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Oklahoma beer makers look past state lines to increase sales potential

Oklahoma brewers see out-of-state sales as a key component to business success.
BY NICK TROUGAKOS Modified: February 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm •  Published: February 8, 2013
/articleid/3753075/1/pictures/1947122">Photo - Mustang Brewing Co. brewmaster Gary Shellman, top, and assistant Eric Pennell work on a tank brewing beer at the OKCity Brewing Cooperative.
Mustang Brewing Co. brewmaster Gary Shellman, top, and assistant Eric Pennell work on a tank brewing beer at the OKCity Brewing Cooperative.

Schoelen, who recently purchased the OKCity Brewing cooperative as a home base for his brewing operations, said seeking new markets is vital to success.

“Increased distribution is a business strategy, not about vanity,” Schoelen said. “As much fun as it is to brew and sell beer, at the end of the day we are running a business.”

Schoelen said less than 5 percent of Mustang sales were outside Oklahoma in 2012. He expects that number to increase to as much as 20 percent by 2014.

“Growth in other states is integral for our volume/profitability equation,” he said.

While that bottom-line thinking is stressed, there is still some room for state pride, Alexander said.

“It is intensely gratifying to go to other markets and see your beer on shelves,” he said.

That sense of pride hits home for Chase Healey, who along with his younger brother, Colin Healey, make up Prairie Artisan Ales.

Last year, the Healeys inked a distributorship deal with Shelton Bros., a Massachusetts-based fine beer importer with clients around the country and globe. That arrangement will see Prairie distributed in roughly a dozen states this year, including New York and California, and in Denmark as well.

The arrangement with Shelton was a coup for the Healeys. Chase Healey served as brewmaster for two Oklahoma beer companies — COOP Ale Works and Redbud Brewing Co. — before joining up with his brother to launch Prairie last year. Prairie's beer is brewed by Chase Healey at Choc's brewhouse in Krebs, an arrangement known as gypsy brewing.

Scoring a deal with Shelton Bros. was a result of self-promotion through beer samples and the “cool factor” of Prairie, with its twenty-something brother team (Chase Healey is 28 and Colin Healey is 23) and boundary-pushing label designs, Chase Healey said.

“The timing with Prairie just seemed to work out,” he said. “I've wanted to work with (Shelton) for years as I am very inspired by their other brewers.”

Chase Healey said the idea that the product he makes in Oklahoma will have a national and international reach is something to be proud of.

“It's an honor, really,” he said. “I'm no more talented a brewer than anyone else in the state, so to give people that ‘This came from Oklahoma?' moment is pretty awesome.”


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