Today I present another volume in my continuing series “Five Questions With…” In the series, I shoot five questions to movers and shakers in the local and national beer scene, then pass the answers along to you. Today, we have Choc Beer brewmaster Michael Lalli and sales/marketing director Zach Prichard.
1. The Thirsty Beagle: Let’s start by talking about the Signature Dubbel. The beer took the top spot in the Belgian-Style Abbey Ale category at the Great American Beer Festival in September. How big of a thrill was it for you guys to win a gold medal?
Michael Lalli: Winning anything at the GABF is certainly something to celebrate and we were quite surprised to win Gold, especially in one of the big Belgian categories. The Dubbel was certainly a team effort, anytime you brew one batch of anything you have to make it count so there was quite a bit of planning done by my whole team. Of course we all really like Belgian beers so that made this effort all the better.
2. TTB: Talk about the Dubbel a little bit. What should someone who hasn’t tried it expect?
ML: When we set out to make a Belgian Dubbel it was important to us to make the beer instantly recognizable as a Belgian Dubbel, but to put our own stamp on it as well. Deceivingly drinkable is a term we throw around quite a bit around here and I think for a beer (with) 8% ABV that would be the case. The flavor profile is going to be definitely heavy on the Belgian yeast, but with enough malt flavors for balance. We also use a candy sugar that we make here at the brewery that lends a very unique character to this beer.
3. TTB: Do you guys offer tours of the brewery? Have you found traffic there has increased with all your recent success?
Zach Prichard: Anyone can get a tour just about any day of the week until 9 p.m. Actual traffic at the brewery is hard to measure … but we are planning a beer dinner at the brewery with a special menu prepared by Pete’s Place on January 21st, so we are going to show off the facility then.
4. TTB: You don’t have to reveal any secrets if you don’t want to, but are there any new recipes on the horizon Choc fans can look for in the new year?
ZP: There are some new beers coming out we are very excited about. It is already out in bottles, but the first week in January we will be releasing a very limited supply of our Brewmaster’s Signature Belgian Dubbel on draft. To follow that up we are re-releasing our Brewmaster’s Signature Biere de Garde in late January. The Biere de Garde will be available in draft first with bottles to follow shortly after. We produced this beer once before almost three years ago and are excited to have it back on the market. You can also look forward to our Belgian Quad in the first few months of next year. One more thing, we are organizing a Choc Homebrewer Competition which should be really exciting.
5. TTB: You guys are like the godfather of craft beer in Oklahoma. What’s your take on the recent emergence of craft brewers like Marshall and COOP on the state’s beer scene? Are we in a new era of beer in Oklahoma?
ZP: The biggest thing the newer breweries have done to the beer scene in Oklahoma is to raise awareness. A lot of people who most likely had never tried craft beer before have discovered some great beers. We only hope the growth continues and I think there are some good signs. All of our beers, particularly the Brewmaster’s Signature Series, are better than they have ever been, Marshall’s just released six packs, COOP is producing good beer in OKC, Mustang just released a new beer, and Battered Boar is still cranking out beer; these are all good signs. In addition to these in-state beers, you can tell that craft is being taken more seriously in Oklahoma by the increasing number of offerings from out-of-state. To answer your question, yes we are definitely in a new era of Oklahoma beer and a significantly better era at that.