Southwest Brewing News April/May 2010 : Page 1
The “O” IS FOR OUTLAW S By Ben Wermund Steam rises off a swirling oatmeal-like substance, out of an open square hatch near the top of a large gold cauldron. Inside, boiling water breaks down grains, releasing sugars to become alcohol. “Today we’re making a hefeweizen,” says Ty Phelps, standing on a large metal INSIDE Calendar of Events .............................2 Crafty Brewers .................................6 Best of Show: English Dark Mild...........8 Who Benefits from Dry Counties?........10 Queen of Quaff .................................11 Business of Beer.................................31 Southwestern States for Craft Breweries platform, looking into his mixture of wheat and barley. Phelps is the head brewer at North by Northwest, a brewpub in Austin, Texas. He is overseeing today’s brewing process, about 310 gallons of beer, and has overseen the brewing of the eight varieties of beer that fi ll eight huge sil- ver kegs, stacked two-by-two opposite the gold cauldron. See Best and Worst p. 4 State by State News Kansas.......................12 N./Central NMexico ....13 S. NMexico/SW Texas..14 Central Arizona .........20 S. & N. Arizona...........21 S. Central Texas ........22 Austin .......................23 N. Texas..............24 Louisiana.............25 Oklahoma...........25 Arkansas .............26 Nevada...............28 S. California.......29 San Diego...........30 OK OUTLAW. Rick Huebert fears no challenge - here reconditioning his new bottler at Huebert Brewery in Oklahoma City, OK. hough it can claim only a relatively brief chronicle as a state, having been welcomed into the union barely more than 100 years ago, Oklahoma has a long and storied history as both a birthplace and a refuge for the most notorious collection of rag- tag, bloodthirsty and contemptuous renegades, ruffians and desperados. Following the Land Run of 1889, the fledgling communities T that quickly sprouted across the plain were known more for their gambling and gunfi ghts than their small town charm. Like PHOTO BY: MICHAEL KELEHAR ILLUSTRATION BY HANS GRANHEIM the swirling winds of a late summer tempest, this free-spirited lawlessness corraled many of the Midwest’s most odious scofflaws and miscreants in the Oklahoma and Indian ter- ritories. From the unlikely exploits of Cattle Annie and Little Britches to their close pal Bill Doolin, who began his life of crime in a deadly dispute with two deputies sent to quell his illegal keg party, to Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen, to the Barker Gang, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, (also known as “Choc” for his love of the Okla- homa beer), to the rebellious Bonnie Parker See Outlaw p. 5 By Michael Kelehar BEST andWORST ILLUSTRATION BY HANS GRANHEIM
Southwestern States For Craft Breweries
Steam rises off a swirling oatmeal-like substance, out of an open square hatch near the top of a large gold cauldron. Inside, boiling water breaks down grains, releasing sugars to become alcohol.
“Today we’re making a hefeweizen,” says Ty Phelps, standing on a large metal platform, looking into his mixture of wheat and barley.
Phelps is the head brewer at North by Northwest, a brewpub in Austin, Texas. He is overseeing today’s brewing process, about 310 gallons of beer, and has overseen the brewing of the eight varieties of beer that fi ll eight huge silver kegs, stacked two-by-two opposite the gold cauldron Tubes connect the silver kegs to smaller gold ones standing behind the bar near the entrance of the restaurant. Beer flows into the gold kegs as customers order it at the bar.
By Texas law, those kegs are the only place from which anyone can purchase North by Northwest beer. Since the end of Prohibition, Texas has had a three-tier system when it comes to the sale of alcohol
- brewpubs like North by Northwest can only sell beer in-store. They cannot sell their beer to a distributor or a retailer.
“When the law was changed to allow brewpubs, the distribution lobby wanted to make sure they didn’t feel threatened or lose any money,” Phelps said. “The only way they were going to be OK with us being in existence was so we only sell onsite.” Likewise, microbreweries - popping up across Central Texas, from Live Oak Brewery to Real Ale - must go through a separate distributor, who then sells to a retailer. It is illegal for microbreweries to sell onsite.Land of 3.2 Texas is not the only state in the Southwest where laws have had trouble keeping up with the growing popularity of craft brewing, making it out of the Prohibition age that ended nearly a century ago. In Oklahoma, homebrewing is illegal and beer with a greater alcohol content than
3. 2 percent must be purchased in a liquor store and cannot be bought cold.
Eric Marshall, owner of Marshall Brewing, a brewery in Tulsa, Okla., said his brewery mostly sticks to 3.2 beer because of this, which greatly limits brewing options.
“Oklahoma definitely has some screwy laws - every state has their screwy laws,” Marshall said. “The 3.2 thing is really weird. It definitely hinders what you can and can’t do. I don’t know many 3.2 double IPAs out there and I’m sure that wouldn’t be too good.” Like Texas’ three-tier system, the 3.2 law stems from Prohibition.
“It’s some sort of throwback to post- Prohibition bullshit,” Marshall stated. “For the longest time nobody cared enough to change it.” When the law was created, 3.2 beer was considered a non-intoxicating beverage
- and continues to be to the extent that it can still be purchased in some “dry” counties.
“Try explaining that one to highway patrol,” Marshall retorted.
But microbreweries and brewpubs are gaining popularity in Oklahoma too and Marshall said this could lead to the laws finally changing.
“With anything on that end it always takes time for people to actually care. If enough people talk to their legislators
- they’re out for votes, so they’ll listen,” Marshall said. “As more people care and more people are passionate - states like North Carolina have been putting together grassroots movements effective in popping their cap. A lot of that was caused because a lot of people cared once they started seeing what was going on in the craft industry.
Marshall was unsure of how realistic a swift change like North Carolina’s could be in Oklahoma, though.
“In Oklahoma, will it happen anytime soon?
I have no idea,” he stated. “We have to play neutral, just because it is the way it is. But a couple more breweries pop up and it gets people excited and they want to see the laws change.” Learn from Arkansas In Arkansas, grassroots movements have successfully reshaped the legal landscape in just the last decade. Russ Melton, president of Diamond Bear Brewing in Little Rock, Ark., and president of the Arkansas Brewer’s Guild, said Arkansas is now one of the most progressive states in the region.
The change began in 1999 when microbrewing and homebrewing were first legalized in the state. Since then laws have progressed rapidly. In addition to onsite tasting, it’s now legal to sell beer to-go at breweries in quantities as small as a pint and as large as a keg - selling through a distributor is entirely optional. Unlike the “non-intoxicating” 3.2 beer of Oklahoma, Arkansas breweries can make up to 21% alcohol beer. Breweries can also sample their beers at retailers with liquor licenses.
In 2007, tax laws were even changed, removing state excise taxes from the first 25,000 barrels a brewery brews.
“That’s a big deal,” Melton informed.
“That’s money in the pocket you can put back in the brewery to get your feet off the ground.” In 2009, it became legal to sell beer on Sundays on-premises and to-go during brewery tours, which Melton said can generate a lot of money.
“Even though we’re not in the retail business, tours generate business just not even trying,” he said. “It’s frustrating having a tour and not even being able to cover expenses. Being able to sell beer when people come in for tours makes that a viable option. I didn’t do [Sunday] tours until we were able to sell on Sunday - I wasn’t going to do a tour and lose money every Sunday.” Melton said victories like Arkansas’ are possible across the Southwest.
“The biggest couple of things I would encourage breweries to do is get really connected with local communities and local politicians,” he said. “If they know you and see what you bring to the table and community, they’ll have a tendency to support you.” Melton said his brewer’s guild only has three brewpubs in it and they’ve been able to reform the way the state government views their industry so much that the state’s first lady christened some of his breweries tanks when he expanded the business.
“We went from having some of the worst laws in the country to some of the most progressive laws in the country over the last 10 years,” he said. “You don’t have to be big, but you have to be active and connected.” Like the varying stages of different craft brews, each state has its own laws and layers of bureaucracy to taste and correct.
It appears that Oklahoma and Texas are the worst Southwest states for craft breweries, Arkansas and New Mexico (see sidebar) are the best. Craft brewers who just want to make and sell good beer may have to learn to work with politicians in order to change the rules in their states so they can.
“O” IS For Outlaw
Though it can claim only a relatively brief chronicle as a state, having been welcomed into the union barely more than 100 years ago, Oklahoma has a long and storied history as both a birthplace and a refuge for the most notorious collection of ragtag, bloodthirsty and contemptuous renegades, ruffi ans and desperados.
Following the Land Run of 1889, the fl edgling communities that quickly sprouted across the plain were known more for their gambling and gunfi ghts than their small town charm. Like the swirling winds of a late summer tempest, this free-spirited lawlessness corraled many of the Midwest’s most odious scoffl aws and miscreants in the Oklahoma and Indian territories.
From the unlikely exploits of Cattle Annie and Little Britches to their close pal Bill Doolin, who began his life of crime in a deadly dispute with two deputies sent to quell his illegal keg party, to Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen, to the Barker Gang, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, (also known as “Choc” for his love of the Oklahoma beer), to the rebellious Bonnie Parker Barrow. All, at one time or another, either called Oklahoma home or found “employment” there.
Now not all Oklahoma outlaws claimed bank robbery, cattle rustling or other skullduggery as their chosen profession. In the early teens (nineteen-teens, not the twentyteens, God forbid), Italian immigrant Pete Prichard (nee Pietro Piegari) limped out of an eastern Oklahoma coal mine to become the state’s fi rst master brewer. Borrowing a recipe from the local Choctaw tribe and taking full advantage of an abundant supply of the native wheat crop, Pete established a thriving business selling “Choc” beer to the mining community around Krebs, Okla. And when Oklahoma enthusiastically embraced the 18th Amendment in 1920 (Prohibition), Pete Prichard simply went “underground” and continued his beer business at his popular restaurant, Pete’s Place.Brew or Bust And so it was, 100 years after the state’s fi rst electric street car clicked and clanged through Oklahoma City, (late night service was rejected as a way to discourage after-hours excessive drinking), that another outlaw-Oklahoman sought employment in the Sooner state. So what happens when a precocious young college student, Oklahoma born and bred, too young to legally drink beer, determines to eschew the usual fake i.d. or paying his older friends to buy beer? He decides to brew his own, of course.
Now this was before the establishment of any of the state’s exceptional homebrew shops. Because homebrewing was illegal in the state (as it remains at this writing), homebrewing shared more in common with moonshining than the current popular hobby we all now share and love. Inspired by an illegally obtained Foster’s lager, this industrious and studious whippersnapper took full advantage of the stately and storied library anchoring the college campus...to study the art of brewing beer! Bellying up to the sales counter of the local feed store alongside fourth generation farmers and ranchers named Otis and Garvin, he legally purchased bushels of barley, which he surreptitiously steeped in his dormitory bathtub and roasted in a toaster oven. As he brewed and experimented and studied at the library, he joined three other like-minded gentlemen in forming the High Plains Draughters, the original Oklahoma City homebrew club.
“The knowledge base just wasn’t there back then [circa 1980s]. We felt like pioneers,” he recalls. While his budding brewing passion occupied much of his time, as did his scholastic studies, boys will continue to be boys.
It was at this time that Rick Huebert met his wife-to-be, Shaneen. “My aspiration is to own a brewery,” Huebert stoically informed her. “If you have a problem with that, you don’t want to be with me.” What may have been a relationship killer for most, proved to be an anchor for this young couple. Upon graduation, Huebert took a job as a tech at a food production plant. But beer was never far from his mind. He and Shaneen tithed a portion of each paycheck for their dream brewery. At times they referred to it as their “impossible dream.” For 10 years they grew a life together, all the while looking ahead to that moment in time when they could feasibly and fi scally take the plunge. As their nest egg grew and what once appeared to be impossible began to take some form, Huebert returned to the library to have a look at Oklahoma law. What he found did not encourage him. While the wine industry had made some strides in updating Oklahoma statutes, brewing lagged sadly behind. While this might have proven enough to snuff out the aspirations of some, Huebert was not and is not easily discouraged or deterred.
Contacting the offi ce of his state legislator, Senator Kathleen Wilcoxsen, he stated quite simply, “You are my Senator; I want some time.” In that meeting, joined by a lobbyist from the Oklahoma Malt Beverage Association, Huebert laid out his plans for his newly incorporated Huebert’s Brewing as well as the language for the bill that would make it possible. And so it was that SB 353 was drafted, argued and passed in 2003, legalizing the manufacture, retail and wholesale of low-point beer as well as the brewing and wholesale distribution of beer in excess of
3. 2. “There was a method to my madness,” Huebert recalls with a knowing smile. Indeed, he never doubted that he could rewrite Oklahoma law to allow his dream to move forward.
Tyme to Brew Locating his brewery in a warehouse just a block from the historic Oklahoma Opry, Rick Huebert fulfi lled his dream November 1, 2003 with the sale of his fi rst Old Tyme Lager. In year two he added his very popular Rock Hard Root Beer, becoming only the second known manufacturer of “hard” soft drinks. Shortly thereafter, he began brewing malt beverage based margarita and daiquiri mixes, which today constitute a sizable portion of the brewery’s revenue.
Huebert has expanded his beer menu as well, while never straying too far from his original recipes, favoring the crisp, fresh, drinkable American lager style. In 2007, Huebert met chef Fred Eisman at a popular Oklahoma City café. Today, Eisman remains Huebert’s most loyal and versatile employee, mastering every aspect of the process.
Huebert has little time or opportunity to refl ect on his realized dream though he readily admits brewing for a living has proven more diffi cult than he had imagined. “I would like to take the easy way, I just never found it,” he jokes. Seated comfortably behind a modest desk in his even more modest offi ce, Huebert has no regrets. He is hopeful that his recent purchase of a new (used) bottler and labeler will ease that burden so that he can devote more time to his true love, making beer. Well, that’s not right. His true love is the woman who didn’t blink when he fi rst stated, without regret or hesitation, his life’s goal. She has yet to blink.
Read the full article at http://swbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/%E2%80%9CO%E2%80%9D+IS+For+Outlaw/367653/35450/article.html.