Brewing “Non-Standard Beers”: An Inside Look at Brush Creek Brewing
People go through rites of passage in all walks of life with family and friends. Home brewing is no exception to the matter as we saw in the last blog where three guys were merely brought together by the passion and love of craft beer. The same can be said about Matt and Javier, the duo that makes up Brush Creek Brewing in Stillwater, OK.
They share a similar background in home brewing separately but over time connected over a passion to create quality craft beer. Matt was working in the restaurant industry for 6 years with a home brew hobby on the side and met his partner Javier, a home brewer for 10 years, when Javier’s brother opened the College Bar in Stillwater. The affection for craft beer made the relationship click and that was the goal for the College Bar that opened in 2010 to be a craft beer destination in Stillwater.
“We started with 5 taps at 3.2% beer for the first month waiting for our liquor license, but once we got it we put on Great Divide and Left Hand Milk Stout to start drawing an interest”, said Matt. From there they continued to grow to 24 taps total and more local beers were added like COOP F5 and Roughtail 12th Round. Their customer base mainly consists of college students and what better time to “mold young beer minds” as Matt says, to the world of local craft beer. That passion also made them the only bar in Oklahoma, that I know of anyway, with a Randall from Dogfish Head brewing. The Arrowhead from Marshall was certainly an experience when run through with Cascade and Citra hops and Porter peaches.
Matt also mentioned a desire to install cask ale taps which immediately made me want to purchase a Big Orange Bus pass to afford the commute back and forth to Stillwater. So you can see the passion and drive they have for just selling beer, you can only imagine what their talent of almost 20 years of home brewing could deliver.
“We figured, if we’re doing this almost every week, why not build a brand out of it and get to where we are self-sustaining”, Javier stated. I couldn’t agree more as you see more people these days transforming hobbies into careers and bringing the brewing industry numbers back to pre-prohibition days in America. The hardest part wasn’t finding a space or developing recipes but naming the brewery was a difficult task. “It’s weird but it took us over a month because once that name is out there it’s permanent”, said Javier. Eventually they came up with Brush Creek since the creek runs behind the property where they brew. Thankfully they reassured me they don’t pull water from the creek to use in their beers. They found a name that was local and represents a nano-brewery in Oklahoma which also reflects on their logo with the outline of the state and a hope cone.
Speaking of beer and hops…
Brush Creeks first beer was an amber ale but soon evolved towards a pale and wheat beer. However, as Matt says, these are “out of category” beers according to BJCP standards. They use American hops but feel they cater to both the hop heads and casual craft beer drinker that doesn’t wreck your palette. The first beer I tried from them was a Black IPA a couple months back that Matt collaborated on where they just threw in random/leftover grains like rye. It simply blew me away with the body and flavor all wrapped into a nice beer. They’ve had their 8% wheat, yeah e-i-g-h-t, at charity events cautiously warning patrons this is not your standard wheat beer. Another beer they teased me with was a honey brown brewed with Target and Golding hops with local honey. Matt has experimented with numerous ingredients like chili peppers from a friends garden.
They are not scared to go beyond the standard flagship ales, using ingredients that are local, affordable and available year round. I was most fortunate to sample their session IPA that day. A floral wonderment at 4.3% with a rocky mountain head and beautiful golden color. Spiced with Simcoe and Amarillo I immediately fell in love. It went along perfectly with their philosophy of brewing local beer for local people who are outdoors men like themselves. “We will be doing kegs around Stillwater at first and eventually cans”, they said. Down the road we’ll also see special bottle releases of an Imperial IPA they developed along with some heavier beers. Currently they brew 1.5 bbls on an electronic system similar to Brew Magic’s set up.
What’s most encouraging is they display a cautionary attitude with their venture of making local craft beer on a local level. People have approached them with money to help with their endeavors but truly they want to be hands on with every aspect from the building to the brewing. They are family men first with full time jobs and love to brew on the side. I applaud them with their entrepreneurial spirit and can’t wait to drive over to Stillwater and brew with them soon which will take place in their new 30×30 aluminum barn they are currently building.
Home Brew Update!
Thanks to the efforts of D’Wain and Ethan we’ve successfully bottled our first ever Beer Is OK home brew. All credit really goes to Ethan for formulating the recipe and instilling his wealth of brewing knowledge to achieve this inaugural brew. Coincidentally, the sweet potato porter reflects our logo with the colors orange and brown. We’ll hopefully have a tasting. Stay tuned for more details!