For the Love of Booze: The History of Barrels and Mash

Today is the anniversary of the first post here on Barrels and Mash, so I thought it would be nice to celebrate it by revisiting the history of why our little project here got started. Given that I love to ramble, this probably won’t be a short and sweet version of it either, so grab a nice beer or whiskey, settle in, and let my long-winded writing wash over you.

I’ve always had a thing for booze. On my 21st birthday my step-mother gave me $25 and I immediately took it to Joe’s Place in Norman and spent it on an Evan Williams Single Barrel gift pack that came with a sweet stainless steel glass (that I still totally have). I ended up carrying that bottle with me the whole day as my friends and I went out for my birthday celebrations, and it was empty before I went to bed that night. The second day of being 21 was a rough one.

A month or so later I got a job at Joe’s Place and made some great friends like Josh (currently the manager of Broadway Wine Merchants) who taught me all kinds of awesome things about beer, wine, and liqour. I worked there for almost 4 years as I drew out finishing my degree for as long as possible, and man I’m glad I did. One day in the spring of 2007 (my 6th and final year of college) a cute girl walked in to buy some Newcastle Brown Ale for a party, I awkwardly hit on her at the register as I rung her up, and eventually got her number on a brown paper bag. In one week from today we’ll be celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary.

Beer has always been a love of mine since the days when I worked at Joe’s and tried everything I could get my hands on, so I can’t nail down that one sip that started the journey, but I can on the Bourbon side. Obviously that Evan Williams Single Barrel will always hold a special place in my heart, but it was a bottle of Basil Hayden’s that got Kate sucked in, and rekindled my love of whiskey. It was the first whiskey I made her drink straight (and that she liked drinking straight), and it was the single bottle we had on the shelf when we decided to started our first little collection.

In 2014 we planned a vacation around our growing passion for Bourbon and hit the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky with our friends Jeff and Jennifer. Holy crap was that an eye-opening experience. We learned about all the different brands made from such a small number of distilleries. We had to figure out what was real and what was just clever marketing. We learned about NDPs and MGP, mash bills and yeast. It was a blast. We packed the car with as many bottles of Bourbon and beer as we could possibly fit and headed back with a new appreciation of the work and passion that goes into making those products. My obsession was in full swing.

I began spending an increasing amount of time on websites like Breaking Bourbon, Red White and Bourbon, Bourbonr, Sipp’n Corn, and The Chuck Cowdery Blog. I started reading books by Chuck Cowdery about the history of the Bourbon industry and was trying to absorb as much knowledge as I could on the subject. After many conversations with Kate where I was just rambling (shocker) about all the cool shit I was learning, it was obvious that I should just try my hand at my own little site.

Meanwhile, Jeff and I were spending most Thursdays drinking beers in my back yard, always trying to find new things and really focusing on the boom that seemed to be happening in the local beer scene. Oak & Ore in the Plaza District was jamming,  a new place called The Patriarch was about to open in downtown Edmond, and it seemed like breweries were coming out of the woodwork. Oklahoma beer obviously deserved a place in the site to help us stand out and allow us to try to promote the things going on around our state. After struggling to think of a name, Barrels and Mash was born. Jeff and I still drink beers most Thursdays, and he’s even written a few posts on the site.

Once the site was all fired up I realized I had this friend that kept a personal spreadsheet of every beer he had had since like 2008. On this sheet was a few thousand beers, complete with detailed tasting notes and thoughts. He’s into home brewing and was buddies with a few of the brewers in the area so I figured he might be interested in writing a thing here or there about beer on the site. A year later Justin has written close to 50 reviews and is a co-owner and the official “Beer Vizier” of Barrels and Mash. It’s been awesome to have Justin involved as he is crazy knowledgeable about beer and is able to be incredibly descriptive without coming off like a douche…that’s not an easy thing to pull off.

Kate creeped on Barrels and Mash for the first couple of months, helping me with tasting notes and research, all the while completely bought in to the project, but too shy to post her own full-on review. Finally she decided to jump in and we posted her first review last August. She’s written almost 40 reviews so far and brings her awesome and adorable personality to everything she writes, giving the site a tone it just wouldn’t have otherwise. Along with Justin and I, Kate is also now a co-owner of Barrels and Mash and acts as our resident “Bourbon Girl” and “Minister of Propaganda”.

So now here we are, 1 year and 185 posts later after buying and trying to figure out how to write reviews that don’t make me sound like a pretentious assbag. This site has given me the opportunity to meet a ton of new people, make some great new friends, host some super fun events, and has given this hobby and passion a true outlet. I don’t know what the future will hold for this project, but I know that I’m not really worried about it because no matter what it’ll be fun and we’ll get to drink lots of things with lots of cool people.

Holy shit, cheers to you if you made it this far. I warned you it wouldn’t be short and sweet, but over 1,000 words? Yikes! Don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of writing long things like this, but if you seriously did make it this far, thank you, and thanks for your support over the last year. We haven’t made any money yet doing this, it’s just labor of love, a hobby, and it wouldn’t have made it this far if people didn’t click on our posts and encourage us to write more. On behalf of us here at Barrels and Mash, cheers to you and to all the posts to come.

Hugs and kisses,


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