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FROM KITCHEN TO CONCEPT: Stonecloud Brewing Co. sets grand opening for July 15

Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report
Stonecloud Brewing Co Founder Joel Irby talks about why he returned to Oklahoma to open the new brewery.
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OKLAHOMA CITY- On Wednesday evening, Oklahoma City’s newest brewery opened its doors and its taps for a special preview of the Stonecloud taproom and brewery, set to open next month to the public.

Located in the old Sunshine Laundry and Cleaners’ building on Classen Blvd., Stonecloud Brewing Co. is the dream of owner and a head brewer Joel Irby, a native Oklahoman who learned the craft brewing magic at Boulder Brewing and Avery Brewing Co in Colorado.

On Wednesday, guests sampled the Stonecloud beers ranging from a bright farmhouse ale, a Belgian Wit, an apricot sour and a coffee Imperial stout and got a behind-the-scenes look at the operations.

At noon on Saturday, July 15, the brewery will open with a “pop-up” patio party featuring food trucks, music from The Spy FM and outdoor games from the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department.

For Irby, the grand opening couldn’t come soon enough.

“We are really, really excited to be open. It’s been a long time in the works,  and we literally cannot wait to have people in here,” Irby said. “That’s definitely going to be the best part.”

KITCHEN BEGINNINGS

Irby found his love of brewing in his mother’s kitchen. When Irby graduated college in Colorado, he was a little adrift in deciding what he wanted to do with his life.

“The Stonecloud is a vision I’ve had for about 10 or 11 years. It started off with a batch of home brewing in my mom’s kitchen, actually,” Irby said. “I had just graduated college in Colorado, and I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I was like, ‘You know what? This is really fun and I think I want to do this.”

In order to learn the craft, Irby left Stillwater and returned to Colorado. He spent six to eight months trying to hire on at a brewery and finally found a job in shipping at Boulder Beer. He worked his way up to a brewers position.

“Around the time I was a brewer at Boulder Beer, Avery (Brewing) was just skyrocketing in growth, and I was able to get a brewing job there,” Irby said. “I finally got to the point where, 10 years later, it was time to do my own thing. So, I moved back to Oklahoma and started this project.”

Oklahoma will always be “home,” Irby said, due to the proximity to family. The state also offers growth opportunity that many craft beer-heavy states like Colorado may not, he said.

“I feel I can make a difference in the scene here,” he said. “Colorado is exploding in breweries, so it’s hard to make an impact as one of 350 breweries. Oklahoma has 18 or so breweries, so you have a real chance to make a difference.”

FROM DECREPIT TO DELICIOUS

Oklahoma City’s Sunshine Laundry and Cleaners, with its signature giant colorful sign, was in terrible shape for decades.

The roof was gone over most of the property and the inside of the building was filled with trash, graffiti, scrap metal and a tree was growing in the middle. Numerous homeless used the building, and when Irby first saw the property, he couldn’t imagine how it could come back to life.

Thanks to Pivot Project partners David Wanzer, Jonathan Dodson and Ben Sellers who bought the property, the new Sunshine building has regained its glory.

“Honestly, my first thought was ‘This place can’t be saved,” Irby said. “It was like a war zone almost. But, (Pivot) had a great vision for it, and they kind of brought me along.”

More than two years later, Stonecloud is geared to open in the newly-renovated, modern and open facility as one of the major tenants. The taproom at Stonecloud was actually the laundry drop-off drive through.

“Back in the back is where we make all the beers,” said Irby. “We do everything onsite. Going back to my time at Avery, Avery is honestly world-renowned for making some of the best beer, and consistency is their big thing.”

Irby said he would bring that dedication to consistency to his operation as well. Although the preview event featured four limited-offering beers, Stonecloud will open with a selection of beer, including a grapefruit IPA, a pale ale made with wild yeast, the Turtlehead Coffee Imperial Stout and a few other beers that Irby will unveil during the grand opening.

Canning and bottling are future plans, but for the first few weeks, Irby said the brewery will focus on perfecting the new system and its beers.

“We are sacrificing early fast growth in order to send out exactly what we want,” he said.

“Making exceptional beer takes time, high-quality ingredients and knowledge, but creativity and innovation are what make the process exciting.”

GRAND POUR

The July 15 grand opening will also feature free logo glasses to the first 100 customers, and for $15 a plate, Smokin’ Okies food truck will offer an “over-the-top” pig roast. Each food ticket purchased will enter guests into a raffle.

Local pastry truck Holey Rollers will also feature handcrafted doughnuts to be paired with the Stonecloud beers.

“Working with Pivot Project and taking on the renovation of the Sunshine Laundry building was a huge task, but being a part of the revitalization of downtown Oklahoma City is very important to me,” said Irby.

“I truly want to have an active role in the Oklahoma craft beer movement, as well as being involved with local businesses and organizations in the Oklahoma City community. That sense of working together and bonding is what really makes brewing a labor of love.”

For more information, visit www.stonecloudbrewing.com.

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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