Long Pour Lager

I keep pretty close tabs on the trends in craft beer. The growth in craft breweries has been incredible, and we are finally seeing that growth hit Oklahoma with law reform that has taken down the challenging barriers to market entry for local breweries. All over the country we’re seeing innovative uses of ingredients both traditional and very non-traditional. Hazy New England style IPAs with gobs of fruit and lactose. Barrel aged imperial stouts with all manner of dessert ingredients. IPAs fermented with an enzyme supposed to make them dry and effervescent. Chia seeds, hemp, CBD, “functional” and “health and wellness” ingredients. I see these trends trickle into our market with what is available and what moves or doesn’t move on our tap wall. 

We’ve always been incredibly selective about what goes on tap. It starts with the quality of the liquid. We taste. We talk to those we respect in the industry. When we have a brewery that consistently hits it, sometimes we take the product before tasting because trust has been built. It only goes on the wall if it is excellent. Not because we’re important or that we know better than the next place. To be honest, at the heart of it, I’m just a nerd who opened a bar with the goal of growing a beer culture in Oklahoma I’d fallen in love with. I feel a responsibility to present the best possible product to our customers, from the selection of beers, to the construction of our draft system, to line cleaning, hand-washed glasses, and proper temperature

So we taste lots of beer. As we do, I find myself getting more excited about nuance and balance; a drinking experience that allows you to enjoy the moment and conversation rather than always being accosted with big, bold flavors. For me, this means drinking a lot more lager, especially traditional German and Czech style lager. It’s really hard to get lagers made in Europe available in the U.S. that are still in good condition. Luckily brewers in the U.S., and especially local Oklahoma breweries, seem to feel similarly about my affinity for lagers. More and more are available locally.

Then I heard about this brewery in Denver that only makes lagers. I mean, only lagers? I did a little more research and texted some friends who were in the Denver brewery scene (now in the Oklahoma brewery scene!). From all accounts, they were obsessive over brewing what many consider to be the most challenging beers in the world, traditional lagers and serving them in a way that presents them in their optimal form. Their flagship is a northern German style pilsner called Slow Pour Pils. They use a special side pull faucet made only in the Czech Republic and a pouring technique used for years in Germany. The craziest thing is it takes 5 minutes to pour the beer. As a bar owner, that just sounded insane but also awesome. This weird obsession for quality and delivery of something cared for 100% during the brewing process all the way to the glass is something I’ve been passionate about since before we opened. 

I decided to mimic the slow pour method with Stonecloud’s Havana Affair. I didn’t have the faucet, but I was able to come close enough. I tasted the slow pour version next to the normally poured version. Surely it wouldn’t really be that different. But it was. The carbonation was softer, it was more aromatic. The perceived bitterness was lower making the drinking experience smoother and easier. The temperature was slightly warmer giving more expression to the malt. The presentation was striking as the foam built higher each pour during the process until it sat over the rim of the glass. For a beer bar that prides itself on a special draft system and all the other shit we talk about, this was something new. Exciting and even better tasting.

It didn’t seem that Bierstadt would be coming to Oklahoma any time soon. They seemed content to grow their market patiently and keep close tabs on their product. How could we serve this in Oklahoma? I started texting my brewery friends and proposing the idea: they brew a traditional German or Czech style pilsner meant to be slow poured to be served at Oak & Ore and their taproom. This was a terrible idea logistically for any number of reasons: not enough tank space; lagers take a long time; maybe customers wouldn’t care. And maybe most importantly, it’s hard to make that quality of lager. But I had to ask. Surprisingly, every single brewery I talked to was on board immediately and enthusiastically.

I wanted to get to brewing ASAP, so Nathan Roberts, Head Brewer at Stonecloud, reached out to Ashleigh Carter at Bierstadt. If anything, we wanted this program to be a nod to Bierstadt and their commitment to the highest quality lager and the slow pour method of pouring. Ashleigh was incredibly gracious and excited about the idea. When some of my staff and I pulled up to Stonecloud’s brewery on March 15th at 7am, Nate was already a few hours into brewing Czech Please, the first beer in the Long Pour Lager series. 

After we brewed the beer, it was time to book a trip to Denver and actually drink some Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils! The owners of Bierstadt, Ashleigh and Bill, were nothing but gracious as I explained our plan in greater detail. Needless to say, the beers were incredible. We hope to have Ashleigh and Bill out here in Oklahoma sometime this year. It would be an honor. A huge thanks to them for the inspiration and willingness to allow us to share something they’ve worked so hard to bring to the U.S.

All of this to say, May 23rd at 6pm, we’ll start pouring locally made, traditional German and Czech style lager through our newly installed side-pull faucet. And yes, it will take a while. About 5 minutes. We’ll put it in a fancy glass specifically for the Long Pour Lager. We’ll put another keg on and pour it regularly. You can order a full or 4 oz. pour of it to taste alongside the long pour. We’ll feature Stonecloud this first quarter, followed by Prairie Artisan Ales, Heirloom Rustic Ales and Marshall Brewing

 
Long Pour Lager at Oak & Ore
 

On Brewery Independence

I walked into the almost-finished Stonecloud Brewing taproom on the morning of May 3rd, and greeted the owner, Joel, who quickly blurted out, “Did you hear the news? Wicked Weed sold to AB.”

I was stunned. My wife and I had just gotten back from a trip to Asheville a few weeks before. During that trip, I felt like I saw the whole spectrum of my industry; from Sierra Nevada, who, though a giant craft brewery, has remained independent and committed to quality and integrity for 37 years, to new, exciting breweries like Hi-Wire and Burial, each with awesome taprooms, cool vibes, and great beer. And there was Wicked Weed. My wife and I spent our first afternoon in Asheville at the Wicked Weed Funkatorium enjoying flights of sours and having great conversation. We later spent a few evenings drinking beer at the original pub location with friends in the industry. We talked about everything: where the craft beer market is headed, draft systems and service quality, and a million other geeky subjects. The beer was awesome, the atmosphere was perfect, and we all felt at home. This was the industry we all worked our asses off for. In that moment we didn’t know it, but we were proud. I was proud.

For most folks, Wicked Weed selling out to AB-InBev isn’t big news, but for us, for those of us in the industry or those who support craft beer and call it our own, this news is extraordinarily tough. One of my employees said it well: “It feels personal.” He’s right. It feels very personal.

I’ve watched many friends over the years fight and claw to make something for themselves in this industry, almost always starting from nothing. Several of them have grown to be quite successful and make great beer. The craft beer industry in Oklahoma is in a period of fantastic growth and exploration, and is already making a significant and positive economic impact. That’s due to the effort of a whole lot of people who deeply love what they do and have worked nonstop for a long time. The same is true for pretty much every craft brewery out there. It’s not an easy gig, and success means giving it everything you have.

And, hey, that’s nice and inspiring and all, but if one business cashes in on their hard work and sells to a big corporation, isn’t that their prerogative as owners? Haven’t they earned that big payout? That’s a hard question to answer succinctly and, honestly, I’m probably not qualified to give the right answers. I know my feelings on it, but, like I said, it feels very personal. I have a hard time being truly objective (though I certainly try). I have linked some articles below that I think do a good job of explaining why supporting independent craft beer matters. If you’re a beer consumer, or if this conversation matters to you for any reason, please give them a read.

The day after the announcement about Wicked Weed, I heard that Lagunitas had sold the other half of its business to Heineken (they had previously sold 50% to Heineken in September of 2015).  When they initially sold the first half, there seemed to be valid arguments that it was a distribution deal to get their brand into global markets, in the hopes of growing American craft beer’s reach internationally. At the time, I thought about not carrying the brand at Oak & Ore, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I feel now that was a mistake.

The news about Lagunitas didn’t really phase me too much, at least, not in the way that the Wicked Weed acquisition did. Then I realized I had received a keg of Lagunitas Waldo that I had “pre-ordered” that was in the cooler. Well, if I’m going to stand firm on my principle of only supporting truly independent craft breweries, then what the hell am I supposed to do with that keg?

For those who may not know, there have been a LOT of buyouts in the last 5+ years. A bunch of those brands have made it to Oklahoma recently. I’m very likely going to piss off some certain suppliers here, but you should know that these labels are all currently owned by AB-InBev: 10 Barrel, Golden Road, Goose Island, Elysian, and Blue Point. Ballast Point is also about to hit Oklahoma distribution. It sold last year to Constellation Brands - a huge conglomerate that owns Corona, Pacifico, and more – for an impressive sum of one billion dollars.

These brands are popular and well-known, so they take up a lot of shelf and tap space. Their new owners will be, or already are, pushing for them to take up even more. That’s shelf and tap space that crowds out local and other independent craft brands, who simply can’t compete against multi-billion-dollar forces. That’s where you and I come in.

It is more important than ever to know where your beer comes from. At Oak & Ore, we are fully committed to only serving independent, craft beer. All of this recent news has only reinforced that commitment. 

So back to that Lagunitas keg. I struggled about what to do with it. I guess maybe I could send it back, but it has been a few weeks since I got it. It’s kind of a jerk move, and a bit of extra trouble. But I had another idea.

I’ve decided to tap it this weekend, starting May 13th, and ALL of the money from the sale (after taxes) will go to the Craft Brewer’s Association of Oklahoma. That will be the last time Lagunitas will be poured from the taps at Oak & Ore. Please join us, and dedicate your glass to a strong future for craft beer in our state.

Cheers;

MICAH ANDREWS

Owner, Oak & Ore

 

FOR MORE INSIGHT:

https://www.brewersassociation.org/insights/brewery-independence-matters/

http://goodbeerhunting.com/blog/2017/5/5/watch-the-hands-not-the-cards-the-magic-of-megabrew

http://beerstreetjournal.com/ab-inbev-south-african-hops/

http://www.travisroach.com/uploads/7/7/3/0/7730267/craft_brewing_eis_21.pdf