By Scott Meacham
Successful entrepreneurs and innovators are passionate. They know their products inside out. They are driven to ask for feedback and then to listen as their customers describe what they like and what they don’t. They are evangelists for the industry they represent.
When that industry is the beverage industry, savvy entrepreneurs know that the best way to tell their story is through taste.
For about 30 of Oklahoma’s innovative breweries, distilleries, and wineries, the 2019 OKBio BrewFest, upcoming on Thursday, November 7 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on the concourse of the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, is a uniquely Oklahoma opportunity to do just that.
At Brewfest, people from across our community can taste-test beers and wines in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. And taste isn’t the only draw card for this annual event. It’s fun to ask questions and learn first-hand from leaders in Oklahoma’s growing libations industry just how a great craft beer is conceived and brewed—and how a brewery or winery got its start.
The story of the Beer Is Good Brewing Company dates back to the nineties when two of the brewery’s three founders, Justin Wilson and Eric Marin started dabbling with home brew on a stove in their college house’s kitchen.
“We grew up together, and probably shared our first beer,” Wilson said. “We went different directions and then when Eric moved back to Norman, we started buying better equipment, joined a home brew club, and entered competitions.” Sean Stanford, another craft beer enthusiast who, like Wilson, is a pharmacist, joined the team.
From their taproom in a 1903 vintage building on the revitalized Main Street of Norman, Beer Is Good serves best seller Clockwork Orange Juice, and a steady rotation of new tastes on tap. They teamed up with archeologists in honor of Oklahoma’s archeology month (October) to create history inspired Smoked Pemmican Porter (with an aroma of bacon, smoke, and berries).
Stonecloud Brewing Company, brewing and pouring for the last two years from the historic Sunshine Laundry Building in OKC, comes to BrewFest with a well-earned reputation for Neon Sunshine, Astrodog, and Havana Affair—brews that can also be found across Oklahoma.
Adrienne Jaskula, taproom GM at Stonecloud, told us that the brewery likes to participate in community events like BrewFest that bring them face to face with consumers, especially people who haven’t had Stonecloud brews before. “We want people to have a rewarding experience,” she told us. “There is always going to be a beer with a flavor for someone who does not like beer.”
Roughtail Brewery’s co-founders Blaine Stansel and Tony Tielli were home brewers when they met at the very first meeting of the Red Earth Brewers, a club focused on homebrewing. They started their business plan in 2011 and currently have eight full-time employees, 150 taps in the metro area, distribute in Kanas and Texas, and are nearing completion on a 20,000 square foot brewery and tap room.
Roughtail just introduced a new limited “acrylic” series in very vibrant cans decorated with paint swirls.
“I thought it would be flashy, a fun design,” Stansel said, “In this business, you have to be experimental and playful. We are always pushing the envelope to stay up on current trends.”
OKBIO BrewFest raises awareness of Oklahoma’s biotech industry by showcasing this entirely different industry. It’s a reminder that economic diversification can be fun, social, and that a state like ours is a great environment for entrepreneurs to start and succeed at all types of businesses.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org