I never really understood where the song "12 Days of Christmas" came from and why they got such lame gifts...except of course the five gold rings. So I came up with my own list as a beer enthusiast and what others like me may want this Christmas if you're having trouble finding that suds-loving partner of yours a gift.
I'll stay away from shameful plugs for my own merchandise (which can be found at Okie Crowe in the Deco District of Tulsa [OK. One shameful plug]) and focus on some easily attainable and affordable items that won't bust your wallet like the price of a Utopian.
1. "Mastering Home Brew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer"
by Randy Mosher (Author of Radical Brewing and Tasting Beer)
One of my favorite authors has done it again by giving us blue-collar beer brewers the tips and knowledge to brew world class beers in the comfort of our home. This won't be available until April of next year but you bet I got my preorder in already. In tandem with his Radical Brewing book this rendition gives home brewers tips, recipes and technical knowledge for beginners to novices. I'm most excited to learn how to develop a recipe and create unique craft beer that I would enjoy. Release date April 22, 2014
2. Hydro Flask www.hydroflask.com
Designed to keep beer cold, this is the first vacuum sealed, double-walled, stainless steel, blah blah blah. Frankly what they are saying is it doesn't get any better than this to store your beer for hikes, camping and picnics and shut up and give them your money. It also keeps coffee piping hot for when you have drank your session IPA or Breakfast Stout too fast and need to cure that hangover. But then why would you want to go and do a thing like that...
3. Okie Crowe Beer Basket
Another way to support local is shop Okie Crowe this holiday season. They have home made soaps made from spent grain, beer making kits, pet treats and custom holiday baskets. Pictured here are Beer Flat crackers, Sfoglini spent grain pasta, Slant Shack Bronk Brewery jerky, Beer Nuts hot bar mix, Beer Is OK koozie, Anarchy in a Jar beer mustard, and A. Whip Designs metal bottle opener.
4. Brew Master: The Craft Beer Game White Labs
This game is perfect for beer fans and home brewers where you collect cards to brew a beer and compete against each other through actual beer events to win the accolades of your adoring fans. While I have not played myself, Brew Master looks challenging as you learn how to brew certains types of ales and learn about all the trials and tribulations that can take place at a microbrewery. Good for beginners who know how to play Rummy and can drink craft beer at the same time.
Here's our take on fall and Oktoberfest style beers. Criteria is based solely on opinion and knowledge based on reading loads of books like Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer and any beer related article we can find. If you want a professional opinion look somewhere else. If you want the layman's opinion and where you should spend your hard earned money then hopefully we can guide you in the right direction. Cheers!
1. Brooklyn Oktoberfest - Brian Welzbacher
I picked this amber colored beauty up in Texas and was glad this was my first Brooklyn experience. I've read so much about Garrett Oliver and his craftsmanship for great lagers coming out of NY and finally got my hands on one. It poured a deep amber color with a very small head that soon disappeared. Initial aroma was heavy with malt and earthy hops. Flavor was a juicy biscuit malt, small bitter finish with a bit of nuttiness to it. Very smooth over all as a 5.5% beer. While the beer was refreshing I probably would not seek this one out again. I look forward to finding more Brooklyn beers though and hopefully much sooner.
2. Shipyard Pumpkin Ale - Ethan Buckman
Sometimes, you get a beer that blows you away with how good it is. Sometimes you get a beer that's so bad you think it must have slipped through some type of quality control check. And sometimes you get a beer that's so assertively, aggressively bland that you wonder what human being could have thought it was something worth putting out. The Shipyard pumpkin beer would be the latter.
Pouring a pale straw color with a nice rocky head, the look was certainly the best part of the beer. The aroma was grainy with such a small hint of spice I may not have noticed it unless I knew it was supposed to be a "pumpkin" beer. The flavor matched, with a bready character being the only dominant flavor note. If it had been a blind tasting I might have asked myself "what kind of yeast did they use to get that barely perceptible spice character?". There was no hop character, no pumpkin flavor of any kind. Just some mild bread and malt notes backed up by the tiniest, tiniest bits of clove and cinnamon.The body fit the theme, being neither thin nor full, but just "medium".
Technically speaking, the beer was just fine. There were no off flavors, no evidence of brewing flaws. Which made the whole thing that much more disappointing. This beer suffers from a timidity in flavor that would leave a dedicated Inbev drinker wanting for more.
In short, there's nothing wrong with this beer. You won't feel the need to dump it out. But the overwhelming sense of "eh" will leave you sorely disappointed, thinking of what could have been.
3. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale - Brian Welzbacher
Do you remember the first time you had a pumpkin beer? Do you remember your first love? Schlafly's pumpkin ale has been creating memories for me and my friends ever since I turned 21. I've yet to find anything comparable to this pumpkin spiced treat and look forward to it's release (no matter how early in August it is).
This is an 8% beer brewed with pumpkin squash and a blend of secret spices you'll find in a classic pumpkin pie. It's not overwhelming with sweetness and the alcohol keeps it balanced making it a great dessert beer in my opinion. Just pouring into a snifter you'll immediately smell fresh pumpkin pie spice waft out and entice you to drink. It has an off white head with some lace and a nice copper color. Toasty, malty flavors of baked pumpkin along with cinnamon, nutmeg and hint of vanilla. This is certainly one to stash away for the coming holidays.
I typically treat this as a sipping beer and one to savor as I drink. The clove and cinnamon work nicely up front but don't linger too long. Very easy drinking for the 8% ABV so go easy but please seek this one out. I'm sure you'll find a six pack near my deathbed down the road.
4. Marshall Oktoberfest - Brian Welzbacher
October truly is the usher of fall and seasonal beers for me when I embrace the fall weather and look for something to satisfy my craving for a balanced, malty meal in a bottle. Since Marshall released their Oktoberfest I make sure to have a six pack on hand whenever an impromptu back yard party around the fire pit comes up. Marshall continues their pure German craft with this copper colored complex lager that rivals many Oktoberfest lagers in the market. Super drinkable with small lingering of noble German hops and medium body. Little lace left behind because I drank it too quickly. Notes of toasted caramel and great carbonation keeps my going and reaching for another. So toss back a few and throw the baseball around with friends while you can because this seasonal won't last long. Prost!
5. Left Hand Oktoberfest - Brian Welzbacher & Eric Marshall
I had a little help with this next one at McNellies the other night. Not quite sure what to get I suggested Left Hand's Oktoberfest as I have been taken by it's ease of drink-ability, light body and nice caramel flavor. "I haven't had this in a long time. It's an all around great beer, uses a different yeast than the Marshall Oktoberfest which gives it more sulfur flavor but not in a bad way," stated Eric. My impressions was different after first having this beer from a bottle versus the tap. It certainly beats out a majority of craft brew attempts I've had in OK like Shiner and even Sam Adams. Leaves a thin lace and has a small hop finish to it with a classic Marzen lager flavor.
6. Wachusett Pumpkan - D'Wain Carthen
A good pumpkin beer is often hard to find. You typically find people on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to this particular style of beer. You either love them or hate them. Tasting pumpkin beers like any other style of beer is dependent upon what you have tried and what you like. Personally, I like a pumpkin beer that has the characteristics of pumpkin pie. Lots of spice and lots of pumpkin. To date there have only been a few that I really like, and there is only one that I truly love.
I recently acquired Wachusett Pumpkan from a fellow trader in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it did not deliver on what I like in a good pumpkin beer. The can was really cool. As far as I can remember, it is the only pumpkin/harvest beer that I have ever had out of a can, so that is a plus in it’s column. What the beer really lacked was spice and flavor. It is 5.2% ABV and overall just not a strong beer. It tasted better as I ate some food, but I think that is because it added some spice and flavor to the palate. If you happen to get a can of Wachusett Pumpkan give a try. It may end up being something you like, but it is not for me.
7. Brooklyn Post Road - Brian & Amy Welzbacher
I'm fortunate to be married to someone who can appreciate good beer and actually share these huge 750 ml bombers I continue to acquire. On a recent Texas trip with my wife we picked up Post Road from the Brooklyn Brewery. It's described as a beer that reflects how people brewed with vegetables before hops became readily available. With a pumpkin on the label and being brewed with spices I was hyped and ready. I forgot this is a traditional beer and had a shock to the palate. It drank like with minimal pumpkin flavor and hardly any spice. Light bodied with a quick effervescence on the tongue and hoppy/bitter finish that didn't linger. I let it warm and found a bit more pumpkin flavor. Overall we weren't impressed but it was a nicely brewed beer overall. It certainly plays more on the traditional pumpkin ales of the 18th century then the pumpkin pie and high alcohol beers we are used to today. This one only clocked in at 5% ABV. I'd suggest many others we have locally before pursuing this one.
8. Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin - D'Wain Carthen
Friday, I had the opportunity to enjoy a few brews with friends. Some buddies and I get together and record music as time allows. When we do we have mini bottle shares during the process. There is not anything too fancy being shared; just casual craft beer. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin/harvest beers (my favorite season), so one friend brought some Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale for us to try.
All due respect to Jim Koch and everything he has built with Samuel Adams, but this misses the mark for me. I think the group liked it, but it was not a favorite of mine. Again, it lacked flavor. Imagine sitting down at Thanksgiving and taking that long awaited first bite of pumpkin pie and it tastes like only a dab of cinnamon and maybe a pinch of cloves might have been added to the mix…and your life is ruined right then and there at Thanksgiving. Sounds horrible, right? I want cinnamon and spices to smack my taste buds around. Right now, Schlafly Pumpkin is in the top slot for me. Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin unfortunately gets nowhere close to what I look for in a pumpkin/harvest beer.
9. Red Hook's Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter - D'Wain Carthen
I had the opportunity to try Red Hook’s Out of Your gourd Pumpkin Porter on Saturday. First of all, I had no clue that this beer even existed. I do not typically check for Red Hook when searching for brews. I think just about everyone has had the Red Hook ESB, but I have not ventured beyond that beer nor have I had it more than a few times. That is not because I think anything bad about their beer, but I just have not taken the time to look further. Thankfully, I was at an event on Saturday and someone was kind enough to bring some of this delicious brew for the group to try (Thanks, Chris!).
Out of Your Gourd has great carbonation and mouth feel and yes…finally…great flavor. I had enjoyed Founders Breakfast Stout, St. Bretta from Crooked Stave, Surly Overrated, Uinta Birthday Suit Sour Brown, and of course the delicious Pirate Bomb from Prairie Artisan Ales. Despite all of the big brews, OOYG still delivered on the flavor. I only had a small pour of this and would gladly take a pint. Red Hook has definitely gained a fan in me. I would put this brew in my 2 slot right now. I have a handful of pumpkin brews on the way this week including Pumpkinator from Saint Arnold’s, Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale from Uinta, and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (aged in Bourbon Barrels). I am eagerly awaiting these brews and hopefully getting my taste buds smashed.
10. Urban Chestnut Oachkatzlschwoaf - Brian & Amy Welzbacher
Purchased in a variety pack from the fast growing Urban Chestnut Brewery in St. Louis the Reverence series pays homage to classic brewed European beers. This beer, translated as "tail of a squirrel", has a low hop presence and heavy malt that is surprisingly balanced and does not drink like a lager. It pours a gold to orange color with an off white head and lacing that follows to the end. Amy thought it very smooth and medium bodied but leaves without saying goodbye. It's very drinkable with a sweet malt up front but nothing really stands out to remember it by.
I'm a huge fan of Urban Chestnut but with me it is hit and miss on their beer selection. Ideally I will stick with their STLIPA found at Busch Stadium or Wing Nut. However, the next beer by UCBC is something I've never had anything remotely close to.
11. Urban Chestnut Count Orlok Black Pumpkin Ale - Brian & Amy Welzbacher
Wow. I love black ales, Schwarzbiers and pumpkin ales but all of them mixed was unique. Count Orlok, or Nosferatu was the German version of Dracula. This beer pours dark like his heart with a brunette body and tan head. It diminishes quickly with no lacing and the aroma is heavy of pumpkin spices. Almost overkill on the taste as well with cinnamon and vanilla and very little if no roast in the back end. Low hop presence and slight aftertaste of spices and roast malt. Light to medium bodied beer with good effervescence throughout and flavor that lingers long. While we both enjoyed it, we felt the spices over shadowed the beer as a whole. Being part of a specialty 8 pack I most likely won't have this again but could see it being enjoyed with vanilla bean ice cream.
12. Saint Arnold's Pumpkinator - D'Wain Carthen
I've been doing a few beer trades as of late and experiencing a great number of beers that I never tasted before. All have been good thus far. I can honestly say that one of the most exciting things is tracking that beer mail and seeing it has been delivered. Well today, I received a box from my good buddy in El Paso. The drive home was furious (sorry if I cut you off on the Broken Arrow Expressway). I made it home safe and sound and so did the brews. In this box I received Not 1. Not 2. But 3 Pumpkinators from Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, TX. It released the same week that Pirate Bomb did. Apparently my buddy had quite the trek around the city gathering up these 3 bottles, just as many of us did gathering up as much Pirate Bomb as we could.
Saint Arnold’s Pumpkinator is an Imperial Pumpkin Stout weighing in at 10% ABV. OK….srsly you guys. Let me just tell you guys, this beer is PACKED with flavor. I thought perhaps the pumpkin and spice would be over-powered by roasty/coffee flavor, but it definitely was not. The roastiness works really well with the pumpkin spice and balances out the sweetness very well.
Pumpkinator is absolutely outstanding. It gives all the flavor that you need and much much more. As it got warmer the flavor got even better, as it should. I am very excited that I have 2 more bottles. The two I have left will probably be drank at Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas respectively. This is a once per year release and once it is gone…it’s gone. Get some friends in Houston or find out the release date each year and make your way down to H-Town. This beer is absolutely worth it.
I had a religious experience! This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a beer with the Reverend. No, I did not confess all my sins (I’m a saint), but I did sit down with Rev. Mason Beecroft who is the brewmaster for Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing. Yes, I said Reverend. Mason was a Lutheran pastor for 11 years and has been brewing for over 17 years. He learned how to brew in seminary, started a “How to Brew” class, and began teaching his parishioners the lovely art of brewing.
Despite what you may think, this is not an act of rebellion against one’s beliefs. In fact, beer and religion actually have a storied history. Many may know the story of Saint Arnulf of Metz, the Patron Saint of Brewing. Legend has it that on a hot day in July 642 his parishioners traveled to Remiremont to recover his remains and had little to drink. Unfortunately, there was but a small remnant of beer remaining at the bottom of a pot, which is always a bad feeling. So, what else do you do in your time of need? Pray for help! One of Saint Arnulf’s parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” The minimal amount of beer in the pot multiplied into enough beer for the pilgrims to quench their dying thirsts and they were able to travel safely back to Metz (in high spirits I presume).
Thankfully, we don’t have to pray to any Gods to get our beer from Dead Armadillo, but the Gods have been good to us! Their flagship beer is their Amber, which can be found on tap in many fine local establishments such as Main Street Tavern, both Tulsa McNellie’s locations, R Bar, College Bar (Stillwater), Wedge Pizza (OKC), etc. I am sure there are plenty of other locations that pour this fine brew. Also, be on the lookout for their IPA, wheat and mouth-watering Black IPA they have teased the masses with at local events.
We can also thank the heavens for Tony Peck. It was just within the past 2 years that Tony, one of Mason’s parishioners and fellow home brewer, had the great idea that they should take their brewing to the next level and begin brewing commercially. Mason acknowledges the struggle, “It is definitely a big step going from home brewing to commercial.” This is especially true when you have become as popular as Dead Armadillo has in such a short amount of time. “We began getting invites to do private events and our first public event was Wild Brew and then Harvest Festival .” Seeing as how they started Dead Armadillo in April of 2012, Wild Brew was that following July, and Harvest Fest in September…Tony and Mason were definitely busting their humps to provide us with their amazing creations.
As for future endeavors, be on the lookout for Dead Armadillo at Harvest Fest September 21st, Wedge Pizza October 1st, and First Draft in early November. They will be bringing some different beers to Harvest Fest including some experiments such as a watermelon infused version of their Black IPA. They also have a can design coming. Mason gave me a sneak peak at the designs and they look really awesome. The black and yellow color, which relates to the Yield sign, is a real eye-catcher. He told me they will also be producing more swag like their t-shirts, work shirts, trucker hats, and a can glass. They are currently sharing space with RoughTail Brewing Company, but recently put an offer on a location here in T-town.
We here at Beer Is OK wish Dead Armadillo nothing but success in the future. They have had an awesome start to their commercial career and I do not see things slowing up for them any time soon. Be sure to stop by and see them at Harvest Festival this Saturday (9/21) or at any of the other events we have talked about already. Stop by, imbibe, and enjoy the sweet fruits of their labor.
See you guys at Harvest Fest!
Cheers! – D’Wain
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 30x30 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!
While perusing Twitter one day I stumbled upon a re-tweet about a gypsy brewer coming to Oklahoma. Naturally intrigued by new beers being brewed in our state I dug through Twitter to find out @DocBuckmans. He hails from the Yuengling state of Pennsylvania with professional brewing experience at The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. He certainly has a passion and you can get his full story by reading his blog: Doc Buckman's Beer. There you will get his line up of beers like Snake Oil IPA and Lazy Bully Lager.
Ethan works his craft. (Photo by D'Wain Carthen)
In the meantime Ethan has taken a job with Mustang providing sales support for the Tulsa area and developing recipes. Sounds pretty amazing for someone that's only 22. I had a big passion for drinking quality beer but Ethan certainly took it to a whole new level at that age. After meeting through Twitter we met several times to enjoy local craft beer like Prairie Standard at R Bar over poutine and at home with an eclectic beer collection while dining on Andolini's pizza. (Do you see a trend forming?) We went through a bit of our reserves that day so we decided why not do a home brew to replenish our stock.
With three extract brews under my belt I was chomping at the bit to brew again. We brought in fellow blog contributor D'Wain Carthen as well and commandeered his home in the process. (Thanks Jess!) D'Wain was new to the whole brewing process and this time so was I as we used the brew-in-a-bag method.
But what did you brew you may ask? Well the Fall season is upon us so we kicked around the idea of a pumpkin ale. While pumpkins are highly favored; what was once unusual and unheard of seemed mainstream, so Ethan suggested a sweet potato porter. It sounds complex but it couldn't be simpler by adding sweet potato to your wort and boil up those starches and create a dark and malty porter.
Brew day went well thanks to High Gravity always having an amazing stock of grains, hops and yeast to choose from. The brew-in-a-bag method was a mystery but after witnessing first hand and squeezing out the wort I think I found a new method. Naturally we imbibed on Oklahoma Craft beer like Marshall's 5, Prairie Puncheon and Choc's Gratzer and consumed Siegi's fine German food. Awww Schnitzel!
After imbibing and catching up on TV shows we need to watch Ethan made note of the new Unbridled Series that Mustang Brewery will soon release. "They will all be very hop forward for the styles and the hops we'll be using wont just be the typical west coast citra and cascade combo," Ethan said. They are developing a Tripple, India Red Ale and a Black Lager for some time this winter.
This is just part one of the home brew saga so stay tuned to hear how it turns out and you may even be able to sample our first Beer Is OK beer!