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Meet Oklahoma's newest brewers: Black Mesa Brewing

by Nick Trougakos Published: July 31, 2012

The list of Oklahoma brewers shipping beer to local bars will grow by one in the coming days, as the state’s newest brewing company, Black Mesa Brewing, moves its beers to market. The Thirsty Beagle interviewed Black Mesa’s Brad Stumph recently, check it out:

The Thirsty Beagle: Let’s start off with a little bit of a role call. Who makes up Black Mesa and what are your titles?

Brad Stumph: Black Mesa is a three-man operation at this time. Titles are a bit amorphous while we’re in the start-up phase. We’re really just three guys trying to take a step beyond being craft beer enthusiasts and make our own contribution to the Oklahoma community. We all brew, promote, and pick up slack where needed. Chris Sanders gets to claim the title of head brewer. If you’re dealing with our social media, you’re likely to talk with Chris Taveau. But Taveau is also Brewer No. 2, who you are likely to hear more from with our more creative seasonal releases. I am Brewer No. 3 and so usually get relegated to the business end of things.

TTB: So you guys are involved with OKCity Brewing, correct? How does that work? Are you leasing fermenter space?

Brad: Yes, we brew at OKCity Brewing along with Redbud and Anthem. We basically rent the use of all brewing equipment. It’s a great arrangement. OKCity Brewing acts as a brewery incubator, and we have a way to contribute to all that is happening in the Oklahoma craft beer scene much sooner than if we had had to build our own brewery first.

TTB: Let’s step back a minute and talk about the creation of Black Mesa. Was it one person’s brainchild? Why did you guys decide to do this?

Brad: I’d say it was more of a realization of possibilities than any one person’s brainchild. Chris’ beer has always gone over well at tastings and backyard gatherings. I always offer to pour because I get almost as much enjoyment out of talking beer with people as I do the beer itself, even if I am a tad bit jealous of Chris’ skills.

So we’ve known that we have two of the three ingredients we need to start-up brewery:  1) Delicious beers, 2) at least one person willing to tell everyone how delicious the beers are.  That left just one barrier: start-up capital. Then we stumbled on Kickstarter.com. It’s a micro-investing site for those interested in funding new creative endeavors and a handful of breweries around the country have been funded. The guys over at Fubelly have agreed to help us create a video profile. They do great work for the OKC food and beverage scene.

So, we need just a little help getting a foothold (but we’ve got a fair bit of skin in the game at this point) and hope the craft beer drinkers among us will join the cause. If Portland can support 40 breweries, there’s got to be room for at least one more in Oklahoma, right? Demand it people! Demand it!

We’re just excited to be part of all that going on in the OK craft beer scene and OKC in general. If we can be one more reason that people are proud of their city or state, we say, “Cheers to that!”

TTB: Let’s talk about the beer. What kind of/how many styles will you make?

Brad: Our first two releases will be a Blonde and a Pale Ale which will be out shortly. We will add a Porter to our line-up in the fall and also release our first seasonal in the fall.

TTB: Can you give an idea of what the Blonde and Pale Ale will be like?

Brad: A note about our beer philosophy that will help explain what we are shooting for:  The perfect beer in our eyes is one that will have the complexity to be appreciated by the choir but is drinkable enough to grow the congregation. We think that balanced beers are the way to achieve that goal. Chris is an amazing brewer that has a knack for creating beers with layers of malt complexity that are perfectly balanced with the hop bitterness so that they finish clean and crisp.

Our Blonde is best described as an American Blonde Ale. It has this very subdued fruitiness (almost floral) that is first detected in the aroma and also provide the initial flavor profiles which give way to distinctively German malts that are the heart of the beer. It finishes crisp with a slight spice note. It’s how Black Mesa does summer.

Our Pale Ale is a pale ale in more the Euro sense of the word than the current hop-forward American state of things. Hop heads may not get what they’re expecting if Sierra Nevada is their gold standard; but if a well-balanced pale ale like Mirror Pond (I know, not Euro) is what you crave, you’re going to enjoy our pale. Biscuity and caramel notes dominate, but the hint of grapefruit imparted by the hops make this pale ale thirst-quenching. Craft beer drinkers will appreciate a return to a sessionable beer in this style. Those who haven’t yet ventured beyond wheats and blondes will get an introduction to the delicious world of hops and still be able to taste their next pint.

TTB: Are all three of you regular working guys? Do any or all hope to move to the beer biz full time at some point?

Brad: Chris Sanders, our head brewer, is a retired firefighter. He also flips properties when he sees a good opportunity. Chris Taveau, an assistant brewer, works in furniture sales; and I am in the environmental consulting business. We all are looking forward to the day when enough people are enjoying our brews that we have no choice but to go full time.

TTB: When can beer drinkers expect to see Black Mesa brews?

Brad: Our Blonde will be on taps around OKC and Tulsa around August 4th or 5th.  Our Pale Ale will follow by about two weeks.

TTB: Will it be keg-only at first? Are there plans to bottle/can eventually?

Brad: Yes, keg-only at first. We will bottle eventually, but the bottling line at OKCity Brewing is still under construction. Once it’s operational, we plan to release our seasonals in the bomber bottles and the year-round brews in the standard 12oz. bottles.

TTB: How long do you plan to hang at OKCity Brewing, and further on down the road, do you hope to open your own brewing facility?

Brad: Of course we would like to have our own facility eventually; but right now we have the perfect situation for a fledgling brewery, so we’re not trying to put a timeline on our tenure at OKCity Brewing. We let the folks at OKCity Brewing worry about the mechanics of maintaining a brewery so that our brew staff of three can put all of our focus into developing and delivering delicious brews. I’m willing to say there has never been a better time to be a craft beer drinker in OKC. How exciting is it that the craft beer scene is now at a level where you have a business that has sprung up to basically serve as micro-brewery incubator?

TTB: Is there anything you’d like to tell me about Black Mesa that I haven’t asked?

Brad: A little background on the logo is a good way to wrap things up. Black Mesa is the highest point in Oklahoma. By sharing our brewery name with the state’s highest point, we are hoping to encourage people to explore OK beer and OK’s out-of-the-way places. The color scheme of the logo is also intentionally Okie-centric: blue sky, golden wheat, red earth. Tolkien fans may recognize that, “All who wander are not lost” is a paraphrase of a line in a Tolkien poem, “…Not all those who wander are lost…”.  It’s not that Chris or I are huge Tolkien fans, but we think the phrase captures the spirit of exploration. Chris is a career firefighter. I am a wildlife biologist. Black Mesa would have never happened if we didn’t allow ourselves a little room to wander.

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by Nick Trougakos
Local Editor
Local Editor Nick Trougakos has been with The Oklahoman since 2002. Trougakos covered the military, federal agencies and courts before becoming an editor in 2005. Prior to joining The Oklahoman, Trougakos was a reporter for the Oklahoma City...
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