Barrels and Mash Field Trip: COOP Ale Works

COOP Ale Works has been producing some great Oklahoma beer for years now. Last week Justin and I got the chance to hang out and drink a few with JD, co-founder and owner, and discuss where the brewery has been and where it’s going.

We started out by walking around the brewery which is lined with what seem like skyscrapers made out of empty cans waiting to be filled. It was a super cool sight as the vibrant packaging really stood out and framed the whole brewery in bright red, yellow, green and brown.

COOP first started production in January of 2009 with their first brews hitting the shelf that March. At the time there was only 1 full-time employee with 3 part-timers and less than 60 barrels worth of fermenters on the floor. Last April COOP moved to its current location in West OKC and expanded the operation to its current state, which now houses fermenters amounting to 780 barrels. We strolled around the fermenters as JD walked us through their current production stats, stating that they expect to produce between 10,000 and 12,000 barrels of beer in 2015, with the potential to crank out almost 16,000 next year.

I got really excited as we passed by a stack of barrels and started talking through the deliciousness that filled them. DNR, COOP’s big and strong Belgian ale, filled the majority of the casks. Things got interesting once we gave them a closer look and saw the variety of aging that was going on. DNR was spread across Heaven Hill rye barrels, Heaven Hill 5-year old bourbon barrels, and tequila barrels. I can’t wait to scoop these up and taste the differences between those rye and bourbon aged releases. Above the DNR was the always fantastic Territorial Reserve Stout hanging out in some 12-year Elijah Craig barrels (also from Heaven Hill). The Territorial Reserve should be out by Christmas this year, and the DNR releases will be out “when they are ready”… I hope it’s really freakin’ soon. Behind us stood another small stack of barrels, much brighter and less worn than your typical whiskey barrel…these were Chardonnay casks. In them rests a sour that is brewed with persimmons which will be released in fancy-sounding cork and caged bottles complete with ceramic silk-screened labels. Hey, guess what, I’m excited about this release too. As I lusted over the contents in the barrels before us, the finishing touches were being put on the brewery’s brand new barrel room. The room was being painted bright red and will host some cool illumination which will draw great focus to their barrel aging process. According to a social media post I saw a couple of days ago, the room is already housing those barrels and will provide more space for future aging.

As we journeyed into COOP’s cold room to check out the array of kegs and cans ready to be shipped out, we talked about their venture into the world of 3.2 beers last year. COOP released a few low-point brews to the market last Thanksgiving and so far they seem to be paying off and gaining momentum each day. JD estimated that the 3.2 sales comprise between a fifth and a quarter of COOPs sales with Oklahoma’s 3 Whole Foods locations being the line’s biggest client.

After the walk-around we posted up in the COOP tap room and went through a few of the offerings they had on tap. Justin and I started with the Raspberry Saison, which was very well balanced with a nice edge of tartness, super refreshing given the heat outside that day (Justin went as far as to say it’s probably his favorite 3.2 in the state). Next was the Octoberfest lager, which will be canned in September and released shortly thereafter. Then things kind of digressed and the conversation shifted to what we feel will be a growing trend to watch: beer cocktails. JD whipped us up some FDRs which contained 60% F5 IPA and 40% DNR, then an as-of-yet-unnamed mix (maybe it should be called a Barrels and Mash, wink-wink) that consisted of 60% F5 and 40% Gran Sport Porter. It tasted kind of like a Black IPA, except that I really liked it (go home, black IPAs). I recommend trying these things out, and coming up with your own, it’s pretty damn fun.

Thanks again to JD and COOP for having us out. We had a blast, and will be back soon to pick up some Crowlers (if you don’t know what that is, Google it up) of their ever evolving list of beers.

You can find all of our COOP related posts and reviews here.

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