What does it take to start a brewery?
This question has been asked by many a passionate beer enthusiast dreaming of making an avocation a way of life. Now three Tulsans, of Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing, are finding out what it takes as they turn that dream into a reality.
Mason Beecroft, a former Lutheran pastor in Houston and Tulsa, began to learn the craft of brewing while studying theology.
"I was going to graduate school in Dallas sixteen years ago, studying historical theology, and met a classmate that brewed his own beer," Beecroft said. "I was impressed with the beer he made."
The classmate taught Beecroft the basics of small-batch brewing, and he has been at it ever since. "In fact, brewing beer was probably the most important thing I learned in graduate school."
Tony Peck, an IT specialist, attended the church in Tulsa where Beecroft was then pastor. "He (Beecroft) would hold classes for adults during Vacation Bible School," Peck said, "and one of those classes was 'The Christian Art of Brewing Beer.' He would briefly talk about the history of beer, its place in the culture, and then describe the process."
Fascinated by the description and the lore of the craft, Peck joined Beecroft for several sessions of homebrewing and, as Peck said, "I was hooked and have been brewing ... for six years now."
The third pillar of this triumvirate, Chris Barba, who is also an IT specialist and a working aquaintance of Peck, also had his start in homebrewing.
"I started reading every beer book I could find," Barba said. "The local home brew store became a weekly visit as I expanded what I brew from extract with grains to all-grain. The more I brewed the more I wanted to learn about beers. I also became more adventurous with styles, including rauchbiers and saisons."
For the past year, the three have been working to turn their passion into a business.
"Oklahoma currently ranks 43rd in the United States in breweries per capita," Peck said, "which tells us that there is a market for craft beers. The beer culture is certainly starting to grow as evidenced by the success of recent breweries like Marshall's and COOP. We want to produce our quality craft beers and be a part of that burgeoning market."
With this end in view, Beecroft, Peck and Barba have formed the Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing corporation and are in the process of securing capital to begin production by the beginning of 2013. "Our goal is to begin distribution of our beers in early 2013, with an initial focus on the Tulsa market," Peck said.
The plan for the first year, Peck said, is to focus on three ales: an American amber, an IPA and a Belgian-style wheat.
Do they have what it takes?
Eric Marshall, of Marshall Brewing Company, told UTW that it isn't an easy business to start up. "It takes perseverance," Marshall said, "navigating liquor laws and trying to figure it out. ... You've got to have your plan together. It takes quite a lot of money too. You really have to have a passion to see it through."
It seems that Dead Armadillo has passion in abundance.
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