TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Taste buds in Oklahoma are transitioning as the craft beer industry continues to expand its reach in the Sooner State.
The options in Tahlequah were once limited when it comes to craft brews, but now, local establishments are beginning to stock their bars with more delicate, quality, frothy beverages. The sudsy phenomenon doesn't appear to be abating anytime soon, so beer aficionados might want to know what options are available in the city.
The newest joint in town suited for crafted beer nerds is Kroner & Baer, where an assortment of Oklahoma and Texas brewed beers are on tap. For those less familiar with the intricacies of craft beer, Kroner & Baer has a couple started: the Havana Affair by Stonecloud Brewing Co. and the Blood & Honey by Revolver Brewing.
"I call them transition beers," said Sarah Cookson, K&B manager. "When someone hasn't had a lot of craft before, those are the two that I go toward to try to get them used to the craft flavor."
Savvy beer drinkers will likely enjoy the pub's selection, as the taps consistently pour a variety of IPAs, stouts, sours, farmhouse ales and more. The taps typically rotate at the pub, but most of the beers come from Oklahoma-based brewers, if not from Texas.
"I travel around, go to a bunch of breweries, try them out, and bring in the best of the best," said Cookson. "That's one of the reason's why we're closed on Mondays, because I go around to different breweries and find new stuff to bring in."
Kroner & Baer recently started selling canned beer to offer its customers a wider variety. Double IPAs, or IIPAs, have typically been reserved for those who enjoy their beer with a bitter hoppiness to it, but the style has begun to evolve as brewers are straying from the traditional, robust versions of IPAs. Thomas McKinney, owner of Rum Runners in Tahlequah, said the Hopsmack by Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. is one of those.
"It's not a palate killer," he said, while sitting at the bar at K&B. "You can turn around and drink a strawberry blonde and it won't ruin your palate."
Before Kroner & Baer came to town, the only place with a consistent variety of craft beer was The Branch, which has started to step up its game as well. With more breweries popping up Oklahoma, The Branch also tries to get regional brews, including places like Coop from Oklahoma City, Dead Armadillo out of Tulsa, and Marshall Brewing Co. out of Tulsa.
Bailey Bacon, bartender at The Branch, said Coop's F5, Dead Armadillo's Tulsa Flag, and Marshall's Sundown Wheat are the most popular and typically stay on tap.
"We get a lot of new beers in often," said Bacon. "If there are people who like craft beer, we try to get a wide variety of them. We definitely get seasonal beers, so we're going to start getting some summer things."
Down the street from The Branch, The Grill has moved its location downstairs on Muskogee Avenue. With the change, it also decided to start a new, rotating keg with different regional craft beers every other month or so.
"It can be monthly, but it just depends on how fast we sell out of it," said Rayleigh Beck. "The new one we got right now is Rahr and Sons. It's a mango chile beer [Paleta de Mango]. The rotating keg definitely brings people in, because it's like, 'Oh, what's going to be in it this time?'"
Ned's, a longtime establishment in Tahlequah, has always sold the American standards, like Budweiser, Coors Lite, and Bud Lite. Gary Kirkpatrick, owner of Ned's, said taste buds have shifted in the past 15 to 20 years.
"Fifteen to 20 years ago, Budweiser was the king of beers," said Kirkpatrick. "One out of every four or five beers was a Budweiser. I read somewhere that Americans want their beer to taste as close to water as they can get. I kind of feel like that now. There's been a shift in the last 10 years, though, toward craft beer. Young kids want a different taste in their beer."
To keep up with the times, Ned's serves a few craft beers: McNellie's Pub Ale by Marshall, an Atlas IPA by Marshall, and All Day IPA by Founders Brewing Company.
The next part will focus on different styles of craft beer, which liquor stores they can be found at, and some upcoming craft-beer events.