Republic // Oklahoma City, OK
Beer. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice cold beer on a hot day? Or a rainy day. Or a day that ends in “y.” But for every causal beer drinker, there is the fanatic. The connoisseur even. Although I’m sure I spelled that word wrong, Jason Ewald clearly qualifies. Check out his novel-esque answer to the “bottle or can” question. Wow. Either Jason really loves his beer, or he needs a hobby. Find out for yourself next time you’re in Oklahoma City. Drop by the Republic, try one of their 100 beers on tap, sit back and ask Jason about beer. Just make sure you don’t have to be anywhere.
What makes Republic so special?
Republic is many things at once. It’s a world-class sports bar with 25 large screens, including a 213” projector and three 106” plasmas. It’s a beer emporium with 100 tap selections and another 200+ beers in the bottle or can. And it’s a gastropub with amazing chef-driven reinventions of classic pub-style cuisine.
I walk into Republic for the first time, what’s the must-try brew?
Coop DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), a Belgian-style strong ale from Coop Ale Works. You can throw a rock and hit their brewery from our parking lot, and our customers love to support the burgeoning local craft beer scene. In fact, we have around 20 taps dedicated to local beers and 6 of them are in our top 10 best sellers (DNR is #1). The DNR is also an insane match for our Republic burger. The maltiness and candy sugar in the beer matches up to the sweetness of caramelized onions and runny egg yolk on the burger. And the high abv of the beer helps it to stand up to gruyer, blue cheese, bacon, and beef. It’s a must-try combination.
We’re going to put you on the spot. In your opinion, which state produces the best beer?
Well, when you eliminate the breweries that don’t distribute to Oklahoma, it changes the answer dramatically. I believe in “drink local” and “drink regional”, so I’ll go with Colorado on the strength of Great Divide, Avery, and Left Hand (with hopes for New Belgium and Odell). However, having attended GABF this past Fall, it’s pretty clear that the left coast has some of the best breweries in the country and California leads the way with breweries like Russian River and Stone. The Texas beer scene is really booming as well. They just seem to drink it all before they can export it. Did I dodge that question well enough?
Craft brews are definitely “in” right now. Any predictions for the beer market in 2011?
I predict that sour beers will continue to approach main stream status (but not reach it yet) and the Double IPA, hophead trend will continue unabated for at least this year. Personally, I love balance in all beverages. Many of the trendy beers are completely out-of-balance, and their appeal is to the beer drinker who seeks the superlative (darkest, hoppiest, rarest). It’s not that intensity is itself a bad thing. It just needs to be balanced by its counterpoint. For sour, there is sweet. For hoppy, there is malty. For fruity, there is structured. If you can’t balance both sides of the equation, I personally would prefer to drink something else. The exception is a beverage that is balanced by either food or another beverage, so that its intrinsic imbalance is evened out by its accompaniment.
Beer is best enjoyed…Draft? Bottle? Can?
There are several issues to address here. Is the beer conditioned in package? Is the beer going to be poured into a glass regardless of how it is sold at retail? What color is the glass? Last, are we talking just beer quality or also environmental concerns?
If it’s conditioned in the bottle–meaning that yeast and priming sugar are added before the cap is sealed–it’s hard to beat for quality. Beers can be packaged this way in any of the formats described (bottle, can or keg). The yeast will metabolize the sugars and produce carbonation while sealed in the container. This method generally produces smaller CO2 bubbles in solution, a richer body to the beer, and gives the yeast the opportunity to clean up unwanted compounds that made it into package. It prolongs the life of the beer and to some extent makes the beer ageable.
Now, if you are going to drink it right out of the bottle or can, then you probably don’t care much about nuances of quality anyway. It’s pretty hard to indulge the senses through the tiny opening in a bottle. My advice is to go out and buy a few appropriately shaped beer glasses. At Republic, we offer beers in our own style-specific glassware—a Nonic for basic ales, a Pilsner for lagers, a Chalice for Belgian and other strong ales, and yes… a frosted tumbler for North American adjunct lagers.
There are other arguments for one format or another. For instance, green and clear glass allow light (UV and visible) to pass through and affect the beer. Light struck beer, as it’s called, develops skunky flavors and aromas. Think about the popular green-bottled beers, and you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about. Heineken, Carlsberg, Rolling Rock… we’ve all experienced the skunk with one of those. Brown glass seems to eliminate most of the problem, but marketing concerns sometimes trump quality concerns apparently. Cans eliminate this problem entirely, and they have some added benefits for shipping. Cans are generally lighter than bottles, which cuts down on fuel expenses. Neither do cans have caps that can be faulty or rupture under the weight of being stacked too high.
And, of course, there is the argument for recycling and production costs of the packaging. However, from what I’ve read there isn’t a clear winner in that debate. Silica (used to make glass) is more accessible than Bauxite (used to make aluminum). But aluminum is more efficient to recycle than glass, as long as your community engages in recycling both materials. If not, you’re probably best using whatever material your city handles more responsibly.
In the end, our consumers buy 10 times more draft beer than bottles or cans. And refillable kegs (or the paper ones made from recycled materials) trump both cans and bottles in terms of environmental concerns. Keg beer is also likely to be fresh beer, so long as the wholesalers are doing their jobs correctly. So, in many cases draft is the superior choice.
We’ve seen the “light” and “diet” trend within the cocktail scene. Have you noticed a more health conscious beer drinker?
Sure, there’s a little of that. We have a category on the menu for light lagers and it’s obvious that some beer companies market themselves as “low calorie”. However, the craft beer movement seems less concerned with calories and more concerned with ingredients. What is going into the beer? And real beer (to steal a term from Garrett Oliver) is liquid bread. Beer was partially developed as a means of preserving grain, and it’s been an important dietary component for the people of many cultures past and present.
More than light and diet, we’ve seen a greater concern with gluten. Republic offers several ciders and six or seven gluten-free beer options, and we’ve seen that business grow. People are learning that there are levels of gluten tolerance, and some beer drinkers just feel better if they limit their gluten intake. We now have one gluten-removed beer that actually tastes like a normal beer, because it is made from barley. I’ve even joined a web based community for celiacs to gauge their opinions on what works for them and what they enjoy drinking.
Beer Cocktails. Think they’re worth serving?
Absolutely. We’ve just recently added a section to our beverage lists for them, and I’m really happy with the ones our team has developed. There’s absolutely no reason that the cocktail community should shun the use of beer or that beer lovers should reject the idea of adding to the beer with a splash of wine or a shot of spirit. Mixologists have already discovered that some fruited lambics are a nice addition to cocktails for their complexity and structure. It’s usually the beer connoisseurs who think mixing is adulteration. Of course, the same guys will rave about a coffee porter or a bourbon barrel stout. Why not a half-ounce of espresso infused bourbon added to that stout? How is it so different?
If beer weren’t an option, what would be your go-to drink to serve? Your go-to drink to enjoy yourself?
In the age of bespoke cocktails, I think it would be irresponsible to have less than a short list of go-to drinks. It’s easy to say a Sazerac or Manhattan, but not everyone enjoys whiskey cocktails. A quarter of my consumer base is still stuck on Cosmos or Flirtinis, and I believe in making them the best one possible without pretense or judging. There’s also something perfect about a classic daiquiri or simple gin and tonic on a hot day. I think too many bartenders feel the need to be showy. Just make great cocktails with great ingredients and attention to every detail.
My go-to drink for myself is probably a Corpse Reviver #2, although I rarely have the same beverage back-to-back. I just love the complexity and synergy of that drink, as all the elements come together in the most amazing way.
Most memorable night behind the bar was when _________.
Actually, one of the most memorable experiences here took place in the morning. Last Summer, during the world cup we drew some great crowds for the USA matches–with makeshift vuvuzelas and the whole bit. It was a great atmosphere, and when Landon Donovan scored in stoppage time against Slovenia, our crowd went nuts. It was a truly patriotic moment, and I don’t even believe in nationalism.