One of the best things about this whole Barrels and Mash gig is getting to talk to people that are completely passionate about what they do. It’s something I’ve seen in every single person I’ve talked to that is involved in a brewery or distillery, and that just isn’t the case for a lot of the other industries out there. The beer passion came across strong when we sat down with Brad from Black Mesa.
Tornadoes are a common talking point in the early stages of these local beer discussions, and our hangout with Brad was no different. Black Mesa was one of the many local breweries that was impacted when a dickhead tornado severely damaged the OKCity Brewing Cooperative in May of 2013, forcing them to dump close to 3,000 gallons of beer from the fermenters and find a new place to brew. After evaluating the next move over the summer of 2013, Black Mesa decided to start brewing at O’Fallon Brewery outside of St. Louis while they work on securing a property here in OKC to set up their operation (hopefully all that will happen in the next year an a half or so).
Black Mesa Brewing Company is named for the highest point in Oklahoma, which is fairly obvious to most of us native Oklahomans, but what’s cool is its significance to Brad. A bucket list goal for Brad is to visit the highest point in every state in America, and so far he’s hit about half of them. This goal, by the way, made me realize I need a cool life mission (unless drinking a bunch of beer and Bourbon counts), so if you have any sweet ideas let me know. His passion for nature is what brought him to this state as a Wildlife Biologist that was hired on as a consultant by a local environmental compliance agency. He was obviously into beer so he started knocking on brewery doors for ‘environmental compliance’ reasons and ended up meeting Chris, the master brewer at Huebert Brewing Company. Eventually the two decided to partner up and create Black Mesa.
Our hangout with Brad took place at The Patriarch, and we were joined for part of it by Stephen, The Patriarch’s GM. The conversation focused on Black Mesa’s flagship brews, their Endless Skyway Bitter and Kölsch, and how they are a fantastic introduction into some of the great beers Oklahoma has to offer. Non-beer nerds that visit The Patriarch need somewhere to start, and something like Prairie Bomb! or or a super dank IPA probably isn’t a great first step. Black Mesa knows this and are doing all of us a favor by giving us a route to introduce our friends and family to what beer can be, and providing that accessible beer gateway to the fun, sarcastic, and expensive lifestyle that is craft beer. Black Mesa shows this intention in how they introduced their Kölsch, which they had been labeling as ‘Blonde’ since it came out in order to avoid scaring away those that aren’t familiar with the style and just see a weird word and thinking ‘no thanks’. Now that the beer has made its rounds and gained some cred, they took the opportunity to rebrand it to its true style as they transitioned to bottling their flagships for the first time.
In addition to new bottles hitting the shelves here at home, Black Mesa has teamed up with The LAB and is now going to be spreading the Oklahoma beer love to the Kansas City market. KC will have some treats in store for it as Black Mesa starts to roll out their seasonal brews, like this winter’s Los Naranjos Coffee Stout. A draft only, super small batch release of their ES-ESB (aged in cognac barrels) is coming down the pipe as well, and as we roll into 2016 we can start getting ramped up for Supertramp, their spring seasonal dopplebock. There is also a chance that they will start playing with barrel aging some of their non-BA seasonals and I for one am super excited to see what they come up with.
So if you’re out with a buddy that orders something from InBev and you see some Black Mesa around, maybe point them in that direction, everyone will be better for it. We’ll be waiting patiently for each seasonal to roll out, drinking the crap out of that Los Naranjos while it lasts, and can’t wait for Black Mesa to set up a shop here in the city so we’ll have another sweet taproom to visit on the weekend.