You can read the article right here. To summarize, the argument is that the craft beer community’s love affair with the hop is pushing away potential converts to craft beer. The thinking goes that IPAs and hop-forward pale ales are dominating the craft beer market — and thus are more likely to be the first beer that a potential convert would try. What’s bound to happen? The huge jump in bitterness/aroma/flavor from whatever the drinker previously enjoyed will be too much to take and thus scare the person away — a craft beer convert lost.
So the question is, have brewers gone so crazy with the hop that it could be hurting craft beer industry growth?
I think this is a real phenomenon, and something I’ve been guilty of unintentionally perpetrating myself on occasion.
For example, one time I met up with some old high school pals for a weekend in Vegas. As we were driving from the airport to the hotel and talking about grabbing a couple drinks, all they could talk about was their hope that the bar had Bud Light Lime in stock. Obviously, I was working with a group in need of a lot help. My initial reaction: Let’s get these guys an IPA so they can find out what real craft beer is like. After all, what’s more crafty than an American IPA? With the best intentions, I was setting up a craft-conversion failure.
Fast forward to a couple years ago. My two brothers and a cousin are coming down to visit from Toronto. (Side note: Toronto has been a little slow coming along in the progressive craft beer movement — but they’re getting there!) I’m pumped to take these guys out and introduce them to some great Oklahoma craft beer. What beer do I choose? Marshall Atlas IPA. Now, I love Atlas. I think it has great balance, and at 58 IBUs, it falls almost right at the middle of the classic IPA IBU chart (40-70 IBUs). It’s by no means a palate-wrecker. But of course those guys weren’t going to like it. My best intentions were to introduce them to what I considered a great craft beer, but again, my results: craft-conversion failure.
The answer to this dilemma is simple, of course. Lean more heavily on conservatively or moderately hopped so-called “gateway” craft beers when trying to share the craft culture. Amber ales. Brown ales. Pilsners. Mild pale ales.
The problem in my opinion is that more and more, today’s craft beer makers are not making enough of these gateway beers.
Take Prairie Artisan Ales, for example. Prairie is arguably the hottest beer brand in Oklahoma right now. But can you use much from Prairie to try and ease someone into craft beer? Not likely. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that — brewmaster Chase Healey wants to pursue unique, diverse combinations of ingredients; that’s certainly his prerogative and his beers have been very well received by craft fans, so more power to him.
It’s not Healey’s job to single-handedly turn the average guy away from Bud Light.
Take Roughtail Brewing. Of their three initial beers, only one is technically called an IPA, but all three have the IBU profile to qualify for IPA standing. It’s not Roughtail’s job to single-handedly turn the average guy away from Bud Light.
This obviously is not an attack on Prairie or Roughtail. But do you see the pattern here? If nobody makes it their job to turn the average guy away from Bud Light, then it’s just not going to happen. We all know the numbers: craft beer has a 10 percent share of the beer market. That’s great, but it also means there is huge room for growth.
I just hope that as the boundaries of craft beer are pushed and as hop-heads need bigger and more bitter beers to satisfy their changing palates, that craft brewers remember the newbies. That’s not to say people shouldn’t make big, bold beers, or shy away from flavor-forward recipes. That is after all what the craft beer movement is all about.
It’s just that I think there’s a chance craft beer could become too extreme for its own good, at least when it comes to luring over those important converts.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Sound off in the comment section here, or on Facebook.
During the event, Anthem brewmaster Matt Anthony announced that he will be leaving the OKCity Brewing Cooperative to open his own brewery this year, to be located just south of downtown Oklahoma City.
Here’s a great little video Anthony made to announce the move:
Nice field! So how do we top that? By loading up with even more beer events for the rest of the week.
For starters, there are the remainder of nightly pint nights at TapWerks:
-Today: Rosemary Biere de Garde from Choc
-Wednesday: Oaked imperial black rye ale from Roughtail
-Thursday: Strawberry-banana cream ale from COOP.
-Friday: Special beer menu/pint night featuring the Sam Adams Barrel Room Series — 13th Hour Stout, Stony Brook Red and New World Tripel.
And McNellie’s OKC is getting in on the action as well.
-Thursday: Boulevard 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat pint night
-Friday: Roughtail pint night featuring their one-off Vesuvius Double IPA.
In addition, McNellie’s is offering an OKC Craft Beer Flight all week for $6.
And Roughtail can also be found on Thursday night when Jojos in Yukon, 1615 S Mustang Road, Suite A, hosts a pint night.
Over on the other side of the state, R Bar & Grill will host a special beer dinner to celebrate Marshall Brewing’s fifth anniversary.
The event is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the bar, 3421 S Peoria Ave. The four-course meal is $55 and reservations must be made in advance by calling (918) 392-4811.
And of course, don’t forget Saturday’s big events: the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival at TapWerks and the Marshall Fifth Anniversary Party at McNellie’s Tulsa.
Things get started with several pint nights today.
The weekly Monday pint night at McNellie’s OKC features Mustang Summer Lager. At McNellie’s Tulsa, Warsteiner Dunkel is the featured beer. And at McNellie’s Norman, it’s Green Flash pint night.
At TapWerks Ale House, a whole week of pint nights are on deck. The revelry begins tonight with an Anthem Brewing night featuring a farmhouse ale brewed with a hint of smoked malt, tart cherries and aged on Hungarian oak spirals. Also, Anthem brewmaster Matt Anthony is expected to make a big announcement — his own brewhouse, perhaps? — so you’ll want to be there in person to hear what’s going on.
And speaking of TapWerks, bar general manager Greg Powell announced that the American craft beer tap takeover is now underway and will run through the week. He’s got 106 American craft beers on tap, including upward of 30 from right here in Oklahoma.
And here’s a recap of the other TapWerks pint nights set for this week:
-Tuesday: Rosemary Biere de Garde from Choc
-Wednesday: Oaked imperial black rye ale from Roughtail
-Thursday: Strawberry-banana cream ale from COOP.
-Friday: Special beer menu/pint night featuring the Sam Adams Barrel Room Series — 13th Hour Stout, Stony Brook Red and New World Tripel. Powell described this as perhaps one of the coolest pint nights TapWerks has done. Think of it as a good opportunity to warm up for Saturday.
And what’s Saturday? None other than the third annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival, of course. Tickets are still on sale, but Powell said there will be a cap this year, so if you want to score samples of more than 200 beers from roughly 50 breweries, act quick and snap up your tix.
We took a one-week break from The Thirsty Beagle Facebook Free Book Friday last week, and boy were the masses upset. I received at least two formal complaints about it. OK, it was just two, and they weren’t really formal complaints. But still, I was seriously impressed by you folks’ dedication to having a chance to win a free beer book every week. So I’m bringing it back with a really fun offering this week.
But first, a quick reminder that American Craft Beer Week is next week. TapWerks Ale House has a full lineup for pint nights set, and of course the third annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival is set for May 18. You can get tickets right now by going to www.oklahomacraftbeerfestival.com.
Now, on to this week’s book. It’s “Beer Crafts: Making the Most of Your Cans, Bottle Caps, and Labels.”
This 142-page softcover is loaded with nifty ideas for beer-related crafts, ranging from something as simple as wind chimes made out of beer cans to something as elaborate as a full-length gown made of beer can tabs. Each project includes photos, diagrams and step-by-step instructions. All you need to do to win the book is like the Facebook post associated with this blog post. I’ll select the winner by random drawing around 5 p.m. today.
-Any “Game of Thrones” fans out there who also like beer? You might want to check this out. There is limited availability in Tulsa and the OKC area right now, as far as I understand.
-American Craft Beer Week is being recognized by the U.S. Senate.
-After approval by the Alabama governor, homebrewing has now been legalized in all 50 states. Hard to believe it took until 2013 for this to happen.
-The Mule is hosting a firkin night tonight featuring a super-spiced saison with ginger, orange peel, peppercorns and other spices by COOP Ale Works.
Those lazy, hot summer days are (hopefully) on their way, and the full run of summer seasonals are making their way into local liquor stores.
This year’s summer seasonal mix pack from Sam Adams is one of those selections. This year’s pack includes six varieties: Boston Lager, Summer Ale, Belgian Session, Little White Rye, Porch Rocker and Blueberry Hill Lager.
You may ask yourself, “Should I buy the Sam Adams summer mix pack?” To help you answer that question, I went ahead and tried all these beers. I can tell you the answer is… no. Sort of.
I jotted down mini-review-notes for each beer — excluding Boston Lager and Summer Ale, which have been around forever and/or you’re probably already familiar with.
Here were my thoughts:
-Belgian Session: Maybe a little too sessionable. More of a gateway beer — just a hint of Belgian yeast flavor — than a complex craft beer.
-Blueberry Hill Lager: Very sweet beer. Definitely shows off the blueberry. Reminds me somewhat of a Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat. Probably good in small doses only.
-Porch Rocker: This Radler (beer-lemonade mix) is refreshing and sweet. Easy to drink, but the high sweetness level started to become a little off-putting by the end of the glass.
-Little White Rye: By far the class of this pack. A witbier with an interesting twist — the rye and a touch of sage give this a unique flavor. Wish they had this in a stand-alone six pack.
So, to sum up, if I didn’t have the Blueberry Hill, Belgian Session or Porch Rocker, my life would go on quite fine, I think. But I could do with a little more Little White Rye. Sam Adams has a winner with that beer, in my books.
-All kinds of new beers are arriving in Oklahoma or will arrive next month. With the assist from Freddy at the Jenks BierGarten and other liquor stores that post new releases, here’s what we have:
Abita Lemon Wheat
Mustang Summer Lager
Sam Adams Boston Lager (cans)
Anchor California Lager
Boulevard KC Pils
COOP Bourbon Barrel Rye Wine (Elija Craig Barrels)
Great Divide Special Oak Aged Yeti
McEwan’s Scotch Ale
Mustang Dragon’s Breath
Prairie Ales Mosaic
Prairie Ales Tulsa Rugby
Rodenbach Grand Cru Vintage
Santa Fe Chicken Killer Barley Wine
Mikkeller Crooked Moon Imperial IPA
Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada
Boulevard Boss Tom’s Golden Bock
The brewery will celebrate five years in business with a party on May 18 at McNellie’s Tulsa. The beer list includes 30 beers and it is cra-zy.
1. Sundown Wheat
2. Old Pavilion Pilsner
3. McNellie’s Pub Ale
4. Atlas IPA
5. Revival Red Ale
6. Arrowhead Pale Ale
7. “5″ Anniversary Ale — whiskey barrel-aged imperial red ale.
8. Dunkel — Munich-style Dunkel
9. Klaus — Hefeweizen
10. El CuCuy
-Single-hopped pale ale:
15. Faux-liner Weiss
16. Cucumber Dill Saison
17. Brown Ale
18. Hor-Rye-Zon — rye pale ale
19. Belgo IPA
20. English Barleywine
21. TMG IPA
22. Imperial Wit Citrus — grapefruit, lime and orange zest
24. Peanut Butter Cup Big Jamoke
25. Butterfinger Big Jamoke
26. Stout w/Fernet and toasted oak
27. “Gin-up” — Ginger saison collaboration between McNellie’s Group and Eric Marshall
28. “Caliente” — Caliente single-hopped American pale ale by Garrick “The Meat Cleaver” Ritzky
29. “918-or” — Dopplebock by Tim “Chief” Brophy
30. “The Owens Shuffle” — English IPA by Taylor “Hardwood” Owens
Wow! The event will run from 2 to 8 p.m. and offer guests the ability to purchase pints for $4, 4 oz. tasters for $2, or the Brewers Choice Flight for $4. More information is available by clicking here.
Sometimes you read a book and you feel like you absolutely have to tell someone about it, and that was the case last night when I finished off “Bitter Brew: The Rise of Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer.”
The book, by former Los Angeles Times reporter William Knoedelseder, recounts in great detail the formation and infancy of Anheuser-Busch, the growth of the company into a mega-conglomerate, the many layers and scandals of the super-rich Busch family and the hostile takeover by InBev.
To sum up, this book should work for anyone interested in beer, beer history, American history, Prohibition, the history of St. Louis, the St. Louis Cardinals, business strategy or soap-opera-style scandal. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.
I was actually surprised that I came away with a certain sense of respect for A-B, at least in the company’s earlier days. Although they were producing a recipe that today’s hardcore craft beer fans find unpalatable, the early leaders of the company were sticklers for the quality and production standards of their beer. Even as other brewers of the time sought to shorten and cheapen the brewing process by using synthetic additives and chemicals, A-B insisted they would not cut corners on their ingredients or lengthy aging process. They used that strategy and some savvy marketing and advertising to grow into a giant and amass a fortune.
That fortune also essentially destroyed the family. Based on interviews with friends, relatives and family members themselves, Knoedelseder paints a picture of entitlement and dysfunction that would make Lindsay Lohan blush. Almost all of the leading men in the Busch family were caught up in one way or another with womanizing, over-drinking, infidelity, suicide, gun play, accidental death or drug use. Most fascinating of all perhaps was the company’s last president, August Busch IV, who presided when InBev forged its hostile takeover. “The Fourth” was directly involved in incidents that left two young women dead and spent most of his last few years in charge of the company holed up in a secluded lake house, loaded down with drugs and nearly 1,000 guns and high-powered rifles, according to accounts.
Some other things I found interesting:
-The recipe for Bud Light — the same one in use now — was initially rejected because company leader August Busch III thought it was too bitter. Not a hop-head, I guess.
-A-B may have been able to stave off the takeover by InBev if it had been more aggressive in taking over other beer companies in the years leading up to its own buy-out.
-Company leaders often were too caught up in tradition and maintaining history to act quickly enough to react to industry changes.
-August IV had multiple run-ins with the law and failed multiple company-mandated drug tests, but all his transgressions were covered up by the company and its lawyers and PR firm.
-August IV took a chance on just about every desperate marketing ploy and gimmick product to try and keep the company on top near the end.
-The company successfully stayed afloat during Prohibition by diversifying and selling brewing products, like yeast, into the massive underground homebrewing scene.
-A-B tried to mimic that diversification in later years; one example was a string of Busch Gardens theme parks, including one in Houston that failed miserably.
-The company got into the baked goods and bottled water business in later years. Baked goods bombed, but bottled water was wildly successful.
-A-B scooped up the St. Louis Cardinals and was widely credited with saving the team, which was struggling on the field and on the verge of being moved to Milwaukee.
There are probably a dozen other facts and tidbits that stick out that I can’t even remember — the book really includes a wealth of interesting material. In summation, “Bitter Brew” is an engaging and informative read — I recommend it for any beer fan, but especially for those with an eye on the wider beer industry and its history.
Today we hear from Mustang Brewing Co. brewmaster Gary Shellman.
The Thirsty Beagle: How would you describe the tone of the Craft Brewers Conference this year?
Gary Shellman: I would use the terms focused, but somewhat tense. Congressional efforts were front and center — mostly tax relief initiatives for our industry, and there are diverse views on definitions of what constitutes a craft brewer nowadays. How was it different or the same when comparing it to the tone of the conference over the past several years? In previous years, the tone has focused simply on the huge upswing of craft brewing growth, which is still ongoing today. There are opposing views on tax relief and craft brewer definition amongst different groups pursuing legislative change.
TTB: What were some specific points passed along from the leadership of the Brewers Association — or from other brewers — that made an impression on you?
Gary: We need tax relief to level the playing field with large-scaled brewers, since we pay a higher tax rate (disproportionate share) per barrel of beer produced. The focus remains on quality and gaining further market share from the large brewers, rather than re-dividing craft beer’s current share amongst more microbreweries that continue to enter the industry.
TTB: When you think about the direction the craft beer industry is going in Oklahoma right now, what do you feel? Is Oklahoma a good reflection of what’s happening on the national scene right now?
Gary: I think we’re headed in the right direction, with the addition of new breweries. In Oklahoma, we really look like the craft beer industry in the rest of the U.S. did about five years ago. We are growing rapidly now, but that growth curve just recently accelerated in the past three to four years.
TTB: I’ve heard the argument that a lot of new brewers are getting into the game because it seems fun or cool, and that they’re more interested in making money than they are in making good beer — and that may diminish the quality of what’s out there on the market. Playing devil’s advocate here, I’ve also heard it said that that argument is being made by established brewers who don’t want new guys cutting into their sales, market, etc. Where do you stand? Bring it on as long as they’re dedicated to making good beer?
Gary: There is plenty of room for new breweries, and different styles of beer. A serious point made at CBC is that if you’re not focused on high standards and quality, you ought to find a different industry for employment, because if you’re not serious about making quality craft beer, you won’t survive as a craft brewer. This is not a get-rich-quick industry. Craft beer is cool, but the only way to succeed is to follow your passion and maintain high standards of cleanliness and sanitization, as well as following rigid procedures to ensure consistency and quality. I’ve seen a few brewers bounce around the craft beer arena from one brewery to another because they lack established procedures, standards, and specific cleaning and sanitizing regimens that ensure success. It won’t take very long before they either realign with an established brewery that has high standards, or find themselves in another line of work.
TTB: One point that’s not up for debate is that the craft beer industry is growing fast. People have said this could cause problems for brewers trying to secure grains, hops and equipment — all of which are becoming more scarce; or that it could cause liquor store owners and bar managers to drop old standards so they can stock the latest flavor of the month. Are these real problems everyone is dealing with, or will have to deal with?
Gary: Establishing contracts for ingredients (primarily hops) is a critical path to success. Grain and yeast are readily available in the marketplace. Without hop contracts, brewers have to purchase hops on the spot market, and there have been certain hops that remain unavailable without a contract in place, which can limit the types of beers any new brewer can produce. Hop shortages take several years to eliminate, with the reduced acreage planted now, versus in recent years.
TTB: Lastly, what advice would you offer to new brewers or those wanting to get into the business?
Gary: Establish your standards now. Examine your business model carefully. Research your planned market, and pursue your craft brewing dreams passionately. If a batch of beer doesn’t finish correctly and meet your standards, don’t be afraid to dump the batch in the name of quality control — your customers will thank you for it.
McNellie’s Tulsa is playing host to the fifth anniversary party for Marshall Brewing Co., and will hold an outdoor fest featuring a wide array of Marshall offerings.
The party is set for 2 to 8 p.m. at 409 E First St. Admission will be free and pint and half-pint pours will be available for sale.
The preliminary beer list looks like this:
-Marshall 5 anniversary ale; an imperial red ale aged three months in whiskey barrels
-Old Pavilion Pilsner
-McNellies Pub Ale
-Revival Red Ale
-Arrowhead Pale Ale
-Limited edition Munich-style Dunkel
-Limited edition Klaus Hefeweizen
-Staggered releases of different single-hopped Pale Ale
-Staggered release of special one-offs by Marshall brewers
-Four brewer’s-choice beers
The guy’s at Marshall are extremely excited about the event’s headlining beer, 5, which is only being produced in limited quantities. Original plans called for blending the barrel-aged beer with regular Revival Red, but the quality of the product was so good, Marshall decided to serve it up unblended.
If you can’t make OCBF that day (Marshall beers will still be served at OCBF by a volunteer crew), getting over to McNellie’s Tulsa for some Marshall 5 will be a pretty good alternative.
-A special TTB good-luck shout out to Dead Armadillo, which brewed it’s first commercial-sized batch of Armadillo Amber on Sunday morning at Roughtail Brewing. Ferment away, good beer. And don’t forget that Dead Armadillo is nearing the home-stretch in its Kickstarter project. You can check that out by clicking here. In a related note, someone has made the $2,000 pledge required to earn the right to name the company’s armadillo mascot.
-Just a reminder that McNellie’s OKC is closed today and tomorrow for repairs and cleaning. They are scheduled to re-open on Wednesday.
-The pint night at McNellie’s Tulsa tonight is Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA.
-At McNellie’s Norman, tonight’s pint night is Pacifico.
TapWerks Ale House, the host of the annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival, today posted its new logo on social media. As you can see, it’s quite a departure/update from the old logo.
TapWerks General Manager Greg Powell said the bar sought the help of a local graphic design agency. Powell said the previous logo was “old and tired,” and they sought a modern update.
The logo represents a traditional English crest, with tap handles at top and what Powell describes as a blend between a bison and griffin at the bottom. The next step will be to have signage made for the Bricktown bar, 121 E Sheridan Ave.
I think the crest would look great on a T-shirt. What do you think? Thumbs up or down?