We’ve got yet another new player on the Oklahoma craft beer scene: Say hello to Anthem Brewing. You’ll start to see Anthem beers here in the next month, most notably at the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival on May 19, where brewmaster Matt Anthony will serve up his first two offerings, Golden One and White Flame. I thought I would give my readers a chance to get to know Anthem, so here’s my interview with Matt:
The Thirsty Beagle: Where did you grow up?
Matt Anthony: I’m originally from the Tulsa area. We lived in a tiny town called Liberty Mounds during grade school, before moving to Sapulpa my freshman year. That’s where I graduated from high school. After that, Tulsa was home for the next few years before moving to Oklahoma City back in 2000.
TTB: How old are you?
MA: I turn 33 next Friday. That day will hold extra special meaning for me this year, because it is also the same day I leave my job of 11 years to run Anthem full time.
TTB: Are you coming to the beer biz from a different line of work?
MA: I am indeed. I’ve worked as a motion graphics artist, editor and photographer for the last 12 years.
TTB: Tell me a little bit about your beer history. Longtime homebrewer?
MA: My story is probably like a lot of brewers. My then girlfriend, now wife, gave me a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas in 2000. In retrospect, I’m sure those first batches weren’t that great, but at that time it was the best beer I’d ever had. At the very least it began my exploration of the world of beer. A year later a coworker invited me over to help him brew an extract batch using a kit he bought from The Brew Shop. We brewed another batch together before I went and bought a kit of my own. My homebrewing was sporadic over the next few years, opting to spend more time at places like TapWerks trying different beers instead of brewing them. It wasn’t until 2004 that I started brewing more regularly. In 2005 I had brewed a batch for a Festivus party we were hosting. I was in the middle of bottling that beer when something clicked inside my brain. I’ll never forget that moment, standing behind my bar filling a bottle. That was when I realized that brewing and starting a brewery of my own was what I was supposed to do. A fire was lit in that moment, and my passion for beer hasn’t stopped growing since.
TTB: How long has Anthem been in the works? And tell me a little about Anthem as well.
MA: Technically it was that moment in December, 2005, but I knew that I had a lot to learn on the brewing side before making inroads on the brewery. I started devouring every trade magazine, book and podcast I could find. In April of 2006 I made the move to all grain brewing, after buying Gary Shellman’s old all-grain system. Gary is now the brewmaster for Mustang Brewing, so there must be something special about that old system. Since then I’ve worked on honing my craft, always looking to learn something new. 2009 was when I decided it was time to start thinking about the brewery more seriously. The next two years I started traveling to beer events and breweries across the U.S. and Europe, in an effort to get a feel for the industry. After gathering copious notes and ideas, I started on the business plan in the beginning in of 2011 and finished it towards the end of that year. With Anthem my goal was and is to blend the things I love from the old world with the unrestricted passion for innovation of the new world. To make beers that are an expression of myself and what I love most, without regard for rigid style guides. Beers that are a tribute to individualism. These beers are my anthem to the world. What I love most are wood-aged and sour beers, so that is going to be our focus. Naturally, those are beers that take some time to make and mature, so it won’t be until later this year that you’ll see some of those released. In the meantime, I wanted to make and release what I consider my go-to beers. Beers that I never tire of and fit just about any occasion. The first is Golden One. It’s a take on a Belgian blonde ale. Bright and crisp, with a slightly fruity and peppery nose that comes from the yeast. Golden One pairs awesomely with foods like tikka masala, frites or a good burger. The second beer is White Flame, which is my interpretation of a Belgian witbier. I’m drawn to wits like a moth to the flame, especially in the summertime. Hence the name. There’s just something magical about that blend of orange peel and coriander, that seems to strip away any thirst. White Flame is my favorite beer for pairing with breakfast, especially bacon and eggs. It’s also good with choices like seafood and orange crêpes.
TTB: Do you have a brewhouse? What kind of capacity do you have at the moment?
MA: I do not have my own brewhouse. I’m what you would call a gypsy brewer, like Mikkeller from Denmark. I’m contract brewing my beer out of OKCity Brewing Company’s brewery here in Oklahoma City. They have a great facility and have been incredible to work with. Theirs is a 15-barrel brewhouse with several 15- and 30-barrel fermenters. The goal is to gypsy brew for a while and eventually buy or build our own space. It’s a model that has worked well for a lot of breweries.
TTB: In terms of size/model, is there another craft brewer in the state you would compare yourself to?
MA: In terms of size and model, I’d say we’re closest to Redbud Brewing. They got their start in a similar way. Chase from Redbud has been really helpful along the way. For that matter, so has every Oklahoma craft brewery. Everyone has been super supportive, and it’s an honor to be a part of the Oklahoma craft beer movement and to be standing on the shoulders of giants.
TTB: So when/where can we expect to see Golden One and White Flame? I understand OCBF, right? Are you keg-only right now?
MA: That’s right, we will be pouring both beers at OCBF. That’s going to be a really fun day and we’re looking forward to sharing our beer with everyone. Besides there, it will be available on draught around town either a few days before or after OCBF. We are just doing kegs for the first month, and if everything goes as planned we’ll start offering the beer in bottles towards the end of June.
TTB: Tell me about your logo, as well. Maybe I’m not looking at it the right way, but to me, it sort of looks like a person wearing an old WWII gas mask.
MA: Ha ha. It’s been interesting hearing people’s responses to the logo. I get a lot of complements on it, and everyone sees it a little differently. It was created by my very talented designer and friend, Marc Bostian. I started working with Marc early on in the planning stages. One day we met for him to show me several different ideas and designs he had. From the instant I saw it I fell in love and knew that was going to be the logo. The hand drawn organic figure balanced with the clean lines of the text were a perfect example of what I was shooting for with the beer: handmade sophistication. Now, I don’t see a person wearing a WWII gas mask, but I can certainly appreciate everyone’s interpretation. That said, it is a person. The misshapen eyes, star mouth and giant star on his forehead, all make me think of some imaginary place where he came from. Where everyone was “perfect,” symmetrical and identical. A place where everyone was expected to follow the same path in life. But this little guy knew he wanted something different. He knew he wanted to strike out and follow his own path, no matter the risk. What I see in him is a person, perfect in his imperfection. A true individual. He has no name, at least not yet. Marc and I have just been calling him The Imp. Maybe one day he’ll get a name. Until then, I think people will have an easier time seeing what he is when they see our tap handles next month.
There you have it, folks. Make sure to stop by Matt’s booth at OCBF. I say the more the merrier with the craft beer scene here in the state, so welcome to party, Matt!