Thursday, June 23, 2011

Some Oklahoma Beers

A couple of years ago on a family visit to Tulsa, I finally discovered the glories of Choc Beer, a brewery with a colorful history dating back 90 years located in the small town of Krebs, Oklahoma.  I'm in Tulsa right now, and I decided to branch out a little further while I'm here and check out a few more local beers.

My favorite so far is the Washita Wheat -- pretty bold to insert a four-letter word into the name of your beer -- from Mustang Brewing.  It successfully walks the line between lighter American wheat beers and German hefeweizens, with some of the yeasty banana notes you'd expect in the latter, but with a lighter touch and not as carbonated.  A very refreshing summertime beer.  Oops, turns out it's contract-brewed in Wisconsin by Stevens Point, but the label makes a point of saying it's brewed with Oklahoma red wheat.

Another wheat beer I tried is Choc's Waving Wheat -- more in the witbier category.  Another good choice for summer, though I think I'd just as soon go for Choc's cloudier, yeastier flagship 1919.

On the stronger side, I thought the Native Amber from Oklahoma City's COOP Aleworks was a pretty good stab at a Northwest Red.  Malty and bitter, over 6% ABV, it reminded me a little of Ninkasi Believer, though I would have liked to had a little more aroma from the hops, and dial the astringency back a little. Extra credit awarded for selling this in tall boy cans (4-packs).  The brewery has been around for 2 or 3 years, but they only started canning beer in the fall of 2010.  I'll be interested to see how they're doing next time I'm in the area.

The Marshall Brewing Company in Tulsa bottles several of their beers: the one I tried was McNellie's Pub Amber, which they bill as a Best Bitter "with a New World twist".  I guess the twist is extra hops; it struck me as more of an American Pale Ale than a bitter, but let's not get hung up on styles too much.  This was pretty good, a pretty orange-brown ale, malty and fruity with some hop bite at the end.

Everyone enjoys complaining about the liquor laws in their state, but Oklahomans have more right to complain than we do in Oregon.  Of course they have the much-detested three-tier distribution -- I think they actually have a fourth tier, at least for out-of-state products, since a "broker" must import the beverage and then sell it to the wholesalers -- but the restrictions on beer and wine are particularly silly.  Beer up to 3.2% ABW (that's about 4% ABV) can be sold in grocery stores, but all other beer and wine is only sold in liquor stores.  Worse, the liquor stores are not allowed to sell strong beer cold, which is not just inconvenient, but can be a quality control issue for slow-moving products that sit on the shelf for a while, like the surprise six-pack of Bridgeport ESB I found on my first day in town.

I did a backflip in the liquor store when I saw that Bridgeport ESB on the shelf.  By the time it finally dawned on me earlier this year that Bridgeport had discontinued their ESB, it was too late, it was all off the shelves around Portland.  Six months later, here I was in Tulsa looking at an unopened case of ESB, two unopened cases of Bridgeport Blackstrap Stout, a few loose six-packs of each, and even a six-pack of Haymaker, also retired.  There were no date markings I could decipher on the bottles, but the front of the ESB case was sun-faded, and I found a sticker on the Stout case indicating it was shipped in December 2009.  Those are bottle-conditioned beers, so they could be all right, but the lack of refrigeration for 18 months in such a warm climate did not inspire confidence.  I did buy a six of the ESB -- which I always thought was far better on tap than in the bottle anyway -- and it had clearly suffered but was not entirely undrinkable.

Over the years I've been accustomed to thinking of Oklahoma as a beer wasteland, but things are definitely changing for the better here.  Like the license plates used to say, Oklahoma is OK!


  1. I trade sometimes with a guy over there, and have received plenty from Choc beer. I really feel their wheat beers are the stand outs. I really liked them. So far from Marshal, I think i have only tried the Atlas IPA which was in a wax dipped bomber. I really enjoyed that beer.

  2. Bill,

    Is it a problem for you that the beer is contract brewed in WI?


  3. @kd: Not a problem, but I am trying to check out beers brewed in Oklahoma while I'm here. I probably still would have tried it just for the wheat and the name.


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