By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Walk onto the production floor at Oklahoma City’s COOP Ale Works and the aroma of malted grains, yeast and fermentation greets you as you enter the room.
COOP’s production plant is dominated by a large brewhouse where water is mixed with grains such as malted barley and boiled to create wort. The wort is added to yeast in one of the eight fermentation tanks where the yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and create alcohol and CO2.
The end result is beer.
Welcome to craft beer brewing, where agriculture and scientific know-how are blended with business savvy to create full-flavored craft beer that is exploding in popularity across the nation.
COOP Ale is one of 13 craft breweries throughout Oklahoma, according to the national Brewers Association, which counted 2,768 craft breweries nationwide at the end of 2013.
The number of craft breweries grew by 15 percent over 2012, and is almost three times that of just eight years ago.
Oklahoma is following that national trend of growing popularity.
“The craft beer industry is definitely blossoming in Oklahoma,” Daniel Mercer said recently as he led me through COOP Ale’s new 15,000 square foot brewery.
“Eight years ago, when we first started thinking about creating a craft brewery here in Oklahoma City, there were two production breweries in the state — Choc in Krebs and Huebert in OKC.”
Mercer, co-founder and director of operations and finance, and J.D. Merryweather, co-founder and director of sales and marketing, have grown COOP Ale into one of the state’s largest craft brewers.
The brewery’s 2014 production is expected to hit 8,000 barrels, up from 2,400 last year.
Craft brewing is a complicated process, precise in timing and ingredients. Grains and water heated to 155 degrees are first mixed in a large vessel to begin the process. Wort is drawn off and boiled and then cooled down to 65 degrees before being piped into the fermenters.
“There’s a lot of science to brewing,” Mercer said. “There’s a lot of biology and a lot of chemistry on the yeast side of it.”
That is one of the reasons the Oklahoma Bioscience Association (OKBio) is hosting its third annual fundraising event, “BrewFest: The Science Behind the Beer,” as a way of showing how science can be found in everyday activities beyond the research laboratory.
The other is to build awareness of OKBio and the bioscience sector in Oklahoma.
COOP Ale is one of 13 craft brewers, brew pubs, distillers, wineries and home brew clubs that will offer samples of their specialties from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Click here to register.
Beer tasting events are a popular way for the public to discover new brewers and expand their beer palate, Mercer said.
“Events such as the BrewFest are some of the only opportunities for Oklahoma craft brewers to showcase their products other than in a retailer’s venue,” Mercer said.
“It helps build awareness for breweries that are just starting out and it helps build awareness around new products and innovation.”
Oklahoma’s brewers will be bringing some of their limited release seasonal flavors to BrewFest, offering samples that the craft beer fans might otherwise overlook.
For example, COOP Ale will offer its Oak-Aged Imperial Stout, F5 IPA and three new beers that won’t be released until one week before BrewFest.
“I love making converts to craft beer, and also the creative opportunity we have as craft brewers,” Mercer said.
“Our team goes out every day into the brewery and create beers that no one else is creating.”
We can all raise a glass to that.
Jim Stafford writes about the state’s life sciences industry on behalf of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association.
2014 OKBio Brewfest
Thursday, November 6,
Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark
Cost: $25, which includes 14-ounce beer mug, T-Shirt and samples of local craft beer, wine and spirits
Phillips Murrah, P.C.
Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
Crowe & Dunlevy
McAfee & Taft
Cole & Reed, P.C.
Beer, Wine, and Spirits:
Anthem Brewing Company
Belle Isle Brewing Co.
Black Mesa Brewing Co.
Canadian River Winery
Choc Beer Co.
Coop Ale Works
Elk Valley Brewing Co.
Prairie Wolf Spirits
Put A Cork In It Winery
Red Earth Brewers
RoughTail Brewing Co.
TapWerks Ale House
The Brew Shop