O’Connor: Craft beer scene brewing

Published Wednesday, August 1, 2018
by Cathy O'Connor

Have you noticed the rise in craft beer breweries in Oklahoma City? Over the past decade, multiple breweries including Twisted Spike Brewing Co., Stonecloud Brewing Co., Anthem Brewing and Prairie Artisan Ales have entered the market alongside longtime brewmasters such as the Bricktown Brewery, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

Our thirst for craft beer is reflective of the national trend. According to the Brewers Association, small and independent craft brewers saw a 5 percent rise in volume of beer sales in 2017 and the number of operating breweries grew by 16 percent. The economic impact is significant. The Brewers Association’s most recent economic impact report showed that craft brewers contributed $67.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, a 21.7 percent increase from 2014. Craft brewers were responsible for more than 456,373 full-time-equivalent jobs, a 7.5 percent increase from 2014, with 128,768 of those jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs.

Tourism surrounding craft beer is also on the rise. There are trips and itineraries built solely around craft beer tours, which benefit local hotels, restaurants and retailers along the way. Locally, bicycle tours are organized, making stops at several of the local breweries. The Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit is coming up soon, cleverly titled the “State of the Brewnion.” It is meant to encourage education, innovation and advocacy within the brewing industry. This event, which takes place Aug. 11 at the Tower Theatre, is expecting an attendance of more than 400 people.

What may be surprising is that craft breweries can facilitate placemaking in communities. Breweries often locate in high-density areas, redeveloping blighted or abandoned buildings. For example, Stonecloud Brewing Co. is in the newly redeveloped, historic Sunshine Cleaners Building. Recently, Coop Ale Works announced a $20 million project to revitalize the long-vacant 23rd Street National Guard Armory to expand its operations. The renovation plans include a restaurant, a 22-room boutique hotel and event spaces that will be available for private and community events.

With the recent changes in our laws regarding the sale and purchase of alcohol, I expect we will have more development activity related to the craft beer industry. Our city will benefit from this growing industry from an economic, tourism and social perspective.

Cathy O’Connor is the president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

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