(1) THE BREWERY & OUR EXPERIENCE
After taking a short break back in our home town of Dallas, TX, we started off our second leg of the trip by heading north into Oklahoma to visit COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City. While there, we spoke with co-founder JD Merryweather about the brewery; he told us that COOP had just celebrated their 5 year anniversary about a week and a half before our visit. To celebrate the occasion, they held an event that included live local music, food trucks, and over 20 beers on tap. We were also informed that the brewery has six year-round flagship beers – F5 IPA, Elevator Wheat, Horny Toad Blonde, Native Amber, Gran Sport Porter, and DNR Belgian-style Dark Ale – but they also do a lot of small batch recipes and firkins. Later on, JD (who is also President of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild) gave us insight into beer and breweries in Oklahoma before we had to head to our next stop!
(2) VITAL INFORMATION
Date of our visit: Tuesday, 05/13/14
Open since: March 2009
Approx. Barrel (bbl) Output 2013: 4,000
Projected bbl Output 2014: 9,000 (with only partial year on upgraded brewhouse)
Brewhouse size: 30 bbl
Founder(s): Daniel Mercer And JD Merryweather
Head Brewer: Blake Jarolim
Packaging: Kegs, Cans, and bottles.
Distribution: Oklahoma with plans to expand into Arkansas by end of year.
Other things we learned:
* COOP came about through the architectural community – Beer and Bull Session where people would bring a six pack of different beers, put on ice and share. Decided there was a gap in exceptional craft beer in OK barring the 3.2% brewpubs. The name is a play on the Co-op, Cooperation (with three original founders), and the Coopersmith.
* They were originally located near the center of OKC and started on a 7bbl system. The move to the new facility increased the square footage 5 fold to 15,000 sq. ft.
* Fermentation capacity: 4 – 60 bbl and 2 – 30 bbl fermenters with glycol lines already laid out for additional tanks. Two 120 bbl fermenters and a 120 bbl bright tank arrived a couple months after our visit, are now online, and they project capacity in new space will be around 32,000 bbl per year.
* Celebrated 5 year anniversary and grand opening of new facility on May 3rd, 2014. There were over 20 beers on tap with local music and food trucks. Central Oklahoma Humane Society received proceeds from anniversary event.
* Laws changed this year to enable breweries to serve a 12 oz sample whereas sampling was previously banned at the brewery. JD is on the OK guild and helped work to change the laws. They put in an expanded cold storage room since we visited and are currently working on a taproom for guests to try six 2oz samples.
* Oklahoma is still a 3.2% ABV state (governed by the OK Tax Commission) so they produce a pale ale, brown ale, and a Belgian table beer that can be sold directly to the consumer (strong beer is governed by the ABLE Commission and has to go through a distributor and be delivered warm). Last Friday of every month they do H&8th OKC event in downtown with 36 food trucks and they are sole beer vendor.
(3) BEERS ON TAP DURING OUR VISIT
N/A – Brewery does not have a taproom license and cannot currently serve beer directly to the public.
* Complete listing of beers
What we learned about their beer during our visit:
* Six year-round flagship beers (of which three are canned in 16oz): F5 IPA, Elevator Wheat, Horny Toad Blonde, Native Amber, Gran Sport Porter, and DNR Belgian-style Dark Ale. DNR will be released in 12oz cans this September.
* Territorial Reserve series : Imperial Stout, Barley Wine, Wild Wheat Wine (included malted and unmalted wheat with wild yeast and 180 lb of Alfalfa Honey in secondary), and Rye Wine are all bourbon barrel aged and hand bottled.
* They produce a lot of small batches (saison, wild ales, mild ales, pumpkin beer, etc) and also have a firkin program.
* The original 4 beers were Horny Toad, Native, DNR, and Elevator (previously called Zeppelin). Gran Sport entered the market two months later, followed by Oktoberfest. F5 IPA was introduced in April 2010 and is now by far the best seller.
* Some stories behind the beer names : The Horny Toad is native to the area and almost extinct and they wished to bring awareness to the issue. Elevator pays homage to the local agriculture and DNR to the medical research Oklahoma University Health Science Center. Regarding Gran Sport, JD was the president of the Vespa Club of America for 5 years and his ’59 vespa is pictured on the label. F5 should be evident since OK is right in the heart of tornado alley – The Doppler radar screen was also invented there. The Territorial Reserve series beers recognize the history of the region by featuring the Oklahoma land rush flags.
* Plan to introduce cork and cage for application of beers in 750mL and 375mL bottles.
(4) EXPANSION PLANS
Additional fermentation capacity
(5) BACKGROUND OF PEOPLE WE SPOKE TO
Name: JD Merryweather
Title: Co-Founder — Sales & Marketing
Been with company since: Beginning
Previous Occupation(s): Commercial Photographer 25 years then opened an Advertising Agency
Extra: President of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild
Favorite Superhero: Johnny Sokko, Aquaman, and Ultraman
Name: Josh Graves
Title: Cellarman (at the time of our visit- no longer at COOP)
Previous Brewing Experience: Homebrewing
Previous Occupation(s): Starbucks; volunteered on the canning line
Favorite Superhero: Raphael – Ninja Turtles
(6) MORE LINKS ABOUT BREWERY
(7) You can find the rest of our photos here
Author: Michael Roberts & Brandon Wurtz