Back when I lived in Oklahoma, back in the 90s, there really wasn’t any decent craft beer. (Of course, I was a teenager.) I kinda felt like it would always be that way. This is a state where you can’t buy cold beer over 3.2% anywhere. Then, I started hearing some rumblings that a brewery called COOP AleWorks was really cranking out some legit shit. So, when I made my triumphant return to town over the weekend for a “How to Fail” book tour signing, I knew I would have to seek it out. On both Thursday night and Saturday, I met up with COOP partner/bon vivant J.D. Merryweather (above) for some serious tippling, pretty much drinking anything in the brewery he would let me. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Or, to be less trite, like a drunk in a brewery. And, wow, was it all good.
One of two canned COOP offerings (along with Native Amber; the rest are currently tap only), this 5.3% ABV American Blonde Ale would seem to be the “lamest” offering from COOP, the one meant to convert the Bud Light drinkers…and it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s lame. No sir, this is a 5.3% beer with some serious flavor. The Noble hops, the malt body, the carbonation, made me think this was more along the lines of a pilsner, but whatever it is, it’s damn good.
Zeppelin German Wheat
Yeah, no craft beer drinker likes American wheat beers, right? If more places were making great efforts like Zeppelin, that might not be the case. 5.6% and packed with tastes of wheat and rye with just a little hops coming through, this is a solid drinker, better than most on the market.
Red ales are always a crap shoot for me as they are a delicate balance between hops and malt that if you fuck up, they are just gross. But COOP nails this one. Caramelly and biscuity with a nice hoppy finish, this is the beer Fat Tire wishes it could be.
Porters are another beer that breweries never seem to completely nail. Often too bitter and acrid, COOP has made one of the best I’ve had recently. Chocolately and nutty, this had such a smooth, fluffy finish I was certain it had to have been served on a nitro tap. Nope. I really enjoyed this one.
I highly doubt there’s an IPA this good made within 500 miles of COOP. The classic West Coast bitter grapefruit and pine IPA, a little hefty at 7%, this is the beer that will turn a ton of Oklahomans into hop heads.
DNR Belgian Style Golden Ale
What an insanely intriguing beer. An over-the-top complex mix of Noble hops, European malts, and Belgian candi giving this tastes of vanilla, cinnamon, and dark fruits. And, at 10% this is one of the most deceptively alcoholic beers I’ve ever had. You’ll want to keep sucking them down. But don’t. Or do. I don’t really care about your health.
Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout
By now every brewery is trying bourbon-barreled stouts and they should excite me as much as another boxing movie being released. But just like “The Fighter” stunned me and found new ways to tell the pugilist’s tale, COOP has made a real corker of a barrel-aged stout. Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had. It’s not lacking in boozy taste, no way, but it’s not something that brings you to your knees either. Rich, chocolately, and a “mere” 9.0%, it’s quite dangerous when you’ve become friends with a guy with the ability to over-serve you this. I probably had five full pints and never got sick of it. Wow.
This final beer is one that isn’t even available yet, one whose recipe isn’t fully created yet, and one that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to publicly discuss (I’ll wait for a cease and desist from J.D.), but it was my favorite beer I had from COOP so I want to scream to the hills about it. Red Zeppelin is Zeppelin German Wheat aged in barrels on wild bing cherries. This is a recipe they’re still working on and, admittedly, by now the souring had given the beer a slightly vinegary nose which some more amateur beer drinkers found unappealing, but I fucking loved it. Just the perfect tart, sour, yet still slightly fruity taste I love. It actually reminded me of Cantillon Kriek if I can be so bold. I will be. I hope they release and bottle this one day–it’ll sweep the beer nation.
COOP is only available in Oklahoma so for now you’ll have to hope your company sends you there for work if you want to get some (or maybe write a book and go on tour there???) and I’ll have to hope J.D. is kind enough to build a pipeline to my house so I can always have some around to enjoy. COOP is gonna be a big player in the beer world soon.
Pick up a last minute copy of my book, HOW TO FAIL!!!