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!
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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!
By D'Wain Carthen
Let's talk about beer! OK now that I have your attention let's get down to business. There's a new beer spot in town..and its name is McNellies South City. Yes. Our beloved McNellies has opened a new location in South Tulsa. For me this is great news. I literally live less that 5 miles from this place as opposed to having to drive 20 minutes downtown.
Convenience. Is. King. But is it everything?
This is the question of which we seek to answer.
McNellie's South City is located on 71st. & Yale in Tulsa right by the Charleston's. If you have been to the OG McNellies in downtown Tulsa you are used to being greeted by a squeeky door before walking in to a room full of wood....and beer. South City delivers the wood and beer(this should he their tag line), but what they are missing is the worn ruggedness that we have all come to love.
Everything in South City is new as it should be, but I instantly miss the old worn feel of miss matched chairs and Irish memorabilia. We had a group of 8 and the wait was only 30 minutes, so the capacity is much larger at this location, if you exclude the upstairs area downtown. As we waited I surveyed the taps. Instantly, I loved the bar setup. Double-sided wrap around bar and I spot Anthem Golden One and Rough Tail along with the usual suspects: Marshall and Prairie on tap. Support local! There is also a nice beautiful cooler lining the back wall behind
the bar. Loving the aesthetics.
In place of the upstairs area there is a patio area outside. This will be great when the whether is nice. I could easily see some outside games coming about out there, like a big Jenga board...ping pong..etc. There is certainly a lot more room for the place to evolve. As does McNellie's downtown, the South location reflects the area of town that it is in. I encourage my fellow craft beer drinkers to check out our new beer location and try some local brews. I was disappointed to see many rounds of Coors Light tallboys being ordered by a table nearby us...but I guess you go with what you know.
While South City provides more space and convenience, for me I still feel like McNellies downtown is my place to be. However, the idea is to make South City in to a great place to go have a beer. The time is nigh! They just opened within the last month. We need to build its character. Make it in to YOUR beer place. Sit at the bar, imbibe with those around, and have fun.
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In light of these hot summer months and to celebrate National Ice Cream Month, I decided to "brew" something different with some friends this past week.
While perusing the St. Louis FEAST magazine (a great monthly periodical highlighting St. Louis' food culture) I found an intriguing article about food collaborations. Now we all know beer and dairy go well together and both share similar creative processes like the aging of cheese. I've had my fair share of Irish Stout cheddar and other fanciful beer cheese's but never beer ice cream.
The very thought made me think root beer float. Maybe a heavy Russian imperial stout or porter served with some vanilla bean ice cream. Not so in this case.
I Scream Cakes Pear Saison ice cream inspired this endeavor to create something I've never tried before. I contacted them via Facebook and was given a rough cut of their recipe for a small batch. (Their normal recipe makes 5 gallons, not sure where I would put all of that.) They collaborated with 4 Hands Brewing Co. by utilizing their Pyrus, a fall saison brewed with pear juice.
Light bulbs went off, I had to try this. I contacted some friends who have an ice cream maker and similar passion for beer and off we went.
Basically all you need for this is a good vanilla ice cream recipe...minus the vanilla. Makes sense when you're looking to get the flavor from the beer and fruit. I decided to go with Prairie Standard as our beer and use dried apricots instead of pears. We boiled a few bottles of the beer, then added the dry apricots to simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. We then pureed the mixture until smooth. On the side we combined 2 oz of almond paste and 1/4 cup of honey. Once the ice cream mixture was prepared we drizzled the almond/honey paste throughout, then mixed the now chilled apricot beer mixture into the ice cream. Let that freeze overnight and enjoy.
Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately our ice cream mixture was a bit on the soupy side and after it froze it did not have the ice cream texture we normally expect. It still worked but seems to have more ice and not enough cream. Instead of half n half we may use milk next time.
The overall flavor was good in my opinion. You got plenty of beer flavor and the apricots complemented it well with a slight tart yet sweet flavor. This is definitely something to experiment with. I'd really like to combine a chocolate stout with some fresh raspberry ice cream...but I'd better finish this batch first.
Where's my spoon?
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On a recent trip to Boulder, CO my wife and I met up with some good friends of ours to FATE Brewing Company for some eats and general imbibing. Great beers and dining. During conversation with one of the servers we were asked if we were from the area. Jessica (my beautiful wife) and I said we were from Oklahoma. To which the server responded,
"Isn't that a beer desert?!"
No fault of his own…I suppose. He explained he has a friend who lives in Bartlesville, and that is where he got the description from. He didn't ask about the beer scene, instead he had a predetermined opinion from a local that is not in touch with the local beer culture.
I proudly informed my good man that we had great breweries such as Prairie Artisan Ales that may be invading his area soon. How great would it be to have people from other states be introduced to Oklahoma brew with Prairie Bomb? Oh, you thought this was a beer desert? That beer is a 100 on Ratebeer and a 99 on Beeradvocate. So yeah, it's kind of a big deal.
There are two things we must have in order to change our image. First, we need to educate ourselves as beer citizens. Study beer. In this case, studying involves drinking (Yay), reading (with a beer), and discussing (not slurring).
Drinking is a pretty obvious method, but be sure you try new beers. Instead of the same big beer six pack, venture out with a mix-a-six. Try something you have had before and maybe did not particularly like.
Your taste buds change over time. Remember broccoli, you hated it as a kid, now, well more than likely that has changed. You may have not liked the Marshall Atlas IPA when you first tried it, but upon further review it's delicious. There are going to be beers you like and others you despise, but it is all in getting out of your comfort zone. We have not been drinking beer as long as we have been eating food, so we have a lot
to learn…and drink.
Reading is fundamental! Read books like Ultimate Beer by Michael Jackson or Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. Learn about the history of beer, the various styles, the region's they come from, and each of their characteristics. Unearthing the mysteries of beer will give you a better appreciation and enhance your enjoyment ten fold. As a bonus, you can impress your friends with this beer knowledge because even stuff in the first couple of chapters is not common knowledge. It is also a good excuse to read and drink beer (as if you needed an excuse). Don’t be satisfied with drinking a Stella because it sounds fancy. If you read up you will know Stella is actually the Belgian PBR. It is sold for just $1.10 per pint in Belgium. They just have a great marketing campaign to make it look prestigious. Knowledge bomb!
Reading and drinking leads to the best part; talking about beer. This is why I started writing about beer. Tell your buddies about great beers you have enjoyed, fun times about hunting for one offs, home brewing, beer festivals and so much more.
The whole idea is about sharing. They still learn. You will learn. Go to local beer festivals. The Harvest Festival hosted by Mcnellies (http://mcnellies.com) is a great festival. They also host Beer Universities about once per quarter. Follow Mcnellie’s on Facebook for info. If you have read my first post you’ll know that Biergarten hosts beer tastings. Tap Werks also hosts the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival. Wild Brew is a festival that celebrates Oklahoma craft beer and raises money for the Sutton Avian Research Center.
We have a good beer scene budding in Oklahoma, but you have to go out see people, try beer, and talk about it for it to grow.
Don’t think I forgot about the second part! We have to have good beer to enjoy! However, we cannot settle for the same ole same ole. Brewers like Chase Healey are doing some amazing things with beer right here in our great state. Personally, I like to see breweries get wicked with their brews. Don’t come out to the beer festival with the same lineup time after time. Bring out the firkins! Experiment. This is where the beer imbiber and brewer really come together. There are going to be beers that the people love and some that they don’t, but if you bring out a small batch of something that is great, you’re a hero at the festival. If people don’t like it, hey you only did a small batch.
That is why the Prairie Artisan tent is always busy at the festivals. That is why I love the Saddlebag series by Mustang Brewing. I recently had the Dragon’s Breath, which is a chili pepper infused IPA. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Let's get out and Cultivate the Craft Oklahoma. We've armed you with knowledge, now go learn and spread the good word of Oklahoma craft beer.