A Launchpad for Suds

With his Brewers Union, OSU graduate Brad Stumph helps fledgling beer makers by providing facilities, tools and expertise.

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Cross Timbers Brewing Co. got their start at the Brewers Union.

Brad Stumph, proprietor of a unique business in Oklahoma City, has a mantra that fits what he does for budding brewmasters – Here For Beer.

In September, Stumph celebrates his third anniversary as founder-owner of Brewers Union, a craft beer incubator that is the first of its kind in the state and just one of a few in the country.

“Craft beers are hip because the buy-local movement is big,” he says. “Consumers want connection to a local brand. I’ve created a workspace and tools for aspiring commercial brewers, shortening the learning curve, helping them scale up.

“Signing on with Brewers Union gives early-stage breweries exposure to the industry as an alternative to building a brewery before selling beer, at only a fraction of the cost. They can learn it, produce it here, and sell it through our taproom and event venue.”

The Oklahoma State University alumnus gives interested brewers a checklist to complete before signing on with him.

“They need a high-quality product, know what their core beers are, be able to tell a good story, invest in branding, do market testing, know where their beers fit in the marketplace, be aware of national and state trends, and have capital,” Stumph says. “There’s plenty of beer out there, so they need the time and desire to sell their beer, or hire a salesperson.

“I have a head brewer teaching the process, all the equipment, plus a taproom and operation specialist. Brewers create their own recipes, and we help them scale to a commercial-size batch. I have three alumni who built their own full-production breweries and OKC taprooms: Elk Valley Brewing Co. in Midtown; Vanessa House Beer Co. in Automobile Alley; and Angry Scotsman Brewing on Reno Avenue. A fourth, Crossed Cannons Brewery, is opening in Norman. Plus, I have three working here toward their own goals.”

Ioway tribal member Jake Keyes, named last year as one of Native Business Magazine’s top 50 entrepreneurs, founded Skydance Brewing, OKC’s first Native American-owned brewery. Distributing in numerous locations, Keyes gives his beers cultural names and released his newest label, Sovereign Nation Imperial Stout, in the Brewers Union taproom Dec. 21. He’s working toward leaving the Brewers Union nest.

Matt Starbuck and Brenton Johnson are perfecting their Cross Timbers Brewing Co. at Brewers Union. What began as relaxation in the garage has become a microbrewery producing 360 barrels annually. Greenage, their cilantro-lime gose, makes waves as a tart wheat beer with hints of salt and coriander and is sold in more than 100 locations statewide. Starbuck and Johnson also plan to branch out on their own this year.

The taproom at Brewers Union, 520 N. Meridian Ave. in the WesTen District, has 18 rotating brews and is open 4-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Craft Beer’s Impact

DSM Global Insights Series surveyed 3,300 craft beer drinkers in seven countries and found that taste, price, a beer’s origin story, its label and a brewery’s sustainability drive consumer purchases. Eighteen-to-30-year-olds account for the largest increase in the number of consumers in the past few years. Other studies show consumers have become weary of mass-produced beer made from cheap ingredients, and the global craft beer market will reach $502.9 billion by 2025. In 2017, it contributed $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy and accounted for more than 500,000 jobs.