2016 Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit

I have to start this post by simply saying that Oklahoma is damn lucky to have a group of people like the one I saw tonight. Every single speaker, brewer, bar owner/manager, and casual onlooker has such an obvious and contagious passion for this state and the craftsmanship behind the beer that is produced here. That passion that is so pure that it makes you forget all the bullshit that can come with craft beer like the one-ups spewing out of that pretentious assbag next to you in the bar, or that shithead on the internet trying to show you how big his dick is by pouring a perfectly fine beer down the drain. It’s truly refreshing to be reminded of why I dig this whole industry, and why I decided to write (often poorly) about it and try in my own tiny little way to spread the word on some of these people and the things they make. There was no competition tonight, there was no putting down of any beer, it was just a bunch of people trying to make this a better place to be for themselves and consumers alike. Bad ass.

Alright, now that the emotions are flowing, here is a summary of some of the things that happened this evening. It won’t cover everything, but I’m kind of tired and honestly note-taking isn’t one of my strengths. The event was MC’d by Anthem’s Patrick Lively and was billed as the “State of the Brewnion”. An event that would bring focus onto the current state of liquor laws in Oklahoma and highlight some of the changes that are hopefully on the horizon.

I broke free from work around 3:30, so I missed Zack Prichard, President of Choc Beer in Krebs, OK who opened up the event by speaking about the history of craft beer in the state. Luckily I was able to stream the event from We Apologize for the Inconvenience whilst driving to the Plaza District (I just listened, eyes on the road). You can watch all of the happenings of the events I’m about to summarize here, which you should because I’m not going to be able to do any of this justice (but it would be cool if you still read it too).

Dave Monks from Iron Monk Brewing and Glenn Hall from Renaissance Brewing filled the next slot by talking through some of their trials and tribulations of opening a brewery in Oklahoma. They discussed the fun times that were had dealing with proper zoning, licenses and all the other red tape involved in getting their respective businesses up and running. A nice focus was also put on their ability to reach out to some established breweries (their eventual competition) and how willing those breweries were to help. Again, we are dealing with super cool people here.

Kevin Douglas Hall was up next and was representing LOCAL (League of Oklahomans for Change in Alcohol Laws). He outlined North Carolina’s somewhat recent law reform including upping the ABV limit for beer produced and sold within the state (it was freaking 6%, by the way) and how it increased revenues for the local economy and influenced other states to examine their own jacked up laws and make some changes.

Patrick Lively then spoke for a bit on the national beer scene, quoting some numbers about how many craft breweries there are now vs the past, and talking about all the craft brewery purchases that took place in 2015.  I was walking from the car at this point and missed some of it, sorry Patrick.

After a break it was time for the headliner (for lack of a better term), Senator Stephanie Bice. She’s been a HUGE proponent for law reform in the state, and it’s great to have someone like her fighting the good fight for something that not only makes life more convenient for consumers wanting great products to drink, but will also help bring more money into the state and to the breweries and businesses that we love. I wrote down a couple of notes while she was talking, but they wouldn’t really do her talk much service, so if you click this it’ll go right to her introduction, so you should just go watch that.

Micki Bell from Prairie Artisan Ales got to follow the Senator, and dropped some legit statistics on the impact that the craft beer industry had in 2014. The stats were a result of an economic impact study carried out via a partnership with the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and Travis Roach, a professor of Economics at the university. The official stats will be in Monday, but we know that there was north of 400 million dollars in economic activity from the craft beer industry that year and Oklahoma ranked 6th nationally in compensation for employees in the industry. 6th! “Oklahoma is a breeding ground for beer” Bell said, and I could not agree more.

Adam Marshall from Marshall Brewing Company brought everything back around and discussed the current state of the laws and did a great job summarizing pain points that brewers in the state face such as not being able to sell full strength products to consumers at the brewery. “We all sell a great product, let’s sell a great experience at the same time”, he said. He also voiced frustrations at the stronghold that huge brands can put on distribution but providing incentives for distributors which result in an uneven playing field for local brewers.

My note taking started to peter out about this point, but as the last speaker concluded, Patrick stepped back in and made an exciting announcement: A new collaboration brew is on the horizon and will feature the talents of 405 Brewing, Prairie, Iron Monk, Coop, Marshall, Anthem, and Renaissance. It will be called Collaboration for Legislation Pale Ale and will mark (we think) the first time a state’s craft brewers association has produced a beer together in which the income from the beer will go directly back toward promoting that state’s legislation for alcohol reform. The beer will be brewed on January 19th in Krebs and will be available on draft only in each collaborator’s taprooms as well as many local bars.

The evening concluded with a panel made up of Bell from Prairie, Trae Carson from 405, Blake Jarolim from COOP, and Emily Orcutt, Executive Director of the Craft Brewer’s Guild. At this point I was done taking notes and was just enjoying the conversation, but one thing stood out to me above all others. It was a very impactful response from Trae which, to me at least, perfectly served to cap the night and put a bow on why all those people were there. I don’t even remember the question, but he talked about the difficulties he and Jonathan Stapleton, his partner at 405, faced while starting their brewery. He mentioned all the money it took, much more than they thought, and that walking away from a job to “be poor” and brew beer was such a humbling experience and it really taught him what was important, and what he could live without . He joked about never paying Jonathan for being his therapist as he bounced frustrations and stress off of him, and ultimately echoed a point made by others that these brewers aren’t in this to get rich, they are in it to do something they love, and for the friendship they share. It was kind of intense, but it was awesome, and I’m glad I got to hear it.

Alright, it’s late and I’m going to bed. There are probably a crap ton of typos in this post, but whatever, I wanted to get it written while the impact and memories were still fresh, and now I don’t super want to go back and proof read all of it. It’s a blog, I can do whatever I want. Below are a few crummy pics I took tonight on my phone (I feel like a douche sometimes carrying my camera around in crowded bars) so check those out and make sure to watch the video for anything that I glossed over that seems interesting.


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