Oklahoma beer. What does that phrase suggest to you? Grandpa sipping on a Knickerbocker? Your uncle and his unnatural love of Falstaff? Some lost cowboy with his boots up at a Tulsa bar, having manly tears to the sound of Merle Haggard and quietly nursing a Lone Star? Well, update those ideas. The quiet but inevitable rise in craft brewery signaled by the national late ’70s lift on the homebrew ban eventually turned Oklahoma into a minor hotbed of local brewing, and its capitol is not lagging behind; about a dozen craft breweries now call the city home, and OKC’ s craft beer festival has, after some initial struggles, morphed into a full-fledged week-long tradition. Here are three of the best craft breweries Oklahoma City has to offer.
With a mission statement of “quality beer for quality living,” the folks at COOP Ale Works see themselves as artisans for artisans, what happens when a venture capitalist and an architectural photog decide to turn a part-time passion into an upscale reality. Easily the most popular of OKC breweries, they may also be the best, with their lines typically dominating the state’s Top 10 lists. This is probably because they don’t mind aging their brews for as long as it takes: they’ve mastered the art of working towards perfection without becoming snobs. As such, Oklahomans usually start with their Native Amber and slightly bitter blonde ale known as Horny Toad, then find lifestyle accessories in their “gas station” Spare Rib ale, a more upscale molasses malt appropriately called Briefcase Brown, or for those looking to prove something at the bar, their F5 West Coast IPA or strong DNR Belgian Dark.
When Huebert Brewing refers to itself as “the oldest licensed microbrewery in Oklahoma,” it’s actually going a little light on the boasting: Rick Huebert, who maintains a very hands-on operation with wife Shaneen, actually went all the way to the state Senate to get Oklahoma’s antiquated Prohibition-era brewery laws changed. He helped make standalone breweries, not just brewpubs, legal, and his devotion to the craft is unassailable, leading to a line that includes a German-style kolsh known as Rasenmaher, Wild Pony, a citrusy, tart Anerican variant on the classic Hefenweizer German Wheat Ale, and their signature Tucker Pale Ale, clean and crisp but with a distinct caramel-meets-biscuit undertone.
Anthem Brewing Company is the most open, accessible, and utilitarian of the OKC craft breweries. They’re all about flavors, flavors, flavors, none too surprising but all maintaining similarly high quality and made with a process open to the public — they’ll let you look at the whole process before you taste. Locals swear by the Golden One Belgian Blonde, the Arjuna Belgian White, and the Uroborus Stout, chocolatey, oaky, and roasted, but you may luck out and catch their Babalon cherry/raspberry sour ale, the Bourbon-aged Pappy Burleson, or the Count Pedro, aged in Tequila barrels and featuring the distinct high notes of habanero!