The Thirsty Beagle: December 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No.3

It's time for the top three in our list of Oklahoma's top 10 craft beer stories of 2016. I certainly debated which order to rank the top three, so please feel free to sound off with your opinions, too!

On to the countdown...

No. 3

The news: State voters pass State Question 792

What happened: What started as a bill to allow liquor stores to refrigerate alcohol turned into a full-blown re-write of the Oklahoma constitution. To get there, lawmakers introduced a 200-plus-page resolution aimed at updating the state's liquor laws. The resolution was passed and added to the November election ballot, where voters approved it with more than 65 percent support. After the election, a group of liquor stores sued to have the question tossed out by the courts.

Why it mattered: SQ 792 -- set to go into effect in October 2018 -- will have major implications on the way beer is distributed and purchased in Oklahoma. First, the measure moves Oklahoma to a so-called single-strength system, effectively doing away with the need for low-point beer. Second, it allows grocery, convenience and drug stores to sell strong beer up to 8.99 percent ABV. And it does indeed allow liquor stores to refrigerate beer. There are many more changes and many more nuances as well. As for the court challenge, a hearing on the liquor stores' motion for a temporary injunction is set for Feb.14 in Oklahoma County District Court, records show.

Top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No. 4

We've reached the final four of our list of top 10 craft beer stories for Oklahoma in 2016. Selecting the 10 stories on the list was a challenge, but ranking the top four was especially difficult. I'm sure different folks could arrange this list in a number of different ways!

Before we get to No. 4, you can click here to scroll through Nos. 5 through 10.

Without further delay, here is...

No. 4

The news: Four-pack of new breweries launch

What happened: Three new brick-and-mortar breweries completed construction and opened their production facilities and taprooms in 2016: Beavers Bend and Mountain Fork in McCurtain County and Twisted Spike in Oklahoma City. In addition, Prairie Artisan Ales founder Chase Healey launched a new company -- American Solera -- after Choc acquired Prairie. (And as a bonus, Dead Armadillo opened its taproom in 2016 as well.)

Why it mattered: I put a lot of stock in the term brick-and-mortar -- when a brewer makes that kind of investment and gets his or her own skin in the game, as they say, I think it's worth recognizing. (No disrespect meant whatsoever to any contract or gypsy brewers out there!) Also, the key to growing beer tourism in Oklahoma is providing locations/destinations, so that's another reason to celebrate new brewery/taproom openings. Adding four or five of those locations in one year is certainly noteworthy.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No. 5

We've reached the half-way mark in our countdown of top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016.

Before we get to No. 5, you can scroll through Nos. 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 right here to get caught up.

But now, on with the show, here is...

No. 5

The news: Stone and New Belgium coming to Oklahoma.

What happened: Beer distributor Oklahoma Beer Imports announces in December that it will bring both the Stone and New Belgium brands into Oklahoma in early 2017.

Why it mattered: Although both are entering the market with somewhat limited selections of their beer, it's hard to look past the symbolic importance of Stone and New Belgium arriving in Oklahoma. The Sooner State is one of the last few that both companies don't currently distribute in, and while 2016 also saw the likes of Oskar Blues, Rahr & Sons and Magic Hat arrive (not to mention several new brands brought in under the Craft & Barrel umbrella), there's little room to dispute that Stone and NB are the biggest new brand additions the state has witnessed.

Top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No. 6

Good morning beer fans! Hope you're enjoying our countdown of top 10 craft beer stories for Oklahoma in 2016. This morning we're almost halfway home, as we reach No. 6 on the list.

First, feel free to check out No. 10, No. 9, No. 8 or No. 7.

Now, on with the show. Here is...

No. 6

The news: Mustang is sold; Mustang and Elk Valley seek new homes

What happened: Mustang founder Tim Schoelen announced in July that he was stepping aside and a new owner would take over day-to-day operations of the company. Mustang's new principal owner, Scott White, announced he would move the brewery to Edmond, however those plans fell through and White later announced a move to the Automobile Alley area. This news meant that Elk Valley -- currently brewing at Mustang's Meridian Avenue location -- would also seek a new location of its own in 2017.

Why it mattered: Although it has experienced a somewhat tumultuous existence, Mustang remains one of the longest-operating brewers in the state, beat to incorporation only by Huebert, Choc, Marshall and COOP. The company has always enjoyed a loyal following and was also one of the first Oklahoma craft brewers to test the waters in the low-point grocery store market. If Mustang does indeed end up joining Prairie and Twisted Spike in Automobile Alley, it would create Oklahoma City's first true craft beer district. Meanwhile, beer fans are enthralled with each new release from Elk Valley, and many will be watching with interest to see where founder and brewmaster John Elkins lands in 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No. 7

This afternoon we're moving forward with our list of top 10 craft beer stories for Oklahoma in 2016.

Just in case you missed them, you can click to see No. 10, No. 9 and No. 8.

Checking in next on the list is...

No. 7

The news: Nothing's Left, Renaissance, Vanessa House hold launch parties

What happened: Three new Oklahoma brewing companies were introduced to the market in 2016, including Nothing's Left (in April), Renaissance (in July) and Vanessa House (in September). All three launched in a contract brewing set-up, with Nothing's Left brewing at Anthem, Renaissance brewing at Dead Armadillo and Vanessa House brewing at O'Fallon in Missouri.

Why it mattered: Several brick-and-mortar Oklahoma breweries got their commercial starts through contract or gypsy brewing, including Mustang, Anthem and Dead Armadillo, so it's always worth noting when new brewers hit the market, as today's brewer could be tomorrow's tap room.

Top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No. 8

Today we're continuing our countdown of the top Oklahoma craft beer stories for 2016.

We covered No. 10 and No. 9 yesterday.

Now we're ready for...

No. 8

The news: COOP Ale Works wins 2016 Metro 50 Award.

What happened: Not only did COOP claim a spot on the Metro 50 list, the company checked in at No. 10 in the rankings, which measure the success of established and up-and-coming companies in the Oklahoma City-metro area.

Why it mattered: Metro 50 Awards recognize and rank companies based on their percentage of annual growth over a three-year span. To qualify, companies must have revenues of at least $1 million for the previous year. COOP's ability to hit No. 10 on the Metro 50 list shows that the craft beer business in Oklahoma is not merely a starving-artist type situation -- it's as viable a driver of economic activity in the state as any other company, in any other field.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No. 9

As we prepare for the arrival of 2017, I'm saying so long to 2016 by continuing my countdown of Oklahoma's top 10 craft beer stories for the year.

If you missed No. 10 from earlier today, you can see that right here.

Now we've arrived at...

No. 9

The news: Homebrewers announce brewery plans

What happened: We all expected that when Senate Bill 424 passed into law -- allowing brewers to sell their own full-strength beer out of their own buildings -- that quite a few new breweries would likely pop up. And indeed, that appears to be the case, as award-winning homebrewers like Ross Harper (Angry Scotsman Brewing) and Matt and Beth Conner (Frenzy Brewing) announced they were looking to turn pro.

Why it mattered: Several homebrewers said they would try and turn pro if SB 424 were passed, but if there's any place where talk is cheap, it's in the business of starting a brewery. Seeing people go public with plans to open pubs proved that SB 424 could indeed hold the power to alter the local beer landscape in several ways.

The top 10 Oklahoma craft beer stories of 2016: No. 10

The year 2016 is rapidly drawing to a close, but before we ring in 2017, let's take a look back at the top stories from the Oklahoma craft beer scene from the past year.

This week I'm playing Casey Kasem and counting them down -- from No. 10 all the way to No. 1.

This truly has been a landmark year for beer in the Sooner State, and settling on the top 10 news stories was a fun exercise. It was super-easy for Nos. 1, 2 and 3, but pretty tough for Nos. 4 through 10.

Anyway, check out the blog this week for the rundown, and feel free to sound off if you think I missed something, or if you think I have them in the wrong order.

Here we go...

No. 10

The news: Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival expands to two days

What happened: In its sixth year of existence, the annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival for the first time was extended to three sessions spanning two days.

Why it mattered: The move signaled the growing popularity of the OCBF and the expanding reach of craft beer in Oklahoma City and the state as a whole.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Liquor store group sues to up-end SQ 792

A group of state liquor stores has filed a lawsuit to try and have State Question 792 thrown out.

The court challenge, reported on Monday afternoon by The Oklahoman, has been long-expected.

The liquor stores argue that SQ 792 in unconstitutional because it allows grocery and convenience stores to have an unlimited amount of licenses to sell wine and some strong beers, but only allows liquor stores to have two licenses to sell liquor.

At this point, I will provide the obligatory reminder that according to State Sen. Stephanie Bice -- one of the authors of the legislation that turned into SQ 792 -- liquor store owners were offered the option to own several licenses to sell liquor, but argued against that.

As Bice stated, they did not want to allow liquor stores to have too many licenses because they feared franchises like Spec's and Total Wine would come into Oklahoma.

That being said, it's totally within their rights to sue. It's a free country. We will have to see how this plays out in the courts.

Will the courts decide that the government is within its rights to use different regulations for companies that sell liquor and those that don't? We shall see -- but to me, that appears to be the central question in this case.

Although it has no real bearing on the court case, it is worth noting that SQ 792 passed with more than 65 percent support from state voters.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Weekend bottle releases set in OKC, Tulsa

Happy Friday beer fans!

As we get ready for the weekend, I'm sure quite a few are still digesting the news from yesterday that both Stone and New Belgium will arrive in Oklahoma in February.

The reaction to my blog announcing that news was mixed -- on the whole, people are excited to see a couple big brands come to Oklahoma.

Many people were lukewarm on the beers that will be coming at the outset, while just as many were pumped that Fat Tire would be here.

Some people expressed dismay at my use of the term "flyover state" to describe Oklahoma. I didn't necessarily think that terminology would cause any animosity when I elected to use it, but I can see why some in the craft beer community might have been offended.

For what it's worth, there was no intention to low-ball the quality of the current selection of craft beer in Oklahoma, especially from our local brewers. Do I think the addition of Fat Tire makes Oklahoma a better craft beer state? No. I would still pick any number of tremendous local beers first.

When I wrote flyover state, I was referring to what it means symbolically to have those brands coming to Oklahoma.

At the end of the blog, I wrote this:

"The craft beer culture in Oklahoma is growing, evolving and thriving. There's no reason our producers can't turn out sought-after beer and there's no reason the likes of Stone and New Belgium wouldn't be interested in being here."

I felt like that was me saying, "hey, we're pretty damn good already, so why wouldn't those guys want to be here?"

But, I guess that sentiment did not resonate. Anyway, that's how I feel. Stay tuned for next week when I can offend someone else in the alcohol industry!

As they say, you can't win 'em all.

Speaking of local craft beer, our local brewers have quite a bit going on in the next little while. How about a rundown?

-Elk Valley is releasing a new version of Nemesis tomorrow. Whiskey Barrel Mole Nemesis, with Ancho chiles, cacao nibs and cinnamon is set to drop from the brewery at noon. Bottles will be $10 a pop, but there is a six-bottle limit. And Elk Valley reserves the right to change the limit based on how many are in line, etc. The original Whiskey Barrel Nemesis was tremendous, so expect this to be a hot item as well.

-American Solera is releasing a pair of very interesting-sounding beers at noon tomorrow at the brewery. Holiday Open House is an English barleywine that has been more than two years in the making. It was aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for 18 months and then bottle-conditioned for another 12 months. Also for release will be Old Dishoom, an old ale aged in Sherry barrels with a mix of Brett cultures added.

-Mustang is hosting an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party from 3 to 9 p.m. tomorrow. The party will feature beers made in collaboration with a pair of local homebrew clubs: Blackheart Christmas Stout from the Red Earth Brewers and Christmas Ale from the High Plains Draughters. There will also be complimentary leg lamp cookies.

-If you haven't been out to the recently opened Twisted Spike taproom, they are hosting food trucks today and tomorrow: Wicked Hangry at 4 p.m. today and Blue Donkey Food Truck at noon tomorrow.

-Speaking of food trucks, Marshall is hosting Harden's Hamburgers today at noon.

-405 Brewing is shuffling over to Roosevelt's in Tulsa for an FDR Launch Party at 5 p.m. Dec. 22.

-Anthem is hosting a Festivus Party from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 23, featuring the new 2016 version of Festivus on tap and prizes for feats of strengths. I'm told there will also be airing of grievances.

-Looking a little further ahead, The Root is hosting a Roughtail Little Blue Pils Pint Night on Jan. 4, featuring some cool co-branded glasses.

-And lastly, Choc/Prairie announced they are hiring for a variety of positions, and will probably be adding even more positions over the next several months. If you're interested in that, click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Stone, New Belgium coming to Oklahoma

The days of Oklahoma as a craft beer flyover state appear to be numbered: both Stone Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing Co. will debut here in February.

That news was confirmed today as officials with Oklahoma Beer Imports revealed both brands have selected the company to handle sales and distribution for their accounts.

Consumers can expect to see several different beers from each brewer in bars and liquor stores, and possibly as early as the first week of February.

Here's what to expect to see from each -- but be aware that these offerings are subject to change:

From Stone:

-Arrogant Bastard (draft, cans)
-Delicious IPA (draft, bottles)
-Go To IPA (cans)
-Stone IPA (draft, bottles)
-Ruination IPA (draft, bottles, cans)
-Ripper Pale Ale (draft, cans)
-Wussie Pilsner (cans)
-Possible Anniversary beers

From New Belgium:

-Fat Tire (draft, bottles, cans)
-3.2 Fat Tire (bottles, possibly draft)
-Dayblazer Easygoing Ale (cans)
-Citradelic IPA (drafts, bottles)
-Voodoo Ranger IPA (draft, bottles)
-Possible seasonals

At first blush, the hardcore beer fans will spot some notable omissions (Enjoy By, Lips of Faith, etc.), but for an opening salvo, there is a lot to like as well. Any of the IPA offerings from Stone will be welcome, and Voodoo Ranger IPA (a reformulation of the hop bill in Ranger IPA) is one I'm interested in.

I also thought the 3.2 Fat Tire was interesting. That means that, yes, you will see New Belgium in the grocery store.

You should expect to see a series of pint nights and special tap takeovers to welcome both brands into the state, although such plans have not yet been finalized.

So what about the bigger picture? Why are these brands pulling the trigger on Oklahoma now? You can't help but think that the passage of State Question 792 had a profound impact on that.

In January of 2015, when Senate Bill 383 was first introduced -- then as the modest liquor store refrigeration bill -- I reached out to both Stone and New Belgium.

At that time, a New Belgium rep told me refrigeration was indeed a key consideration for them. They were watching the political landscape in Oklahoma. At the time, I wrote that it was a matter of when and not if for New Belgium.

Now, just shy of two years later, both are here. Again, is it coincidence that their plans to enter the Oklahoma market were finalized within a few weeks of Oklahomans voting in favor of alcohol law reform?

At the same time, that small sense of inevitability doesn't diminish the symbolic significance of what's happening here.

The craft beer culture in Oklahoma is growing, evolving and thriving. There's no reason our producers can't turn out sought-after beer and there's no reason the likes of Stone and New Belgium wouldn't be interested in being here.

And finally, we don't have to accept a fate of being a flyover state any longer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

COOP TROAIS release highlights busy beer week

Now that it's really getting cold outside, what better time to partake in a boozy, smoky imperial stout, right? Or how about a delicious winter warmer? Well have no fear, because your local bars and brewers have your back.

COOP Ale Works is hosting a Territorial Reserve Oak Aged Imperial Stout release party from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow (12/8) at the brewery, 4745 Council Heights Road. From the COOP FB page:

"It has been over a year since we bottled the last Territorial Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and we are excited to announce that it is being release again on December 8th.

The 2016 Imperial Stout is the first of the updated Territorial Reserve Barrel Aged Series to include the new bottle design by local artist, Matt Goad. The series pays tribute to the pioneering settler and features limited run, barrel aged beers that highlight the staple brewing grains in each offering. Our team continually scrutinizes and refines each vintage in a quest to perfect our vision for these styles.

This beer began with a wagon full of eight different grains and aged for 13 months in bourbon barrels before blending to create a spirit-forward experience. Savor accordingly... it's 13.5% ABV."

The beer will be offered for $8 for a 12-ounce pour, or $16 for a 12-ounce pour and a limited-edition glass. Bottles are $15 and cases will go for $156.00.

Other happenings...

-The Patriarch is hosting a Rahr & Sons Winter Warmer Pint Night with glassware at 6 p.m. tomorrow.

-TapWerks is wrapping up its Four Nights of Oskar Blues promotion with Death by Coconut Irish Porter tonight and then Barrel Aged TenFidy Imperial Stout on Thursday. Both nights start at 6 p.m.

-Anthem is hosting a Taproom Pint Night at 5 p.m. Thursday featuring Uroboros. The brewery is located at 908 SW 4.

-Twisted Spike is hosting its official brewery and taproom grand opening from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday.

-Oak & Ore is hosting a Prairie Coffee Noir Brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, featuring Christmas Bomb! glassware.

-Looking a little further ahead, the Deep Deuce District has scheduled a Christmas Crawl from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. This looks like a fun night, and it'll benefit Infant Crisis Services, but for the life of me I can't figure out if there's a certain prescribed crawl route you're supposed to take. As best I can gather, participating venues are WXYZ/Aloft, Urban Johnnie, Anchor Down, Deep Deuce Grill, WSKY, Slaughter's Hall, The Wedge and Skinny Slim's. More info available here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Twisted Spike on track for public launch

Twisted Spike Brewing Co., the seventh brick-and-mortar, full-strength craft brewery to open in the Oklahoma City metro area, is ready for its public debut.

Beers from the Automobile Alley brewery -- the brainchild of founder, brewmaster and former homebrewer Bruce Sanchez -- will be on tap tonight at The Patriarch for an official launch event.

Featured beers at The Patriarch will be Dirty Blonde, Golden Spike Saison and Twisted Stache Milk Stout. The event kicks off at 6 p.m., with special glassware while supplies last.

The Twisted Spike debut tour will continue next week, with a pint night set for 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 at Oak & Ore, and then things will really get exciting on Saturday, Dec. 10, as the brewery hosts its official grand opening.

The event is set for noon to 9 p.m. at the brewery, 1 NW 10 (north side of the street, right next to the train tracks).

Sanchez will have pints, bottles, growlers and even kegs available for sale.

If you'd like to support Twisted Spike but can't make it out to any of those events, you'll have another chance later in the month. Twisted Spike will be featured at pint nights at both of the metro-area Pub W locations at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29.

Congrats to Bruce, and welcome to the local beer game!