The Steps Oklahoma is Taking to Build Craft Beer Fans

​Tabbi Burwell wants Oklahoma to catch up when it comes to craft beer. The Executive Director for the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma recently announced the formation of a 60-brewery beer trail to help be the first phase in developing a stronger base to help market and expose Oklahomans and those visiting the state to the craft beer industry.

Coming from a tourism background, the importance of “beer tourism” was key to Burwell, who was named ED for the guild in August of 2020.

“Because Oklahoma laws were so far behind other states and taprooms weren’t legalized until 2018, our state had some catching up to do,” she told Brewer.

Seeing a need for this, Burwell initially went to the Department of Tourism to create a trail but she said they had no money for a project.

“They also thought it was a natural fit for the Department of Agriculture to do this since they already did a wine trail,” Burwell said. “As we dove in further, because of COVID, the Dept. of Ag had more dollars to spend due to not participating in several events in 2020 and were able to allocate funds to this. 

“They handled all of the branding, web development map, and printed maps across all welcome centers.”

The state brewery’s role leading up to the launch was to meet with the Department of Ag and to get Agritourism certified. Now that it’s launched, member breweries will support the trail through social media channels, taproom posters and Burwell said she’d love to do activation events along the trail as things come up.

“For example, Route 66 will be turning 100 years old in 2026 and I’d love for breweries that are along the trail to create events to encourage travelers to stop in and celebrate the anniversary,” she said. “Oklahoma has the longest stretch of Route 66 and we see travelers from all across the world exploring the route. It would be a good time to capitalize on this with Route 66 themed beers and other fun events.” 

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To stay connected, breweries and our board meet monthly on a Zoom call along with emails and visits.

Burwell said she has relied on her board to guide her through the industry for ideas as well as leaning on the Brewers Association and other state Guild Directors to help spur ideas of how to grow this project. 

“The fun part about this, having the Department of Agriculture, Made in Oklahoma and Made in Oklahoma Coalition allows me to have a wider net of professionals to generate ideas on how we can make this trail successful,” she said, adding that Oklahoma Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell is on the side of putting craft breweries top-of-mind when it comes to tourism in the state. 

“We have big dreams of highway wayfinding signs, billboards, media press visits, and much more,” Burwell said. “Oklahoma breweries continue to grow and my goal is to get consumption in our state up whether it be through events, a trail, exclusive Enthusiast memberships with our organizations, or more.”

Getting launched means getting funding and expanding on this will take efforts for fundraising as well.

“Our next steps are to launch a passport series and really continue to push this trail in our state,” Burwell said. “I will be looking at our Allied Members first for a partnership in supporting printed passports and items for collection once they complete the trail. Our organization is currently still trying to build the means to support our events, members, my role, and our lobbyist so without support from outside entities, the passport won’t happen. 

“We do have a partner through the creation of our website that I am working with for an eCommerce site added to for merchandise of the trail to be sold. The Dept. of Ag will get 10% of the funds from those items but this also could be a revenue generator for our association.”

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