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.
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.