Here’s news making the rounds on the Oklahoma beer scene:
-Several Oklahoma homebrewers took home top honors in the recent Bluebonnet Brew-off in Texas. David and Michele Darityof the High Plains Draughters Club of Oklahoma City won Homebrew Team of the Year. The pair also took home first place in the Light Hybrid, American Amber and American Barleywine categories. (I met David and Michele at Choc’s home brew contest Saturday; good beer people, I tell ya!) Other High Plains Draughters also won awards. Keith Wrightwon first place in the Kolsch category and third in the Melomel category and Jim Andrewswon first for the Pilsner category and teamed with Wright for a first in the German Wheat & Rye category. Two members of Tulsa’s FOAM home brew club also won awards. Pete Polczynski claimed first in the Sour Beer and Belgian Strong Light Ale categories, while Shawn Scott earned third place in the English Pale Ale category. Congrats to all!
-Several Oklahoma beer notables — Choc, COOP, Marshall — will be involved at Cochon 555 this weekend in Stillwater. What is Cochon 555? Does pork and alcohol sound good to you? (“Bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good!”) Then you need to click here.
-Mustang Brewing passed along this story that says that beer is actually healthier than wine. I knew there was a reason I’ve been getting more and more healthy all the time!
-Choc is looking for name suggestions for its upcoming winter seasonal. It’ll be a traditional spiced ale. Become a fan of Choc on Facebook and find the post where they ask for suggestions.
-You can still vote in the Canada Conference of the Beer Championship Series. Go here to vote.
-Just a reminder, you can follow The Thirsty Beagle on Facebook (page name: The Thirsty Beagle) and Twitter (THIRSTYBEAGLE).
Fresh off the breaking beer news wire, we have a winner in Choc’s first home brew competition! Here’s the news release from the brewery:
Smoked Porter Wins Brew at Choc’s Home
KREBS — Choc Beer is excited to announce Smoke Signal Porter by Jeff Swearengin is the winner of the inaugural Brew at Choc’s Home Competition. Smoke Signal Porter was chosen from a field of 40 entries of varying styles. Swearengin and Choc plan to brew the recipe on the Choc brewing system in the next few weeks. The beer will be available for purchase across Choc’s distribution network this summer.
The judging process was divided into two stages, preliminary and brewmaster’s judging table. During preliminary rounds the beers were divided into four flights, and judged blind against the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines. Nine beers advanced to the brewmaster’s judging table. At this point recipe reproduction, creativity, and overall taste were used to determine the winner.
“The judging was extremely fun, engaging and at the same time very difficult,” explained Choc Brewmaster Michael Lalli. Lalli added, “As we expected, naming one winner from a group of outstanding and diverse beers was a challenge but we are very happy with the smoked porter.”
Swearengin’s smoked porter is based from a robust porter recipe. To provide the smoked flavor Swearengin smoked his own malt a few weeks in advanced. He used a combination of alder and cherry woods.
I spent the better part of Saturday touring the Choc brewery in Krebs and chatting with brewmaster Michael Lalli and Zach Prichard, the great-grandson of Pete’s Place founder Pete Prichard and a Jack-of-all-trades around the brewery. The original intent of my trip was to be a guest judge in Choc’s first homebrew competition. While I did get to sample a few of the entries, the preliminary judging took so long that I had to hit the road before the finalists were selected. I was hoping to have some sort of scoop about the winner of the competition to give you today, but alas, not so much. To say that the trip down there was without merit would be way off, though.
I had a great time seeing the brewing operation, learning about the history of Choc beer, talking shop with Michael and Zach and picking the brains of a few beer judges. I’ve posted a photo tour on my Facebook page (become a fan: The Thirsty Beagle). Some highlights of the visit:
-I got to sample the unreleased Wild Brew beer brewed at Choc in collaboration with Marhsall Brewing. The beer is ready — minus the carbonation — and they’re waiting on bottle labels before they bottle it. It’s a Belgian-style IPA. Michael said he was concerned when they decided to make a Belgian IPA that the hops usually associated with an IPA would overpower the traditional Belgian elements of the beer. Never fear! I can report that Choc and Marshall have hit the nail on the head with this one. You get IPA and you get Belgian in appropriate parts. This is a very good beer, people! Be sure to snag a few bottles when it hits the shelves, because only a limited amount will be available.
-I heard a great story about Choc’s Belgian-style Dubbel, which won a gold medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in the Belgian-Style Abbey Ale category. If you’ve never had the Dubbel, you sir are missing out. Anyway, Michael decided to pull his entire brewing team together one Saturday to brew the Dubbel.
When he got to the brewery, he discovered a problem in the fermenter and an entire batch of Belgian yeast ruined. He had to call a homebrew supply shop in Tulsa to find more Belgian yeast. After a trip to Tulsa to pick up the yeast and a clean-out job on the fermenter, they finally got the Dubbel brewed two days later. The beer started out with little fanfare, but Choc did manage to sell it all. Almost. One distributor (might have been a retailer) said he was having trouble selling a few cases and asked if he could return the beer. Choc obliged and took it back. It was that return that allowed Choc to have enough on hand to enter it into the Great American Beer Festival. And you know the rest of the story. Now it’s Choc’s gold-medal Dubbel, and they can’t stock the shelves fast enough!
-The Choc beer, or 1919, that you enjoy today is really nothing like the beverage that American Indians taught Italian immigrants to make in the early 1900s. The original Choc beer was brewed with techniques that most brewers would consider crude today. Around the McAlester/Krebs area, though, several people still keep that old-world tradition alive at home brew operations. I was fortunate enough to have Michael and Zach crack open a bottle of old-school Choc. It was super-carbonated and very sweet; I felt like it was a beer-cider-champagne hybrid. Almost not really a beer, but I guess if it was the early 1900s and you were sitting around in a coal mine in Krebs, it probably was all right.
-Choc-brand beers can be found in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama and Minnesota, of all places. How did they skip over so many states to sell their beer in Minnesota? A distributor there called the brewery up out of the blue and asked to carry Choc, and the guys figured, why not? Zach told me future plans call for the spread of Choc to even more states.
-The entire Choc Beer Co. operation consists of about five full-time employees. It’s pretty impressive that such a small staff can accomplish so much. And if you had any other thoughts that Choc was some sort of large-scale operation, wrong. The brewing area is probably only a couple thousand square feet. Although they do have a larger warehouse area and adjacent bottling room. But this is a legitimate craft brewery all the way.
-And lastly, Michael pointed out that Choc’s beers are constantly changing. Not just in terms of what products they offer, but more so inside the bottles of beer themselves. All of Choc’s beers are unfiltered, which means all contain that sediment you see at the bottom. And over time, an unfiltered beer will bottle condition as it sits, meaning a Dubbel bottled today will most certainly taste different than a Dubbel bottled a year ago. Simply put, an aged Dubbel will have a more diverse taste, and who can’t get on board with that? So if you find yourself out at a liquor store and happen to spot a bottle of Dubbel without a gold-medal sticker on the neck, grab that puppy and grab it quick. The bottles without stickers are part of the first batch and have been aging for the better part of two years. You’re welcome!
So those were the highlights of the visit. It was a great day and thanks again to Michael and Zach for putting up with me!
It’s time for the third conference in the Beer Championship Series: the Canada Conference. Now, nobody ask me to say “house” or “about” or “boat” or anything like that. Not all Canadian people talk funny. You want funny talkin’? Let’s try going to Minne-soh-ta, or A-lass-ka. Got it? Good. Now on to the voting:
Voting ended last night in the Mexico Conference of the Beer Championship Series with Modelo Especial and Tecate Lager earning automatic bids into the 64-beer bracket. Here were the final conference standings:
1. Modelo Especial: 30 percent
2. Tecate Lager: 22 percent
3. Pacifico Lager: 14 percent
3. Dos Equis Lager: 14 percent
5. Corona Lager: 8 percent
5. Bohemia Lager: 8 percent
7. Sol Lager: 5 percent
Now we have four beers in the bracket and we’ll continue on next week with our next conference: the Canada Conference. Take off, eh!
Thinking of taking to the highways for a summer road trip this year? As a certified master of the 20-hour road trip, I can tell you that having a prime destination at the end of a long day of driving can really get you through the long hours behind the wheel. And what better destination could there be than a brewery or brew pup to sample a beer you’ve never tried before? There’s probably nothing better. Thanks to the folks at BierMagazine.com, you can use a handy tool to locate a brewery or brew pub in pretty much any state. Go to this linkto find a nifty state-by-state database. I’ve test-driven the site, and I can tell you it’s pretty good. All the expected Oklahoma suspects are there — Choc, COOP, Marshall, Belle Isle, Bricktown. Could be a handy link to save to your smart phone when you hit the road.
Here’s news making the rounds on the Oklahoma beer scene:
-A few spots have opened up for the Marshall-Polo Grill five-course beer dinner in Tulsa. The dinner is Wednesday night. Cost is $55. Call Stephanie at (918) 744-4280 to save a seat.
-The Chili’s on SE 29 in Midwest City now has COOP Zeppelin German Wheat and Native Amber on tap.
-Mustang Brewing reports they moved office furniture into their new metro-area brewery yesterday; next comes brewing equipment.
-The guys at Marshall passed along this article, which says that craft beer sales were up 7 percent in a year that overall U.S. beer sales were down. The link also shows this snazzy graphic, which illustrates the recent growth of the craft beer industry:
The Thirsty Beagle Beer Championship Series continues this week. Last week, voting took place in the Marshall Conference, with Sundown Wheat and McNellie’s Pub Ale earning spots in the 64-beer bracket. Today, we start voting in the Mexico Conference. Voting will continue until Thursday night. Cheers!
Voting ended last night in the first conference of the Beer Championship Series. It was a close race, but we have our first pair of beers that have earned their way into the 64-beer bracket. Here are the results from the Marshall Conference:
1. Sundown Wheat: 29 percent
2. McNellie’s Pub Ale: 27 percent
3. Atlas IPA: 22 percent
4. Big Jamoke: 15 percent
5. Old Pavilion Pilsner: 8 percent
Defending BCS champion McNellie’s Pub Ale and the up-start Sundown Wheat are in the field. Visit the blog Monday for voting in our next conference: the Mexico Conference.
“Waving wheat sure smells sweet, and nothing says O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A better than a crisp, refreshing, wheat beer. Brewed with Oklahoma Red Wheat, American and European barley, and Cluster and Ger-man Hallertauer hops. 5.3% ABV and 14 IBU’s. Devel-oped by our good friend and award-winning home brewer of 25 years, Gary Shellman. This may very well be the perfect wheat beer. Washita Wheat will be available in six packs and on tap at select locations. This beer is a big one for us and we plan to launch it accordingly. Look for more news in the next newsletter regarding launch events, pint nights, and more.”
The beer is expected to be released in May. There’s more Mustang news in their latest newsletter.