not a reasonable argument for me not to support 792.

So that's where I stand. Get out and support 792.

And if you visit a liquor store with good customer service, and good selection, and they seem like they're actually happy you're in the store, and they support local vendors, remember to continue to get out and support them, too.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Oak & Ore plans four-pack of coffee beer brunches

Oak & Ore started serving brunch one year ago, and now the Plaza District spot is marking that occasion by hosting a series of special Sunday coffee beer brunches.

O&O will feature a different Oklahoma City brewery or beer company each Sunday in November, beginning tomorrow with Elk Valley.

"We're really grateful for the support we've received from the Plaza District, Oklahoma craft brewers, and especially from our customers whose feedback has helped us evolve our brunch menu," said Micah Andrews, Oak & Ore owner.

Tomorrow's Elk Valley brunch is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature limited-release coffee beers, branded coffee mugs (while supplies last) and free bacon for guests who dress up in the day's theme. The theme Sunday is "Open Season" (camo or outdoor apparel).

As an aside, there's definitely something to be said for coffee beers. When you can cover 50 percent of my drink groups (beer, coffee, water, wine) in one drink, you're really being efficient. And technically, beer is made out of water, so I'm gonna count that as 75 percent.

The featured beers tomorrow are Magic Barrel Sour, Bourbon Oaked Sweet Revenge Imperial Milk Stout, Whiskey Barrel Coconut Nemesis and Coffee Nemesis. There will also be Elk Valley beer-mosas.

Future brunches are Vanessa House on Nov. 13, Anthem on Nov. 20 and COOP on Nov. 27. All brunches are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., except for the COOP brunch, which is set to start at 10 a.m.

Here are some details for each event:

Nov. 13: Vanessa House will lead a Superhero Brunch to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. There will be special brews on tap in collaboration with Coffee Slingers Roasters, free bacon for folks who dress as superheroes, superhero mixed-tape beats specially curated by the Vanessa House crew, hero and villain appearances from Jedi OKC, limited edition mugs, raffle prizes, and more.

Nov. 20: Anthem will be brewing up their first ever coffee version of Uroboros Imperial Stout to be served alongside other limited beers. Special edition Anthem mugs will be given out with the purchase of an Anthem beer.

Nov. 27: COOP Ale Work’s Wakin’ and Bacon Toaster Brunch will feature a broadcast of indie radio station’s The Spy FM’s “Toaster Brunch” reggae-centric Sunday morning show, live from Oak & Ore. Oak & Ore will be open at 10 a.m. to kick off the “Toaster Brunch” broadcast. COOP will feature its Coffee Gransport Porter and Elevator wheat beer-mosas with free bacon for customers dressed in 70s-themed attire. Free “This is probably beer” coffee mugs while supplies last with the purchase of any COOP beer.

As a side note, I still think it's cool that you can hold an event or series of events featuring only Oklahoma City beermakers. Not to sound all "I used to walk to school uphill both ways in four feet of snow," but, not too long ago there weren't four OKC brewers to feature. And never mind the fact you actually don't even have to stop at four now. Anyway, rambling over. Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Impressive Stout Day plans on tap

Several pubs have announced plans for International Stout Day festivities, including some impressive lineups at TapWerks and The Patriarch.

Here's a rundown of what you can expect, with apologies to any bar not included here.

TapWerks

The fun kicks off at 5 p.m. Thursday with a series of hourly flights.

5 p.m.: Anthem Orange Chocolate Imperial Stout; Marshall Wine Barrel Aged Black Dolphin Stout; Tallgrass BBBS with vanilla and cinnamon; Iron Monk Chocolate Habanero Stout.

6 p.m.: Anthem School's Out Milk Stout; Bricktown Brewery limited-release stout; Destihl Cerise Imperiale.

7 p.m.: COOP TROAIS 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, plus 2015 with coconut.

8 p.m.: Anthem Pumpkin Uroboros; Prairie Pirate Bomb!; Prairie Paradise with extra coconut; Omnipollo Yellow Belly.

The Patriarch

Festivities begin at 3 p.m. with hourly tappings.

3 p.m.: Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti

4 p.m.: Clown Shoes Atomic Coffee Unidragon

5 p.m.: Big Sky Ivan the Terrible

6 p.m.: Avery Tweak

7 p.m.: Founders KBS

8 p.m.: Clown Shoes Amandine Exorcism

9 p.m.: Prairie Birthday Bomb!

Also on tap: Elk Valley  Nemesis, Iron Monk Milk Stout, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, Prairie Bomb!, Anthem Uroboros, Elk Valley Coffee Nemesis, Marshall Black Dolphin Stout, Mustang Peanut Butter Stout and Avery The Czar.

Pub W-Memorial Road

Pub W is featuring an Elk Valley Tap Takeover tonight with Nemesis, Coffee Nemesis and Coconut Nemesis. On Thursday, they will feature 405 Brewing's Little Giants.

Pub W-Norman

The Norman location is featuring Elk Valley Nemesis tonight, and a 405 Tap Takeover at Thursday with Little Giants, Grapefruit Sour and Hybrid.

Roosevelt's

The Tulsa pub is hosting Local Night tonight stating at 4 p.m., featuring stouts from Marshall, Prairie, Elk Valley, Iron Monk and Anthem. The highlight of the night will be a series of Marshall Black Dolphin Stout variants aged on barrels for one year -- and on nitro no less -- including traditional BDS, White Wine Barrel Aged BDS, Red Wine Barrel Aged BDS, Tequila Barrel Aged BDS and Rum Barrel Aged BDS.

The stout madness will continue on Thursday when Roosevelt's taps offerings from Evil Twin, Big Sky and Destihl, in addition to everything else already on tap.

Slaughter's Hall

The Deep Deuce spot has advertised stouts on tap and flights on Thursday, but no specific details available as of this morning.

Elk Valley to debut new saison

Thursday night may be International Stout Day, but that's not stopping Elk Valley from rolling out a new beer that's pretty much on the opposite end of the style spectrum.

Elk Valley will debut Sunset Saison at the brewery at 6 p.m. Thursday.


From the Elk Valley FB page:

"There's nothing quite like drinking a refreshing saison right out of a can (by the lake, of course). This brew uses a very simple grain bill and focuses on the character of the yeast, without getting too funky. I'm very fond of this one, and hope you all will enjoy it, too!"

The beer will be available in six-packs and cases with no limit. They're selling it for $11 per six pack ($44 for the case).