The latest in the ever-growing list of craft brewers in the state — Roughtail Brewing — took some time this week to answer some questions about their start-up. Here’s my conversation with Roughtail’s Tony Tielli and Blaine Stansel:
The Thirsty Beagle: Let’s talk about the name Roughtail. What is the origin of the name? Also, you shared some logo concepts; have you settled on a final logo?
Blaine Stansel: Our original goal was to start in Dallas, and we were trying to think of some names of animals that were in the area. Tony kind of stumbled upon this gecko that isn’t really indigenous, some might say invasive, to the area. The name really caught our attention and the images kind of sealed the deal. When people think of gecko’s they don’t normally picture a tough critter, but I would say this gecko’s the exception. The name really sold it though, as it exemplifies our style and approach. We are rough compared to the mass marketed light lagers and we view ourselves as invasive to the brewing industrial complex. When we decided to stay in OKC we felt pretty strongly about the name and just kept it. It really had no ties to Dallas, the gecko actually lives around Galveston.
We have settled on a final logo. We went with something that was rough of course, and a little throwback to the olden times of shields on breweries, but still had an updated look to it. We tried going to various colors, but at the end of the day black and white just really appealed to us. When we start rolling out the taphandles and individual logos, we will incorporate more color, but for now we are keeping it simple.
TTB: Your biggest news recently was the announcement of your building (near Broadway Extension and NW 13) lease. With the less-expensive options of contract brewing or gypsy brewing, why was it important for you guys to have your own brewery facility/setup?
Tony Tielli: This is a great question. There are two main reasons that we decided to open our own facility with our own brewing equipment. First, our goal is to provide perfection in a pint glass, every single time to every single customer… and we think it’s vital to have direct control over the entire brewing process and production facility in order to make this a reality. In a contract-brewing scenario, you basically hand off your recipe to another brewer, give them a range of tolerances that the finished product must fall within, and let them do everything else. This just isn’t a viable option for us. Roughtail beer is about putting our local craft, our art, into our kegs and cans… not paying someone else to do the hard work. We decided against the “gypsy brewing” or alternating-proprietorship setup for sheer logistics. We plan to brew a lot, and to brew often, and we’re just unwilling to schedule that around anybody but us and our customers. The second main reason is production capacity, from both a volume and assortment standpoint. We not only plan to see our brand become successful in Oklahoma, but across the country in time. We wanted the ability to grow into that from day one. I also intend to brew as many seasonals, special releases, firkins, one-off batches, and experimental beers as humanly possible… having our own place affords us the freedom to do this.
TTB: What’s the timeline for getting set up and getting started in your new facility, and then ultimately getting beer on the market?
B.S.: We still anticipate getting started in early January of 2013. Things are ongoing even as we speak to get us going. We just received shipment of our kegs, which is exciting, and we are working on securing a walk-in cooler. The brewing equipment should be here early December and the technician should have it set up fairly quickly. We are still waiting to file our state permits, which should happen by early November. Still have our health department inspection to do, city permit and some demo and construction, but I think we’re still on schedule.
TTB: Let’s talk about your beers. What should beer fans expect to see in terms of your initial releases? Any other styles you’re looking at producing down the road?
T.T.: We make beers with tons of character. No 18 packs of flavorless fizzy water here. We’re releasing three beers at grand opening. First up is our red ale. This beer comes in at around 5.7% abv, has a complex, slightly caramely malt presence to support a whole whole lot of fresh Cascade hops. Some might even call it an IPA… but those people haven’t tried OUR IPA. Which brings us to our next beer, Roughtail IPA. This is a big one. Coming in at 7% abv and 80 IBU, it’s a pallet shredder in the best possible way. Pine, earth, citrus, and resin aromas basically leap out of the glass at you. Finally, our third release is our take on an American strong ale. 7.6% abv, this one is malty, with a strong toastiness and a big dose of hops to balance things out (toward the bitter side at 70 IBU!).
We have big plans for seasonals and special releases. There have been talks about a spring Saison, a brown IPA, and a big, bad-ass American stout (among other things), but we’ll have to get to those later. We’d love to have some of our beer available in the grocery stores and gas stations… 3.2% abw IPA in a 12 oz. can, anyone? Also, our building has a basement that is just itching to be filled up with bourbon barrels, wine barrels, and rum barrels for aging beers… oh and did I mention how much I love wild, sour beer? Expect a steady supply of big, flavorful year-round offerings, plus as much of that other wacky stuff as we can put into kegs, casks, bottles, and cans.
TTB: You shared on your blog that you hoped to be based in the Dallas area, but the economics of that market didn’t quite work out. Are you at peace with being in Oklahoma City? Are you guys Oklahoma natives?
B.S.: We are totally at peace with OKC. I am from Norman and Tony has lived here for the past four years. At the time we tried to do something in Dallas the market was wide open. That was very appealing to us. In the OKC area at that time you already had COOP, Redbud, Mustang, Battered Boar and Huebert’s. Within the past year, Dallas has had an explosion of breweries, and that market, while still attractive, is not nearly as attractive as it once was. Think Heidi Montag.
There you have it, folks. And what a sense of humor, too! So stay tuned for early 2013 for the release of these new additions to the state’s craft lineup.