MIDWEST CITY — It started as a slow trickle, two or three people wandering into the taproom at Roughtail Brewing Co. every 30 minutes or so.
Roughtail co-founder Blaine Stansel admitted he was a little underwhelmed with the turnout the first couple hours Sunday, as the brewery opened its doors for the first public sales of its new 3.2 percent beer.
By the close of business at 8 p.m, however, several dozen customers had made their way to the Midwest City brewery, most buying a pint of Roughtail’s Jaragua Pale Ale or opting to have a larger glass bottle, or growler, filled with the hoppy, low-point beer to take home.
“Pretty good,” Stansel said of the turnout. “It was mainly the hardcore craft beer lovers, but we went through eight kegs of beer.”
Roughtail’s decision to produce and sell a so-called low-point beer — 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, or roughly 4 percent by volume — is evidence of an emerging trend in the Oklahoma beer market.
Instead of simply lamenting the fact that state law prohibits them from selling full-strength beer directly to the public, the state’s brewers are turning out a series of low-point beers that they can sell.
“I don’t see alcohol laws in Oklahoma changing anytime soon,” Stansel said, “so you’ve got to work within what you’ve got.”
Roughtail joins the likes of Choc Beer Co., in Krebs, Prairie Artisan Ales, in Tulsa, and Oklahoma City’s COOP Ale Works and Mustang Brewing Co. as full-strength beermakers that have sold low-point beer in one form or another.
“We can make 3.2 beer that’s really good,” said Tony Tielli, Roughtail’s brewmaster. “We can make something that’s flavorful that you drink. It doesn’t have to be watery American light lager.”
COOP Ale Works co-founder JD Merryweather said producing and selling low-point beer offers the brewery a chance to meet its customers, who normally would see COOP’s full-strength products at a liquor store or bar only.
For two years, COOP has been selling two to three lower-strength beers at the monthly H&8th street festival in Oklahoma City.
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3.2 is the norm
Some brewers in the state have been selling low-point beer for several years. One example is Oklahoma City’s Belle Isle Brewery, 1900 Northwest Expressway. All of the beer made on-premise is 3.2 percent by weight, and is available for sale by the glass or growler. Belle Isle Brewmaster Jack McDonald said they have been filling growlers since the pub opened in 1995, and consider such sales an important part of their business.
“Growlers are the only way people can take our beer home since we are a brewpub and don’t distribute,” McDonald said. “Drinking a couple pints on site at the brewpub is the most popular option, but we do see plenty ... leaving with a half-gallon growler of their favorite brew to enjoy at home.”