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.