I’m starting up a new feature on the blog this morning: the Oklahoma Beer Roundtable. I’ve posed some serious and not-so-serious questions to some of the movers and shakers in the Oklahoma craft beer scene.
Joining me for the inaugural OBR are Wes Alexander, director of sales and marketing for Marshall Brewing Co.; Matt Anthony, brewmaster and founder of Anthem Brewing Co.; Blaine Stansel, CEO, sales director and chief keg washer at Rougthail Brewing Co.; and Gail White, owner/operator of The Brew Shop homebrew supply store in Oklahoma City.
What did I learn from this? Don’t ask brewers to pick a favorite bar.
Let’s see what everyone had to say.
1. The Thirsty Beagle: I recently read a report that 23 craft breweries have opened in London in the past year alone, and obviously the numbers continue to grow here in the U.S. as well. A lot of people argue that the bubble will eventually burst. How long do you think this growth rate can continue?
Blaine Stansel: If you look historically at bubbles, it is consumers overvaluing certain goods. I won’t go into all the reasons why craft beer prices are not overvalued, but suffice it to say that craft beer is properly valued. I think that a bubble is different than too many breweries opening up and failing due to unsustainability of a market. On one hand, you are talking about actual demand versus too many breweries opening because of the anticipation of increased demand/unmet demand. I think as long as the growth rate of new breweries does not greatly exceed the growth in craft beer sales you would not see a massive fallout. Because craft beer for the most part is very localized compared to other industries, if an overextension does occur in one area it may not affect another area. In summary I don’t see a widespread decline in the craft beer segment or large numbers of craft breweries going out of business anytime soon, especially in lower breweries-per-capita areas such as Oklahoma.
Gail White: I think as long as craft beer drinkers are supporting new breweries, we will continue to see more growth. I don’t see the bubble bursting anytime soon.
Matt Anthony: I think it can keep going for a long time, but I think the days of new breweries growing into giant regional breweries are coming to a close. There are enough beer drinkers out there to support all the new breweries, it’s just going to be on a smaller, more local scale as time goes on.
Wes Alexander: Who cares when the bubble bursts? Craft beer is here to stay. More craft beer drinkers are joining the militia. The rest is up to quality, consistency and business practices.
2. TTB: We get spring beers in January, summer beers in March and fall beers in July — do you think the seasonal offerings are coming out too early these days? Do you care?
Blaine: It’s really tough for some of these large breweries to pick a great time to release seasonals, as different regions of the country/world have different climates, so for that reason it doesn’t bother me.
Gail: A good beer is a good beer no matter what time of the year!
Matt: The “seasonal creep” is getting a little silly. It’s bad enough when big-box stores do it with holiday decorations. You run the risk of removing the specialness of seasonals.
Wes: Early-release seasonals is a sales strategy that produces mixed results. Take the case of Oktoberfest-style beers being released in July. They have an initial sell through from being new, but slow as the actual season arrives. Justification is that Oktoberfest-style beers do not sell past October. We found this to be true in our first year when “Novemberfest” was a slow mover. As the consumer learns that seasonal selections are more widely available over a longer period of time, the early-to-market limited release approach makes less sense. Personally, I want to drink a zippy summer beer in the damn summer and know that it is fresh, not brewed in January!
3. TTB: What’s your favorite local bar or restaurant to grab a beer?
Blaine: No comment.
Gail: I would have to say McNellie’s in MidTown. Good beer selection, decent pub food and comfortable atmosphere.
Matt: That’s too hard to answer. I’d just say any that carry as many Oklahoma breweries as possible. Those are my favorite.
Wes: Ha! Nice try Trougakos. I love all bars and restaurants that sell craft beer equally.
4. TTB: What’s your go-to food-and-beer combination for hitting the couch and watching football?
Blaine: Probably burgers and IPAs.
Gail: It would have to be COOP F5 and nachos!
Matt: What is this “football” you speak of? Now, if you’re talking a Portlandia marathon, then chicken tikka masala and Tallgrass Velvet Rooster.
Wes: I love BBQ and was famously part of a poorly performing KCBS team called “Bossy Wives BBQ.” As such, I love American pale ales/IPAs with BBQ. I like spicy, zippy BBQ with heavy smoke. That kind of couch cuisine needs a beer that can stand up to bold flavors and not disappear between the couch cushions like so many light fizzy lagers.
5. TTB: Your house is burning down and you have time to save either your extensive bottle collection or your super-expensive homebrew set-up. Which do you save?
Blaine: I don’t have an extensive bottle collection because I have no self control, so my not-so-expensive homebrew setup.
Gail: The extensive bottle collection for sure! I could always make/buy another homebrew set-up but most of the bottle collection is irreplaceable.
Matt: I’d probably get pretty thirsty from all the flames and smoke, so I’m saving the beer.
Wes: I only sell/drink beer, no brewing for me. You would think I had an extensive bottle collection except for the fact that I have no self-control and consume my collection after a max of two weeks of cellaring.