By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Brad Stumph is a scientist, a wildlife biologist by training. So, naturally, he’s put his scientific knowledge to work brewing craft beer as co-founder of Oklahoma City-based Black Mesa Brewing Co.
Founded in 2012 by Stumph and brewmaster Chris Sanders, Black Mesa brewed its distinctive beer at the OKCity Brewing Company brewing cooperative just west of downtown Oklahoma City until the May 31 tornado destroyed the facility.
“I’ve always been interested in the biology of brewing,” Stumph told me recently when I asked about the “science” of brewing beer. “And, of course, I’ve always been a fan of craft beer and craft beer brewing.”
Yes, he said, there definitely is a science to brewing beer.
“It’s called fermentation science for a reason,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that there are more flavor profiles in beer than in wine. It’s because of the many variables that go into brewing.”
As Stumph explained it, the flavor that distinguishes each craft beer is determined by many factors, from the way the barley is malted to the milling of the grain to the temperatures at which the sugars are extracted out of the grain to the different yeast strains that are introduced to the grain.
Black Mesa opened in August 2012 and had brewed for only 10 months when the tornado destroyed the brewing cooperative, which is owned by Mustang Brewing. Black Mesa only recently resumed brewing its specialty beers in production size batches.
“Without a brewery to brew in, Chris spent the summer developing and tweaking new recipes on his home-brew system,” Stumph said as we talked two weeks ago.
“We began brewing production-sized batches again in September at the O’Fallon Brewery outside St. Louis,” he said. “Just now, at the end of this week, our first batches — post-tornado — will be finishing up. At the time of the tornado we were on track to brew 750 barrels this year.”
So after I learned that there is science behind the brewing of beer, I had one more question for Stumph: Why does the local beer industry seem to be exploding, not only in Oklahoma but nationwide?
“The number one answer to that is just flavor,” Stumph said.
“There’s just so much more flavor in craft beer. And it’s certainly spurred by the local-born movement. Everyone wants to eat and drink something that was locally made and prepared.”
That’s a big reason why Black Mesa will be sharing its newly brewed beers at the Oct. 29 OKBio BrewFest.
“Our whole focus is just to try to grow the craft beer audience in Oklahoma,” he said.
Brad Stumph will bring some of his Black Mesa Brewing Co. product to the upcoming OKBio BrewFest, which will be Oct. 29 at the Harn Homestead in Oklahoma City. Black Mesa will be one of 11 craft beers, brew pubs, brew clubs, distillers, wineries and restaurateurs who will be providing Oklahoma-brewed and distilled products.
Joining Black Mesa at the BrewFest will be Broadway Wine Merchants, Bricktown Brewery, Choc Beer Co., COOP Ale Works, Dead Armadillo Craft Beer, Huebert, Mustang Brewing Co., Prairie Artisan Ales, Prairie Wolf Spirits, Roughtail Brewing Co., Strong Tonic, Tapwerks and Yeastie Boys.
Hosted by the Oklahoma Bioscience Association, BrewFest will begin at 5 p.m. The $25 admission includes craft beers, wine and spirits, Smokin’ Okies BBQ, a 14-ounce Hall Estill beer mug, a BrewFest T-shirt and a live band. McNellie’s will provide an entertaining look at the “science behind the beer.”
There will be beer trivia throughout the evening with prizes from local breweries, tickets for concerts and to the Bricktown Haunted House, to name a few.
Visit www.i2E.org to register.
Jim Stafford is a communications specialist with i2E Inc. in Oklahoma City.