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Oklahoma family starts microbrewery.

Associated Press--If you want something done right, sometimes you just have to do it yourself. So Rick Huebert made his own brand of beer. He created Huebert Brewing Co. and, drawing on his technical experience, personally put together the company's manufacturing facility. And he wrote the legislation that allowed him to open the first stand-alone brewery Oklahoma's seen in 30 years.

Well, he had some help with the legislation.

"I first went to my senator, Kathleen Wilcoxson," said Huebert, with a bill he had researched and written himself. "We never got our laws straight since Prohibition. "That's why you don't see any other breweries in this state. I never wanted to do political work of any kind, but it was a necessary evil."

Oliver Delaney, president of the Oklahoma Malt Beverage Association, sat down Huebert, legislators and staff, and the group worked out several details, Huebert said. By the time Senate Bill 353 emerged from conference committee and was passed out of the Legislature, Sen. Charles Ford, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, were recognized as the authors. The bill was signed by Gov. Brad Henry on June 6, and will go into effect Nov. 1.

The legislation creates an Oklahoma brewers license, lowers or eliminates certain fees and taxes for Oklahoma beer manufacturers, and allows an Oklahoma brewery to sell their wares to wholesalers and to the general public. Customers will be able to sample the beer in small amounts as well. An excise tax on beer exported out of state was removed by the legislation.

While a number of restaurants in the state brew their own beer, such an establishment is not to be considered a microbrewery, said Delaney, but a brewhouse or brewpub. About three years ago, Oklahoma law was changed to allow a brewpub to sell their beer off-premises.

According to Huebert, Oklahoma's laws helped push Progress Brewing Co.--which was bought by Lone Star Brewing Company in Texas--out of the state. Lone Star also ran into trouble with Oklahoma City government over its waste policies, he said.

Huebert Brewing Co. is not as large an operation as Progress was, he said. Located in Oklahoma City's Capitol Hill neighborhood, at 421 S.W. 26 St., the brewery measures about 6,500 square feet. Huebert, his wife, Shaneen, and two part-timers are the only employees presently, but once the brewery is operating 24 hours a day at full capacity, the business could have up to 15 employees.

The facility is capable of producing more than 360,000 bottles a year, according to Huebert's calculations.

"That might sound like a lot, but that represents two one-hundredths of one percent of the beer market in Oklahoma," said Huebert. He estimated the beer market in Oklahoma at about $500 million annually. "There's some big beer drinking going on here. If I can sell to a fraction of that market, I'll be successful."

Huebert plans to start small, but projects first-year revenues at $360,000.

With more than 2,500 hours of technical training from a number of universities and career tech schools in Oklahoma, Huebert is familiar with electrical work, mechanics, welding, robotics, computer programming and more. "I can work on the space shuttle, build robots," he said.

While he holds a "day job" using these skills, he decided 15 years ago that one day he would have his own brewery, he said.

"I started learning the process," he said. "I set my mind in the direction I wanted to go, and kept at it. When I met my wife, I told her we're going to own a brewery one day. She said, 'That's fine.'"

Brewing beer had been a longtime hobby for Huebert. Over the years, Huebert said he's made beer at a number of the local brewpubs. At last, he perfected the recipe for his own signature beer. "This is my own thing--I didn't copy anything," said Huebert.

He said his Huebert's Old Tyme Lager is between an amber and a light beer, he said, with some characteristics of a Czech or English beer.
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Title Annotation:Weekly Brewer's Report; Huebert Brewing Co.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:Sep 22, 2003
Words:677
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