By Joshua Blanco
© 2018 OKLAHOMA GAZETTE / TIERRA MEDIA INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Beer lovers across the state will gather this month for the seventh annual BrewFest to enjoy a taste of the up-and-coming brew scene in Oklahoma. With four wineries, four distilleries and 26 brewers coming together under one roof, those who attend will have an opportunity to sample a seemingly endless supply of craft beverages.
Hosted by Oklahoma Bioscience Association, a nonprofit promoting growth and awareness centered on life sciences, the event offers companies a chance to showcase their latest products fresh from the tap.
What started as a small get-together comprised mainly of those invested in the biological community eventually turned into a massive attraction drawing a crowd of individuals thanks to a calculated decision by another local business.
In the year following the BrewFest debut, the i2E investment firm agreed to manage the various projects set forth by Bioscience Foundation, leaving the company in charge of what would soon become one of Oklahoma City’s premier events.
“We were asked to take over managing the Oklahoma Bioscience Association since it falls in line with i2E’s mission and we work with many of the researchers and bio related startup companies,” said Sarah Seagraves, senior vice president of marketing at i2E.
Stepping up to the challenge, i2E worked diligently to transform the small festival into a large gathering people look forward to every year. Though they could have just as easily nixed the event, i2E president and CEO Scott Meacham realized a certain value in its undertaking.
To Meacham, this was an opportunity to bring awareness to the bio community in Oklahoma and the economic benefits it provides through research and job creation, fulfilling what he calls “the bigger purpose.”
And he’s not the only one to recognize this.
“It’s a very creative way to raise awareness for the community at large so that they know what’s going on in Oklahoma’s bioscience scene,” said Evan Fay, manager of innovation and entrepreneurship at Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “The more we can do to elevate the bioscience community through events like this, the better our business landscape will be in the long-term.”
BrewFest has become a twofold way for businesses to gain recognition while simultaneously giving back to their community. For example, Crowe & Dunlevy law firm has maintained its position as one of the event’s major stakeholders and continues to act as one of its ongoing sponsors.
As a full-service intellectual property practice, the firm represents the sort of businesses benefitting from the event — an opportunity that could prove especially advantageous.
“It’s a nice way for us to promote our name and our practice to clients in both the biotech and craft beer markets,” said attorney David Sullivan, director of Crowe & Dunlevy. “It’s an opportunity for us to support an event that promotes both industries in Oklahoma City. We’ve enjoyed the relationship, and it continues to grow.”
In addition to sponsors, several of the vendors have been engaged in fostering a relationship between themselves and the community at large. In fact, there are a number of repeat breweries that look forward to expanding their horizons every chance they get.
“We are able to make connections with those in our community, both people who are longtime fans of COOP and people who are trying us for the first time,” said Maggie Sylke, brand marketing specialist at COOP Ale Works. “Both of these are beneficial to us because we can meet the people who have gotten us where we are today and introduce new fans to a craft beer they’ll love.”
Each year, COOP eagerly awaits Bioscience Association’s invitation to join for yet another chance to showcase the brews they work so hard to create.
“Our favorite part about OKBio BrewFest is getting our beer into the hands of the Oklahoma City community,” Sylke said.
Thanks to support from community and sponsors alike, companies like COOP will likely have the chance to continue sharing their product for years to come.
So long as the vendors continue showing up and people keep planning to attend, Meacham sees no reason to turn away from the event he helped build. Though he sees it as a true asset to the city, he also acknowledges the occasion’s recreational value.
“We all like to drink beer and good wine and maybe a spirit every now and then,” he said. “I personally enjoy it quite a bit. It lets me try a lot of these beers from these great Oklahoma craft brewers that I wouldn’t get to try otherwise.”
It’s clear he’s not the only one who thinks so. Since its inception, i2E has successfully turned the small craft beer festival into what Fay now describes as an Oklahoma City staple.
“It’s just a good kind of networking, kind of happy hour environment,” Fay said.
In addition to the names Oklahomans know and love, home brewers will be given a chance to share with others a taste of their work before opening a brewery of their own — another facet that entices people to come sample a drink not readily available for public consumption.
Having outgrown its original venue, BrewFest is consistently housed in a location capable of accommodating the masses of people now lining up to attend: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.
Holding the event in the same venue has also made for a smoother setup.
“After you’ve done it for a number of years at a time, it becomes kind of a pattern that you follow,” Meacham said. “From my perspective, it’s just making sure we’re covering our costs and again making sure I have good people that know what they’re doing and know how to put on a first-class event. I’m very lucky to have that.”
Blaine Stansel, CEO and co-founder of Roughtail Brewing Company, has been particularly pleased with the way things are running.
“It’s really straightforward, and they get all their ducks in a row,” Stansel said regarding i2E’s ability to manage the event. “At this point, it’s a well-oiled machine.”
Those planning to attend BrewFest can pre-register. A 14-ounce mug and unlimited 5-ounce samples come with all ticket purchases. Attendance will be capped at 500 people, and a portion of the attendees’ costs are tax-deductible.
“Just don’t drink too much and drive,” Meacham said. “That’s the only admonition.”
The event runs 5-7 p.m. Nov. 8.