Greg Powell will serve you a Bud Light if you really want one.
But Powell, the general manager at TapWerks Ale House in Bricktown, might be just as likely to stage a beer intervention.
Given the chance, he'll recommend a craft beer — especially one brewed in a small batch by an Oklahoma brewer.
That's exactly the type of drink beer enthusiasts will be able to sample Saturday at the third annual Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival. The beer-tasting event — set in the parking lot next door to TapWerks, 121 E Sheridan Ave. — will feature more than 200 beers from roughly 50 breweries, including all of Oklahoma's licensed brewers.
Powell said this year's festival will be the largest to date, with as many as 2,000 expected to converge on Bricktown for the event. The growth of the festival in some ways mirrors that of the state's craft beer scene, with new breweries popping up every few months.
“You go to other quote-unquote beer cities, like Portland, and they have like ... 40 breweries for that one city,” Powell said. “It's cool to see Oklahoma City, and Oklahoma in general, getting to that point.”
One of the new local breweries to pop up is Roughtail Brewing Co., which opened its commercial brewhouse earlier this year in Midwest City. Roughtail will offer samples at this year's festival, said head brewer Tony Tielli, who attended the first Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival in 2011.
“We attended that and it was so cool to actually have an event like that here, in the city, in the state,” Tielli said. “It was a blast. We got to try a ton of great beers. It really was one of the fundamental things that spurred on the craft beer movement here in the city.”
Tielli said the taste of beer drinkers in the state is changing and maturing.
“It seems like there's a lot of people out there that are thirsty for this stuff, and are really looking for flavorful craft beers,” he said. “I'm just really excited that we can be just a little, small part of that.”
Tielli's business partner, Roughtail CEO Blaine Stansel, said the festival offers a huge opportunity for a startup brewery like theirs to garner public attention.
“Not a lot of people know us yet,” Stansel said. “With the number of people that come to the craft beer event every year, it's a huge deal. Just getting our name out right now is the biggest thing for us.
“We just need people to be familiar with us, and so when they go to a bar they can ask for us. I think the Oklahoma Craft Beer Festival is going to really help us out in that aspect.”
The festival is essentially a centerpiece event for the state's craft beer movement, which has started to hit its stride in the past five years. In Oklahoma, nearly a dozen brewers have started business over the past five years — with several more in planning. In 2012, a brewing cooperative was opened in Oklahoma City. It's home to three of the state's craft beer makers.
Small batches crafted
Unlike much of the beer available in grocery stores — brewed by giant corporations in massive batches — craft beer is known for being created in small batches, and often by local brewers using high-quality ingredients. Craft beer often features distinctive flavors and more progressive use of hops, one of the main ingredients in beer. Hops can impart myriad combinations of bitterness, flavor and aroma to beer. Stansel said that flavor-forward approach and attention to quality and detail is winning fans over.
“It seems like every week there's a new craft-centric bar opening up,” he said. “They're springing up all around the city. You're seeing new bars that are focusing specifically on craft, and really specifically on local beers. It's great for us, for the local guys. I think that's only going to keep growing.”
Powell said he hopes his event helps push the movement forward even more.
“The beer culture's just a great culture,” he said. “It's good people. Having seen that grow here in Oklahoma is a lot of fun.”