It has been a long strange trip for Oskar Blues Brewery owner Dale Katechis.

The well-known brewery was founded by Katechis in 1997 as a restaurant in the town of Lyons, Colo., but was a fairly small operation until it began canning beer in 2002. At the time, the idea of putting beer in cans was not unknown, but it was mostly relegated to places like Canada, where Katechis got the idea during a trip. Some have credited him as the the first to release a craft beer in the United States with Dale’s Pale ale in 2002, but that is not technically true, as there were other companies that beat him to it that are not as well known.

Regardless, Oskar Blues —which moved brewery productions to Longmont, Colo. in 2008 — is the largest craft brewery in the United States by volume that does not package its beers in bottles, and in 2013 it produced 141,000 barrels of beer. Also in 2013, Oskar Blues opened a satellite brewery in Brevard, N.C. that brews more than 100,000 barrels of beer a year. The original location in Lyons is now a restaurant named Oscar Blues Grill and Bar, and has 45 beers on tap.


The sign to the Oskar Blues brewery stands in front of a fairly inconspicuous building in Longmont, Colo.


Just inside the main door is the Tasty Weasel pub, where you can get any of Oskar Blue's beers on tap while sitting at the bar or tables.


It is the details that matter, like this collection of cans that lines the wall.


The Tasty Weasel pub features a rotating selection of Oskar Blues beers on tap, as well as some barrel-aged selections that don't tend to last long.


Even the bar stools are decked out in Oskar Blues logos.


There are little touches all over the brewery, like this custom steelwork piece on the bar.


The brewery itself is well laid out.


There are kegs and barrels stacked all around the brewery, holding a variety of different beers to be released in the future.


In another part of the brewery is the storage for the crowler cans, waiting to be used.


In one section of the building, there are barrels stacked almost to the ceiling.


Barrels that hold beer for various lengths of time.


Kegs and cans share space wherever they can.


The fridge inside the brewery holds an impressive amount of beer that has already been canned and is awaiting for shipment.


The inside of one side of the brewery.


Different empty cans waiting to be filled with their respective beers.


Boxes stacked in the brewery.


Even as large as it is now, there is still quite a bit of space that the brewery can expand into in the future.

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Along with all of that, Oskar Blues was one of the first breweries to offer crowlers, which are 32-ounce cans that are filled with beer and sealed immediately on site. The crowlers have become so popular with patrons that Oskar Blues has started selling the product to other breweries and taprooms around the country, including The Collective Brewing Project in Fort Worth, Texas and Rhinegeist Brewery in Ohio, among others.

I recently visited the brewery in Longmont, Colo. and had a chance to spend some time photographing the inside of the operation. I was extremely impressed not only with how everything was laid out, but with how nice and relaxed everyone was. The brewery is full of personality and obviously well loved by locals, and is well worth a visit if you are in town.

OskarBluesBrewery_001 — The sign to the Oskar Blues brewery stands in front of a fairly inconspicuous building in Longmont.