The Thirsty Beagle: Musings on OCBF

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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.


  1. It was fun and glad I got a chance you and to talk with you.

  2. Very informative blog. Not sure how I haven't found it till now.