Today I’m unveiling a new occasional series on The Thirsty Beagle, something I call Five Questions With… . I shoot five insightful questions to movers and shakers in the beer world here in Oklahoma and around the country, then pass the answers along to you. Our first guest is the brewmaster of Tulsa’s Marshall Brewing Co., Eric Marshall.
(Note: If you’re looking for the Beer Championship Series, see the post below this one.)
1. The Thirsty Beagle: First off, you guys are still relatively new in the business; how has it been starting your own brewery?
Eric Marshall: It has definitely been a learning experience! I don’t think a lot of people understand all of the work that is involved just to get it up and running. Since we are regulated by every level possible there is a lot of applications and waiting on those to get processed. There are a lot of reports that are dependent on keeping very detailed records for everything you do. Many people think…oh I do this in my garage all the time, how hard can it be… well it is a completely different monster. Of course, I knew all of this getting into it, because of my prior experience in the industry, but still it is completely different when you are running the show. It has also been a very gratifying experience, we have been fortunate to have overwhelmingly positive support and feedback and that really makes it all worthwhile.
2. TTB: I see your 22 oz. bottles are available at beer stores now. Are you guys selling six packs as well and I just haven’t seen them anywhere?
EM: We have been selling 22 oz. bottles since last December and we should be releasing six packs very soon. We have begun bottling, we are just trying to build up some inventory before we put them out the door. We will be releasing them in waves, Atlas IPA and McNellie’s Pub Ale first and then Sundown Wheat and Old Pavilion Pilsner to follow. Since kegs and 22 oz. bottles have gone so well it has been hard to get the six packs going. We are going to have to do a little expansion very soon, so we have enough tanks full of product to fill demand.
3. TTB:You guys were the first keg tapped at Tulsa’s Oktoberfest, right? Did that mean a lot to you?
EM: Yes, we tapped the first keg at Oktoberfest and it was awesome! I have been going to that festival forever and we tried to get beer out there last year but it just didn’t happen. So, this year we started making contacts early and Oktoberfest was very receptive of having us there and doing the official tapping. Having German roots and having studied so much over there, it was very important to me. Oktoberfest liked the idea for the local aspect of it and it didn’t hurt that I have a few German casks where you actually hammer the spigot into the cask. They loved it and want to do it again!
4. TTB: You spent a lot of time studying the craft in Germany. Do you miss being in the middle of a place steeped with such beer tradition and history?
EM: I really do miss Germany! I had such a wonderful experience there and yeah the beer tradition and history is top notch. But I am glad I came back to Tulsa and started the brewery here. I love Oklahoma even more than I love Germany. If I would have stayed over there I would never have met my wife or been where I am now. However, I wish I were in a position where I could visit Germany a bit more, I still have “family” there and love it. Hopefully my wife and I will be going this summer and then once the brewery gets a bit more steady I will get to take some business trips there every year!
5. TTB: Oklahoma seems to be in the middle of a beer boom, with several breweries getting into the mix. Do you get the sense that Oklahoma’s beer community is really starting to grow right now?
EM: Yes, Oklahoma is in the middle of a beer boom and it is great! Forever, Oklahoma has been viewed as a beer wasteland, but now we are starting to make some waves and get a little respect. It is great for the guys who have been around for a while like, Choc. They have been doing some cool things for a while but no one wanted to listen to them because they were from Oklahoma. Now as more breweries pop up people are taking note. It also doesn’t hurt that they won a gold medal in a popular category at the beer fest, but that also helps us all. It gives Oklahoma a bit more street cred!