Today, as a member of Canarchy, Oskar Blues continues to push the boundaries of craft brewing. Here are a dozen things you should know about Oskar Blues.
Oskar Blues was just a small-town brewpub living in lonely Lyons, Colo.
Originally a restaurant, Oskar Blues opened in 1997 and initially set out to serve its 1,500-person community of Lyons, Colo. Twenty years later, the town has a population of about 2,000 people, and Oskar Blues has five brewery locations — in Longmont, Boulder, and Oak Room, Colo.; Austin, Texas; and Brevard, N.C. Its beer is sold in 50 states and 17 countries.
Oskar Blues is one in the family.
Oskar Blues is a founding member of the Canarchy craft brewery collective, a portfolio of craft breweries funded partially by private equity firm, Fireman Capital Partners. Established in 2015, the collective includes brewery siblings Perrin Brewing, Cigar City Brewing, Squatters Craft Beers and Wasatch Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing, and Three Weavers Brewing.
It is an innovator.
Oskar Blues was the first craft beer ever packaged in cans. Looking for a way to lure more people to Lyons, Colo., in the early 2000s, Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis did something crazy: He asked the Ball Corporation to cut a deal that would allow his small brewpub to can its beer for local retail distribution. Ball, a corporation whose customers included Coors and Coke, miraculously agreed. Thanks to a cold fax (the early aughts’ equivalent of a cold call or blind email) from a Canadian company called Cask Brewing Systems, Dale’s Pale Ale became America’s first craft beer in cans in 2002. At the time, one truckload of cans lasted the brewery an entire year.
Katechis didn’t stop there. In 2012, he convinced Ball to bring stovepipe cans to the U.S. The 19.2-ounce can continues to gain popularity today.
Craft beer’s Thomas Edison works for Oskar Blues.
Colorado is home to many inventions, from the root beer float to Crocs to Chipotle. Thanks to Oskar Blues, it can also claim the crowler, or can-growler. In 2013, Oskar Blues’ Jeremy Rudolf was inspired by a 1970s-era garden vegetable can sealer that he convinced Ball to retrofit for takeaway beer purposes.
Dale is a brand and an actual person.
Dale’s Pale Ale is the namesake of Oskar Blues’ founder and former owner Dale Katechis. The beer garnered national attention for its aggressive hop profile and packaging as the first craft beer in cans. It also confused a lot of people. Many consumers believed Dale was the name of the brewery, which in fact was always Oskar Blues.
Oskar Blues: Borne of mountains, music, and mystery.
The name Oskar Blues comes from … well, even the brewery can’t keep the story straight. One version is that, while backpacking overseas, Katechis met a man named Oskar with a memorable personality. He used his name along with “Blues” to root the restaurant in one of Katechis’s other passions, music. Today, Oskar Blues locations offer live music several nights a week, and the original Lyons restaurant serves as the headquarters of the Colorado Blues Society.
Another version of the story is that Dale’s mom, an avid antique hunter, came across the original script for the 1980 film, “The Blues Brothers.” In it, there was a forgotten third brother by the name of Oskar. This is entirely untrue.
Oskar Blues’ kingdom includes beer, burgers, bikes, and the Black Buzzard.
Oskar Blues’ Brewery is now owned by Canarchy, but its namesake restaurant business is a separate entity — and thriving. Oskar Blues Fooderies includes branches of Oskar Blues Grill and Brew in Lyons, Colorado Springs, and downtown Denver; Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids in Longmont; Oskar Blues Chuburger in Longmont and Denver; CyclHops Bike Cantina in Longmont; Hotbox Roasters Cafe and wholesale coffee roaster in Denver; and the Black Buzzard music venue, part of Oskar Blues Grill and Brew in Denver.
It doesn’t get more Colorado than a craft-beer-mountain-bike-taco hybrid.
In 2011, Oskar Blues launched Reeb Cycles, a handmade mountain bike company and full-service bike shop. Reeb is headquartered at CyclHops, a taqueria-meets-bike-shop-meets-bar in Denver’s RiNo district. Fun fact: “Reeb” is “beer” backwards.
Oskar Blues lends a helping can’d.
Oskar Blues and Canarchy’s non-profit parter, the Can’d Aid Foundation, was formed after massive flooding devastated Lyons and Longmont in September 2013. Since then, Can’d Aid has raised more than $4 million, donated more than 1 million cans of water, and built thousands of bikes for communities in need. Most recently, in September 2018, Canarchy released a mixed pack of beers from four of its breweries. One dollar per every mixed pack benefits Can’d Aid, with a goal of $10,000.
Oskar Blues founder, Dale Katechis called Can’d Aid “the coolest shit” the brewery has ever done.
Oskar Blues is a spirited bunch.
In addition to beers like Dale’s Pale Ale, Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, Oskar Blues recently released a Moscow Mule canned cocktail, the first of its Spirits by Oskar Blues line. The company also has a line of craft sodas, B. Stiff and Sons. Flavors include root beer, cream soda, and black cherry.
Dale’s Pale Ale for Can-gress.
According to the Oskar Blues blog, “Dale’s doesn’t care which side of the aisle you’re on — as long as you’re willing to grab a seat at the bar. Dale’s Pale Ale’s opinion on healthcare? The economy? Infrastructure? There are no opinions because this CANdidate is literally a can of beer.”
Ask Oskar Blues about today’s specials.
Oskar Blues regularly releases specialty beers. In October, the brewery will be dropping a different beer every Thursday, available in select locations. Learn more about it here.