One of the city’s brewpub restaurants has started brewing higher-point beer, while the other operator is waiting to make the switch.
Under the old alcohol laws, restaurants that served craft beer, better known as brewpubs, were not allowed to brew beer above 3.2 percent alcohol by volume.
When the laws changed this month, that regulation was gone.
At Bricktown Brewery, President Buck Warfield started improving beer flavors when he started in 2011. Cory Grey and brewmaster Roy Emmons have been creating new beers for the restaurants for the past several years.
Now, they’re making even more potent brews.
“All of our core beers have been reformulated to be about 4.8 or 4.9 percent alcohol-by-volume,” Warfield told The Journal Record .
Bricktown Brewery & Restaurants opened its first restaurant in 1992 and now operates 13 restaurants in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas.
Those core beers include Old King Kolsch, Blues Berry Ale, and Wiley’s One-eyed Wheat.
“They all have a bolder mouth feel in the middle of the beer,” Warfield said. “It enhances the flavor of the beer.”
Other beers will get an increase in ABV to 6 percent or even higher. There’s a barrel-aged Indian Pale Ale that will be tapped at the Bricktown location in about 30 days.
″(The law change) allows our guys to do other things,” Warfield said. “It will allow us to brew much better beer.”
Warfield said he doesn’t think Bricktown Brewery will make anything higher than 7 percent ABV. Outside the restaurant, his favorite beer is Prairie Artisan Ales’ The Bomb, which has a 13-percent ABV.
“I don’t think you’ll see us doing anything that extreme,” he said. “We’ll still make beer that will go well with food.”
At Belle Isle Brewery, partner David Riesenberg said food is the eatery’s primary business; otherwise, he and his business partner Neill Hardin would have opened a microbrewery.
The brewpub opened in 1995. Hardin and Riesenberg were bartenders in the city in the 1980s, so they saw the laws change to allow liquor-by-the-drink sales.
Riesenberg said he and Hardin didn’t open the restaurant with the intent to brew beer above 3.2 ABV. And they won’t be brewing it anytime soon, he said.
“We’re not forced to make strong beer,” he said.
He said he’s going to wait and see how customers react now that the new laws are in place. After the first week, he said he didn’t notice a change in his beers’ sales.
The brewpub carries other craft beers that are above 3.2 percent ABV. All the domestic beers such as Anheuser-Busch products are the higher percentage as well.
Riesenberg said he’s concerned about increased prices his customers will have to pay if he brews higher-point beer. His beer will have the state-required 13.5-percent alcohol tax tacked on it, which will be a price his customers haven’t had to pay in the more than 20 years that they’ve been drinking his beer.
He didn’t have any backlash from customers recently when non-Belle Isle beers such as U.S. domestics had the 13.5 percent tax. High-point craft-beer drinkers were already used to paying the higher price.
He also wants people to drink his beer while they’re watching a game on television. They can drink lower-point beer for a longer amount of time.
He said if his beer sales drop and his customers demand it, then he’ll start brewing full-strength beer. He’d like to brew high-point and low-point beer if he could.
“It will be interesting to see what happens,” he said. “Our business was good last week.”
Bricktown Brewery also offers other craft beers and Warfield said people are starting to pick Bricktown’s beers more often since they made the change to higher-point brews. He said he thinks the brewpub will be able to stand against the growing number of craft breweries because it’s already in the food business. Craft breweries can offer food under the current laws.
“We’ll hold our own,” he said.
Bricktown Brewery will get into retail next year, but with its non-alcoholic Atta Boy Root Beer. It will be in stores in the first half of 2019.