The Thirsty Beagle: May 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Photo essay: Beer in Philadelphia

Mrs. Beagle travels for work pretty frequently, and whenever the destination piques my interest, I try to tag along.

Naturally, when she's off at her work conferences during the day, I've got to find something do. What better to do than try to drink as much beer as I can at as many places as possible, right?

Last month, we headed to Philadelphia. Considering I'm seriously addicted to "Hamilton" and can sing pretty much the entire soundtrack by heart, I was actually really pumped to go to one of the main hotbeds of American Revolutionary history.

While I scored my fill of late-1700s U.S. history, I also came away thoroughly impressed with Philly's beer culture (and that was even without heading out of the core of downtown to visit some of the local breweries).

I was able to hit up several pubs and bars, all within walking distance of my hotel. Let's take a tour.

First, Mrs. Beagle and I ventured to 2nd Story Brewing. The building itself was very interesting, with the brewhouse perched atop the bar (supported by what looked like some serious steel beams). The highlight here was the Declaration IPA:



We walked past Eulogy Belgian Tavern. Unfortunately it was not open at the time. I grabbed a picture of the outside, and later learned while chatting up a couple beer aficionados at a different pub that Eulogy is regarded as one of the top beers bars in Philly: 


Next we worked past Little Lion Public House. The overall beer selection there was average, I have to admit (although I ordered a Live Pale Ale from Southern Tier Brewing and enjoyed it), but we got an unexpected thrill when we sat down at the bar and heard someone ask for the WiFi password. "Hamilton," is what the bartender said in reply. A quick internet search revealed that Alexander Hamilton's nickname was the Little Lion. Boom! We were now having beers at a pub named after Alexander Hamilton!


Of course we did the standard tourist stuff. Behold Constitution Hall:


And the room where it happened (the Constitution being signed in 1787):


The big dog, G. Washington:


Naturally, we hit up the Liberty Bell Center just across the street from Independence Hall. That was pretty cool to see:




We happened upon a really cool spot right across the street from the Liberty Bell, the sprawling outdoor Independence Beer Garden. Unfortunately, it's a seasonal spot and was a few days away from opening when we were there:


So, back to places that had beer. We went for dinner at a super-trendy spot, Tria Taproom. The attention to detail, sleek tap wall and beer service were exemplary, and the beer menu had several exotic offerings. I grabbed an Ithaca Beer Flower Power IPA. Not a bad beer, although to be honest, I was more impressed with the live beer menu on tablets at the tables:


Later that night, we visited the Liberty Place tower, where the One Liberty Observation Deck sits on the 57th floor. Great views of the city and a chance to feel like you might fall through the glass and plummet to your death. Exciting!


Next day, while the Mrs. was off at her work session, I walked over to Monk's Cafe. This place was amazing:


You just knew when you came in from the street and then found this door that either you were going to an awesome place, or you might never come out:




And the beer selection was ridiculous. While they have eight rotating taps on their front bar (pictured above) and eight more on the back bar, the bottle selection was out of the world, numbering well above 200. I went with a big name at the start and began my afternoon with a Russian River Redemption:


Honestly, though, that wasn't even in my top two that day. I was super-impressed with an on-tap offering from Tired Hands Brewing called Half Gentleman, Not Beast IPA. And then I was even more blown away by XX-Bitter -- a Belgian IPA from Brouwerij De Ranke. No joke, I thought it was one of the best beers I've ever had. I ended up spending about three hours at Monk's Cafe. I'm curious how it stacks up with Eulogy, but if you find yourself in downtown Philly ever, you have to get by there.

Once Mrs. Beagle was free for the day, we hit the town for the night, going to Village Whiskey (right close to Tria Taproom) for our first stop. Mrs. Beagle got a local whiskey flight, while I tried a Brooklyn Sorachi Ace and a Firestone Walker Union Jack (both good).

For dinner that night we shot over to Bru Craft & Wurst. The place was a little gimmicky, but they actually had a very solid bottle/can list:


I sampled a Gritty Kitty Pale Ale from Saint Benjamin Brewing Co., a New Zealand IPA from Vault Brewing Co., and a Guava Pastelitos Berliner Weisse from Coppertail Brewing, then finished things of with a Russian River Damnation:


Next day we finished up the trip with some cheese steaks (I liked the ones at Reading Terminal Market the best) and some more sightseeing, including the spot where Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and also Betsy Ross' home:



After that, we had a little time to kill before heading to the airport, so I whisked Mrs. Beagle off so she could see Monk's Cafe. Lo and behold, Russian River Pliny the Elder had just gone on tap, and that was a perfect way to finish off the trip, even if it was served in a #goddamnedshakerpintglass:


In summation, if you like late-1700s American history and you like beer, you have to get to Philadelphia.

So what else is going on?

-As I reported earlier this week, the second annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit has been rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 5. Last night, it was announced that the summit will be one of the first events held at the renovated Tower Theatre. I'll have more details on that as they become available.

-Big news from Roughtail: They have introduced new expanded hours and also are releasing Adaptation 8 at the brewery this Friday. The brewery will now be open 3 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1 to 5  p.m. Sundays. For more on Adaptation 8, check out their FB page.

-The Root has live music going on all weekend to celebrate the Paseo Arts Festival, and also is hosting a Yoga on Tap session at 11 a.m. Sunday.

-The Patriarch is hosting a Founders Summer Kick Off at 2 p.m. June 3, featuring at least eight different Founders beers.

-There's still time to enter COOP's Saturday Siren promotion for a chance to win tickets to GABF. Which, by the way, am I the only one who thinks COOP did a great job on Saturday Siren?

-McNellie's OKC is holding a Samuel Smith Beer Dinner on June 13.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunday sales bill sent to governor's desk

The 2017 legislative session is quickly drawing to its close (pending a special session to figure out the budget situation), and that means we will soon know the fate of the various alcohol measures that made their way through the state Capitol this year.

Here's an update of where five different bills stand:

Senate Bill 174: Allowing both spouses to own up to two liquor stores

This bill was passed by the House and Senate and signed by the governor in late April.

Senate Bill 211: Allowing a county option for Sunday sales in liquor stores

This bill was approved Monday by the Senate and now awaits approval from the governor. It gives counties to option to let voters decide if they want to allow Sunday liquor store sales.

Senate Bill 297: Clarifying the right of local wineries

This bill, which would allow wineries to give away free limited samples and sell wine by the glass on-premise, is pending action in a Senate conference committee.

Senate Bill 411: Expanded hours of operation for local breweries and liquor stores

This bill was signed by the governor in late April. It allows breweries to be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; liquor stores to be open from 8 a.m. to midnight; and grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Senate Bill 646: Updates licensing laws to support implementation of State Question 792

This bill is pending action in a Senate conference committee.

I've reached out to state Sen. Stephanie Bice, the author of all five measures, to gauge the likelihood of action on SBs 297 and 646. Neither has seen any developments since being assigned to conference committee about two weeks ago.

Theoretically, both could be taken up in the next legislative session and still get done in time for the implementation of SQ 792 on Oct. 1, 2018.

All five of the above measures would go into effect on that date.

So what else is going on?

-The third of four big-name national beer brands to hit Oklahoma this year started popping up on liquor store shelves and in bars on Monday. Ballast Point is now available in Oklahoma, following the arrival of Stone and New Belgium earlier this year, and just ahead of Dogfish Head, which is due in June.

-The 2017 Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit has a new date. The event, which was postponed earlier this year due to the threat of severe winter weather, has now been scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 5. You can follow announcements for that event here.

-The Patriarch is hosting a Memorial Day Weekend cookout and fundraiser on Sunday from 1 to 7:30 p.m. They are offering up free Elk Valley Par 3 (three kegs worth) for active and retired U.S. military, and well as free burgers and hot dogs for veterans. Everyone else can get burgers and dogs for a donation to the UCO VetHERO program.

-Roughtail will be slinging its low-point offerings this weekend at the annual Paseo Arts Festival.

-Anthem is holding another beer and board game day on Saturday at the brewery. Festivities kick off at noon. More info available here.

-Another edition of the Plaza Beer Walk has been announced. This go-round will feature Anthem beers and is set for Wednesday, May 31 in the Plaza District.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Saying goodbye to the original Thirsty Beagle.

I've been writing this blog since 2008, and over the years, people have often asked how I came to pick the name "The Thirsty Beagle."

The story goes like this:

In and around the 2001 to 2004 time frame, my girlfriend (later my fiancee and now my wife) and I started to branch away from the Keystone Lights of the world that we consumed during college.

As we graduated from Oklahoma State and settled in Oklahoma City, we started seeking out more flavor-forward beers as our palates evolved.

At that time in Oklahoma City, you had very few choices when it came to expanding your beer world.

One of those choices was TapWerks. We had frequent dates there so we could try new beers, and we often lamented the severe lack of places like that in other parts of Oklahoma City -- especially in north OKC and the Edmond area.

Right about that time -- in the spring of 2004 -- we adopted a puppy. A beagle puppy to be precise. We named him Buster the Beagle (we actually had that put on his dog tag). We always thought it would be great to have a beagle. They're totally cute and we thought it would be a lot of fun. Hold on this thought for a second.

***

Back to lamenting the lack of good craft beer pubs in Oklahoma City. My wife and I started daydreaming about opening our own pub. I pictured an old-English style pub, with rich wood and copper and brass -- probably not all that different from what TapWerks looked like.

What would we call it? Immediately, The Thirsty Beagle popped up. We had a beagle, and what a great fit for an old-English-inspired pub -- since beagles have the bloodlines of royal-type hunting dogs. And thirsty made sense, since it is all about consuming beverages, and because Buster had a habit of spending long stints at the water bowl.

Alas, the daydreaming never really evolved into any kind of concrete plan. But that name always stuck around in the back of my head.

Fast forward to 2008. I had been at The Oklahoman for almost six years, and as the paper efforted to expand its digital footprint, leadership there encouraged the staff to start blogging. I was on board since I enjoyed writing but didn't get to do as much of it following my promotion to an editor role in 2005.

I pondered the idea of a sports/satire blog, but we already had numerous sports blogs at the time and the market seemed a little too saturated.

After sports, the thing I liked to dabble in the most in my spare time was beer. No one at the time was writing about beer at The Oklahoman, or anywhere in the state for that matter. It all seemed to fit together. The only question left was what I would call the blog.

Naturally, I went with The Thirsty Beagle, and launched the blog in September of 2008. It's safe to say that name wouldn't have been born without the existence of Buster the Beagle in our family.

***

That beagle.

My wife and I always wondered if there was something we didn't know about beagles. We'd tell people we had a beagle, and we would always get this wistful "I used to have a beagle" response. They'd have a far-off look in their eyes. Everyone always "used to have a beagle." Why did everyone not have one anymore? Was there something we didn't know?

My god, yes. Buster quickly established a reputation as a giant pain in the ass. Cute as hell, though. He had big brown eyes and bigger floppy ears. He was a beautiful beagle. He seemed like he could have won dog shows with his textbook, prototypical, perfect beagle form. His bay was the stuff legends are made of.

But he was also stubborn as hell. And temperamental. And loud, persistent and endowed with an endless fondness for either reaching up to the kitchen counter to steal food or sneaking into the bathroom to eat the trash.

We were so frustrated with him at one point -- we made it through very few nights where he didn't wake me up in the middle of the night for one reason or another -- we debated handing him over to a beagle rescue.

But we couldn't. He may have been a giant pain in the ass, but as my wife has said, he was our pain in the ass. Over the years -- he turned 13 in March -- we realized we couldn't get rid of him if we tried. He had grown on us. And as he got older, I think we grew on him, too. He was never an overly emotional dog -- he owned a stoic gaze and only really got worked up when he was mad or felt like he wasn't getting what he wanted (read: he bayed endlessly until he broke you down). But as he got older, he would grant a gentle wag of the tail when we walked into the room, or he'd offer a quick lick on the leg as you let him in from the back yard.

We came to peace with one another over the years. And really, there was at least one trait you couldn't help but admire in Buster.

In spite of all the grief he caused, he had one overriding quality. Embedded deep in Buster's beagle soul was the spirit of a tremendous fighter.

About the time he was seven or eight, he started developing arthritis in his lower back. There were times walking was difficult for him. Although the worst symptoms would come and go in spurts, you could tell things were gradually declining over the years. Still, he loved walks. He loved jumping up on the couch -- even though sometimes it took him great determination to do so. He just fought through it.

Not long after the back issues arose, the vets began warning us of his tremendously high liver enzymes. What was causing them, nobody was sure, but they were a telling sign of his imminent demise, they said.

We ran him through countless tests, two ultrasounds and one biopsy surgery to try to get to the bottom of it. None of those efforts revealed any cause to the enzymes. Didn't bother Buster; he just kept on fighting.

One time I took Buster to our dog boarder. He walked with his trademark amble -- it was hard for him to bend his back legs some times. The boarder nearly refused to take him, citing his poor form. She was convinced that's what dogs looked like right before they kicked the bucket. That was like five years ago! He just kept on living!

In the past few years, he would have moments where he was really slowed down. We'd think, "this might be the end for Buster." Nope. He'd bounce back and sneak off and eat the bathroom trash the next day, up to the same old tricks he's been up to for years.

There were a lot of those occasions where we mentally prepared ourselves. Either Buster was going to pass on in his sleep, or we'd have to make the call, but one way or another, this was going to be it. Every time, he bounced back. He fought back.

In the last couple weeks, Buster went into a really creaky phase. He wouldn't try to get on the couch anymore. The dog who over the years single-handedly attempted to eat the back of our house -- window screens, siding, trim, the door, patio furniture, the grill, you name it -- wouldn't scratch at the back door to come inside. He signaled his want to come in by simply whimpering, seemingly unable or unwilling to lift his paw to carry out the action.

I thought, "He'll bounce back." The running joke at our house was that he was going to live forever.

Buster did not bounce back. For once in the 13 years and two months that he was alive -- more than a third of my entire life -- I had to concede that the fight may have finally left him.

On Monday evening, we made that call.

***

How do you know? How do you really know if it's the right thing to do? I don't know. I go back and forth between thinking maybe we waited too long to make the call, and maybe we didn't wait long enough.

It all makes me so sad. And then I have to remember, it's only because of that dog's reputation as champion fighter of all time that there even is any doubt. I will cherish that part of him, and -- as corny as it sounds -- I hope when life gets me down that I can embody that trait myself in spirit and action.

In the end, I think we made the right call. Buster was in a rough spot, and no matter what my heart says, my brain could see what was happening.

Truth is, having had a couple days to reflect on it, and in taking the time to write this, I think one thing has become more clear to me: It's not actually the uncertainty of the call that makes me sad.

It's that I miss him.

That beagle. I think that's the beauty of it. I'm sad because I miss him, and that's the way it should be.

Wherever you are tonight, give your dog a hug. And raise a glass of beer to Buster the Beagle, the original Thirsty Beagle.

Cheers buddy.

Musings on OCBF

Last week I previewed the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival, and wondered aloud if the fest would see any drop-off in organization or structure due to the departure of founder and longtime organizer Greg Powell.

After attending the VIP session on Saturday afternoon, it's only fair to come back and report on the findings, and safe to say, the festival appears to be in capable hands.

On a macro level, everything seemed to run smoothly -- volunteers kept water pitchers and dump buckets full and empty, respectively, lines were orderly, the convention center was kept clean and things seemed organized on the whole.

On a micro level, the breweries in attendance and the beers available were comparable to recent years.

On that point -- the types of beers available -- there is some debate among hardcore beer fans.

One train of thought articulated on the beer forums is that this year's OCBF lacked significantly in new, rare and/or innovative offerings. There is no doubt that Oklahoma's brewers curtailed the number of one-offs or experimental beers they brought to the fest, compared to past years. (Roughtail, for example, brought three beers you could pick up any time at the liquor store.)

That trend overall was a sore spot for me -- maybe the only sore spot of my experience this year -- and I have to wonder if a relatively late announcement on the festival date prevented some brewers from coming up with the types of crazy one-offs we've seen at past festivals?

We also have to consider that this is the first year brewers have been able to serve/sell one-offs at their taprooms any time they want. While we can consider that that may lessen the draw of bringing one-offs to the fest, it's worth noting that doesn't necessarily stop brewers in other states with more open laws from bringing one-offs to fests in those states.

So that leads to a potentially growing sticking point for OCBF. There have been grumblings from some in the local industry about how the Oklahoma brewers must pay to play at the festival. In other words, OCBF organizers do not pay for the beer the local brewers bring to the fest -- the brewers must donate it. That is not the case at all fests, and naturally some brewers may prefer the option to take part in a festival where organizers buy their beer.

One has to wonder if dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on your own beer in exchange for the marketing or goodwill you get from attending the festival is an equation that makes sense -- especially for those brewers who don't necessarily need the help with marketing?

On that point, one last note before I move on to my experience at the festival: I still think OCBF is a good thing for Oklahoma's independent craft beer industry on the whole. Even if people are trying non-Oklahoma beers, if you can introduce the BMC crowd to more flavor-forward stuff, there's a strong likelihood they'll eventually seek out a local option the next time they're at a bar or liquor store. I think the fest is good for the movement on the whole, although it's probably a safe bet it will evolve or be made to evolve as the years move along.

Anyway, how about more on what attending this year was like?

I spent most of the session helping pour at the Angry Scotsman Brewing booth, so admittedly I was not able to get around and try as many beers as I would have liked. Either way, I had a ton of fun pouring for ASB, and from behind the bar top, it seemed like there was a steady flow of attendees looking to try one or more of the roughly eight beers brewmaster Ross Harper concocted.

Highlights for me from ASB were the Industry Standard Double IPA (a truly textbook example of the style that, at the risk of sounding dramatic, rivals some of the classic DIPAs in the country); Night Terror Black IPA (one of my favorite and, I feel, a very underrepresented beer styles); and Pints of Persia (the ruby-colored, hibiscus-infused witbier that seemed to be a crowd favorite).

Harper also revealed a little bit of news: He hopes to have Angry Scotsman available for sale on draft by the end of the year, and his brewery and taproom will not only include potentially the largest beer garden in the state, but it will also be located near the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, close to the intersection of Reno and Western. Harper said he is not ready just yet to announce a specific location, but that announcement may be coming soon.

Once I did get out from the behind the counter to sample a few beers, I found myself spending quite a bit of time at the Stonecloud Brewing booth. Having had to miss last year's OCBF, this was my first chance to sample the handy work of Stonecloud brewmaster Joel Irby. Let me say this: There's a great chance Stonecloud will become a destination location for local beer geeks.

Irby displayed a deft touch for incorporating fruit into his beer with Astrodog Grapefruit IPA, Journey Home Apricot Sour and Hala Mama Kahiki Pineapple Tart. Stonecloud perhaps best impressed with Fruit Basket -- a blend of Journey Home and Hala Mama Kahiki that neared perfection.

I also swung by Renaissance Brewing (always a fan of their Indian Wheat); Twisted Spike (enjoyed the Rose Rock Red); Prairie (Christmas Bomb! was top notch); Marshall (it's mandatory for me to drink Klaus Hefeweizen whenever it's available) and Iron Monk (got my first chance to try Exit 174, and while I maybe could personally use just a touch less rye malt, I thought it was a very drinkable beer all the same).

My only regret from the day was not having the chance to sample more of the offerings from more of the homebrewers and breweries-in-planning. Alas, there's always next year.

So, what else is going on?

-If you missed my live Q&A with Elk Valley founder and brewmaster John Elkins last week, you missed out on a neat little tidbit of news. Elkins announced he has hired former Anthem brewer Will Perry to join him on the Elk Valley team. Perry helped Anthem founder Matt Anthony get Anthem off the ground, and now will return to the state from a brewing job in Colorado in order to join up with Elkins. In other news, Elkins completely knocked our collaboration beer, Beagle Farmhouse, out of the park. The tart beer was built off of a Le Ferme base and incorporated an expert round of dry-hopping. I can only hope we will see this beer again sometime down the road (hint, hint, wink, wink).

-If you didn't read the post from Oak & Ore owner Micah Andrews on why he will stop serving Lagunitas, you should give that a read right here. And stay tuned for an upcoming blog post from me on why the outrage over the Wicked Weed/ABI buyout has outpaced what we've seen during previous buyouts.

-Speaking of Oak & Ore, they've got a tremendous night of sours planned today for OKC Craft Beer Week. In addition, more and more events are being added for the week, including a Barrel Aged Taproom Takeover at Anthem (Friday and Saturday [Blogger's note: This corrects a bad date in an earlier version of this post]), a Back Patio Beer Party at Empire Slice (today) and a Stone Brewing night at The Patriarch (Saturday). You can see the full and updated events list here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival enters new era

The seventh annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival is only two days away – the two-day, three-session fest runs this Friday and Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

While OCBF has become an annual rite -- this year featuring more than 80 beermakers, food from Fassler Hall and a VIP session graced with numerous rare offerings from the TapWerks’ cellar -- this year’s edition may very well be one of the most intriguing we’ve had to date.

For one, this will be the first year that former TapWerks general manager Greg Powell will not be the
chief organizer of the event.

Powell founded OCBF in 2011, and in classic from-humble-beginnings form, staged the event in the
parking lot just to the west of TapWerks. Within a few years, as more brewers popped up in Oklahoma and more and more people bought tickets, the fest was beginning to outgrow the lot.

While space was becoming a problem, OCBF had another liability: Weather.

In 2013, during an especially hellish May severe storm season, OCBF narrowly wrapped before damaging storms rolled through Oklahoma City.

Two years later, it didn’t appear things would go as smoothly, as severe weather was predicted to hit
the festival head-on.

Powell went to his Plan B, shifting the event inside to the Cox Convention Center. The vibe that year was great, giving OCBF a more polished feel akin to fests in bigger cities, and the rest, as they say, was history.

OCBF returned to the Cox Center last year, and now appears settled in its new home. Of course Powell will not be running it this year. He left TapWerks last year to manage the build-out of the new Prairie OKC brewery and taproom.

Clearly, an operation as big as OCBF doesn’t hinge on just one person, but it will be interesting to see if organizers at TapWerks will be able to keep the fest on a steady path this year.

The second thing I’ll have my eyes on is the lineup of homebrewers at OCBF. Homebrewers have had a presence at many of the state’s beer tastings and festivals for several years now. In the past, you could count on very few of them ever taking the leap to turn their hobby into a profession.

That dynamic is starting to change, however, following the enactment of Senate Bill 424 last summer
and the passage of State Question 792 last fall. Since the latter was approved by voters in November
(it’s due to go into effect in October 2018), we’ve already seen several homebrewers – Angry Scotsman Brewing, Vortex Alley Brewing, Frenzy Brewing and Skydance Brewing to name a few – announce their intentions to build out breweries and taprooms.

Those measures have changed the game, giving up-and-coming brewers a much more straightforward and profitable avenue for turning pro. And that means this likely will be the first year for OCBF where you can take note of the homebrewers pouring there and reasonably expect to see some of them down the road in the pro ranks.

Of course, I would be doing everyone an injustice by not mentioning the state’s existing pro brewers.

OCBF is one of the biggest events of the year for many of them, and most everyone brings out their A-game, with special one-offs and rare offerings.

So, you’ve got plenty of reasons to get out Friday night or for one of the two Saturday sessions. You can find tickets and more info here.

So what else is going on?

-OCFB is just one of the events scheduled during the fourth annual Oklahoma City Craft Beer Week. The week kicks off this Thursday, May 11, and runs through Sunday, May 21. You can find the updated, full list of events right here.

-Speaking of OKC Craft Beer Week, I’d love to see you out at Elk Valley Brewing at 6 p.m. this Thursday as we launch the week with a special event: Elk vs. Beagle. We’ll be pouring the only keg of a special dry-hopped, tart farmhouse ale. In addition, I’ll be doing a live interview with Elk Valley founder and brewmaster John Elkins as we discuss his impending move to a new Midtown brewery building. We’re taking audience questions, or you can send me questions at nick@thirstybeaglebeerblog.com.

-If you’re looking to get warmed up for OKC Craft Beer Week, you should look to hit Oak & Ore tonight. They’re hosting a Prairie 4th Birthday Bomb Bash! at 6 p.m., featuring door prizes, birthday cake and several Prairie beers, of course.

-COOP Ale Works announced yesterday that they are once again expanding distribution in Texas. The Oklahoma City brewery will launch in Houston next month, and then will follow with shipments to San Antonio, Austin, Waco and El Paso by the end of the year. This follows earlier moves into the DFW and North Texas areas, as well as Lubbock, Amarillo and Abilene.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Thirsty Beagle commentary: Beer Outrage Edition No. 1

There's a lot of anger and outrage in the beer world these days, across the country and right here in good ol' Oklahoma, as well.

In the event you don't know what's going on, let me get you up to speed. Let's start today with Oklahoma.

On Friday, Prairie announced its new beer society membership, Prairie Dawgs. For the price of $500 (plus tax) members will get 16 bottles of beer to be released over the course of six to eight member-only events each year. You also get special merchandise, access to special member-only events, first crack at renewing your membership next year and the option to purchase unclaimed bottles of special-release beers.

The beer membership is not a new concept. Breweries around the country have been doing it for years. Even in Oklahoma, Tulsa's American Solera launched its society last year.

But the price of Prairie's society is what set the Oklahoma beer world off -- in a big way.

Most society prices range anywhere from $200 to $350 a year, so Prairie's price tag brought on some sticker shock, with many people pointing out that the 16 beers (many are expected to be 12 oz. bottles) work out to a cost of about $31 each (of course, this doesn't factor in merchandise and special  member events and privileges).

Once people started doing that math, the general reaction in local beer circles broke down into three main categories:

1. Prairie is awesome and I can't wait to sign up
2. This may be a little expensive for me, I'm going to pass
3. How dare Prairie do this?! I've loved Prairie for years and now this is akin to being cracked over the skull with a magnum of Prairie beer and not even getting the chance to let any of the beer drip into my mouth as the glass shards slide down my face! Damn you Prairie!

OK, maybe a slight exaggeration on No. 3, but also not that far off, if you read any of the various Facebook comments.

What's not up for debate is that Prairie has been catching heat ever since its announcement, with people calling the company all sorts of unflattering names. I thought it would be fair to give Prairie President Zach Prichard a chance to respond, so I asked him if he had a message for people who say the $500 price tag is too steep.

"I can understand people thinking that $500 is too much," Prichard told me. "It is not an insignificant amount of money. As we thought about the idea of a membership club it became important to me that we achieved two objectives. First, we had to be able to create value for the members. We had to be sure that we could deliver our best beers ever and pair them up with a great experience.

"Secondly, it had to make financial sense for us. That was tougher. I knew going into it that many of these beers would be considerably more expensive for us to do. We had to charge for that. Even that part was still pretty straightforward. The really tricky factor was the idea of debt and crowd-sourcing and creating great beer.

"The structure of most beer clubs is taking people's money months ahead of the delivery and giving a discount on the actual product. This is just debt under a different guise. Debt as a concept is not inherently risky. Debt paired up with the expectations of some of the most fervent beer fans looks a lot different. I do not want to take on that debt. I want to create beers and a membership experience that is worth something more to our members. I hope that the beer community will value that.

"To those people that disagree with my approach, we are still going to make the same great beers. Bomb!, Standard, Paradise, Phantasmagoria, and others will still be in stores. Pirate Paradise and BA Christmas Bomb will still be available to everyone at the Krebs Brewery. We will be cranking out great beers in OKC soon. None of that is affected by Prairie Dawgs. I hope everyone finds a Prairie beer to love."

Most interesting to me is the idea of Prairie creating their "best beers ever." Can they make new/different beers that exceed the type of things they're doing now? Does this not put somewhat of a different spin on the value equation? After all, how do you know exactly what each bottle is worth when you don't yet know what will be in each bottle? And of course, Prairie has inherently guaranteed the beers will be valuable based on apparent exclusivity.

So maybe $500 will end up being a pretty good deal in the end, in spite of the fact it certainly is a lot of money to spend on beer?

Look, I totally get that some people have been all-in on Prairie since its founding and feel a certain emotional connection with the brand. I've enjoyed Prairie beers over the years -- I always think Bomb! is a go-to and I'm really fond of Prairie Weisse as well, among others. I've never been what you would describe as a fan-boy, so take my opinion with a grain of salt -- maybe I can't view this through the same lens as the hardcore fans out there.

That being said, I like to think the objective side of me relates with reaction No. 2 from above. I guess I just don't feel like any brewery, or company for that matter, is obligated to follow any particular business model, regardless of how emotionally invested I am in their business. They can charge what they want, and sell what product they want. I can decide if I want to pay what they're charging.

They run the risk of turning me off as a customer, yes, but in the end, the market will decide if this is a good tactic for Prairie.

And just maybe it serves as a good reminder that we (the beer community) have a tendency to become overly invested in enterprises which, in the end, are about business and profit and watching the bottom line.

Just one man's opinion. Stay tuned for next time as I take on another source of outrage -- Wicked Weed's sale to ABI.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Picking some of my OKC Craft Beer Week highlights

Happy Friday everyone!

We're less than a week away from the start of OKC Craft Beer Week, so this is as good a time as any to do a little more of a deep dive into a few of the events that are planned.

(No disrespect to any events not mentioned here -- with more than 30 events on the official calendar, I can't write about all of them!)

So what are some highlights for me?

-Let's start with opening night, Thursday, May 11, when I'll visit Elk Valley at 6 p.m. to unveil a collaboration beer with brewmaster John Elkins. We'll pour the only keg of a special one-off, tart, dry-hopped farmhouse ale. Elkins and I will also sit down for a live interview about the history of Elk Valley and his plans for his new Midtown brewery and taproom. If you can't make it on Thursday but have a question you'd like me to ask during the interview, send it my way. I'm happy to accept reader questions, and we'll also open the floor for guest questions at the brewery.

-Naturally I have to mention the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival. This is set for three session spread over Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13. Last I heard, tickets are available for all three, but spots for the Saturday afternoon VIP session are running low.

-Twisted Spike is working extra hard for its first full-fledged OKC Craft Beer Week, with events lined out each night of the week, both on-site and off. A highlight for me is the Black Snake Flight Night set for Saturday, May 20, featuring four different variants of the imperial stout.

-On that same day, you won't go wrong by heading a little east in Automobile Alley -- over to 9th Street -- for the Oklahoma Craft Beer Week Block Party. The outdoor party will feature local brewers, local shops, music and food and drink specials. Plus it's a pet-friendly event. A great way to start putting a wrap on OKC Craft Beer Week. (If you really want to get fancy on the 20th, you can hop from the block party to Twisted Spike and then up to Edmond for Heard on Hurd, where Anthem, COOP and Roughtail will be pouring their low-point offerings.)

-I have to highlight COOP as well, as they have set up some really cool events throughout the week, headlined by a Barrel-Aged Night at Oak & Ore; a Double Pint Night at The Root; a seafood boil at Whole Foods; and a craft beer dinner with the Loaded Bowl.

-Meanwhile, Anthem is hosting several events, including a beer and donut pairing, and Roughtail is getting into the act with a tie-dye night where you can make your own Roughtail T-shirt.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are plenty more events going on throughout the week, so check the events page on my website. Hope to see you out and about!

So, what else is going on?

-Roughtail is releasing a couple new on-tap offerings a 4 p.m. today at the brewery. These are Peachy Cheeks (hoppy peach wheat ale); and apricot ERWO (very limited amount). In addition, they'll have fresh cans of regular ERWO for sale. And, they've also announced the addition of a cold-brew coffee to their taproom lineup. Polar Morning is a nitro cold-brew coffee made in collaboration with Cooper Tap Roasting Co. of Enid. More specifics on all that here.

-Twisted Spike is opening today at 2 p.m. to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Twisted Spike Crew infused with lime. Then, on Sunday, the brewery is hosting a beer and oyster pairing at 2 p.m. with Sea Gypsy Osyter Co. More details here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New items added to OKCCBW calendar

With Oklahoma City Craft Beer Week 2017 now a little more than a week away, the list of events for the week continues to grow.

The initial events list was published on Friday, but since then we've had a few events added to the rundown:

-Saints Brewfest is back for its third year. This edition is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 19 at the corner of NW 9 and Walker. Tickets for the Midtown beer tasting event are $50 and get you beer samples, snacks, music and an event T-shirt, with proceeds going to patient care at St. Anthony Hospital. You can get more info and tickets here.

-Oak & Ore is hosting a COOP Barrel-Aged Pint Night at 6 p.m. Monday, May 15. Anyone who buys a special-release, barrel-aged beer will receive a pair of COOP 8th anniversary shot glasses to take home.

-Broadway & Brew makes its return and is set for 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday, May 11 at the Myriad Gardens. The event, which benefits Lyric Theatre, offers food and beer under the Oklahoma City skyline in one of the most picturesque settings in the city. Tickets are $65 and available here.

I'll be adding events to the list as they pop up, so if you know of or are hosting an event, let me know and I'll get it added.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for an OKCCBW warm-up, there's still plenty going on before we get to the official kick-off on May 11:

-The Patriarch is celebrating its second anniversary this week with nightly events. Check their FB page for details.

-Rock & Brews is holding a pint night to help Iron Monk launch its new Exit 174 Rye Pale Ale. That's set for 5 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday).

-Guyutes and Vanessa House are teaming up for a special showing of "Spaceballs" tomorrow evening. I wasn't able to see exactly when they plan to start the movie, so you might want to call ahead.

-COOP is officially releasing its new summer seasonal -- Saturday Siren -- with a special promotion in the Uptown 23rd District. That's set to kick off this Saturday. They'll be giving away a free trip for two to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October. You can visit participating Uptown venues to get an entry ticket. More details here.

-Another edition of the popular Plaza Beer Walk is set for 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, May 8, featuring Black Mesa. This one will have stops at Empire (ESB); Saints (Cave Dweller Hoppy Red Ale); The Mule (Kolsch); and Oak & Ore (Big Wheel IPA). A percentage of featured beer sales for the night will be donated to Edgemere Elementary School.

-Oak & Ore is hosting a Prairie 4th Birthday Bomb Bash! at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, and they're pulling out all the stops, so do stop by the event page to learn more.

-Just a reminder on a couple events I'm mentioned earlier, the annual McNellie's Pub Run and the Black Mesa Big Wheel IPA launch are both set for this Saturday.