Dales expansion in Colorado
Brewery up and running in Longmont
By Tony Kindelspire
LONGMONT â€” Ten times the space. A ton more equipment. Automated equipment.
Oskar Blues brewed its first batch of Daleâ€™s Pale Ale in April at its new $3 million Longmont brewing facility, located in an industrial building at Pike Road and Sunset Street.
From a catwalk about 20 feet above the floor Friday morning, lead brewer Mike Hall operated the automated mash tank, where the brewing starts. Unlike the tank at the Lyons facility, this one has an automated steel arm that stirs the mixture in the giant receptacle, where water extracts sugars from the malted barley.
At the Lyons brewhouse, Hall would use a handheld oar to stir the mixture.
â€œSaves my rotator cuff,â€ Hall quipped, as he and the other brewers worked the controls and switches on their new equipment like mad scientists in a laboratory.
But this was no experiment: These were craftsmen plying their foamy, hop-laden trade.
Everything about Oskar Bluesâ€™ Longmont facility is big. At 35,000 square feet, itâ€™s 10 times the size of the old brewhouse. In fact, the walk-in cooler at the new facility is about the size of the old brewhouse.
â€œWhat took two days to make in Lyons will take one day here,â€ spokesman Marty Jones said.
The company brewed 12,400 barrels of beer last year in Lyons, or 384,400 gallons. The new facility can turn out 30,000 barrels a year, Jones said.
â€œWeâ€™re still going to make beer in Lyons, (but) just for the pub,â€ Jones said. â€œAll our canned beer and keg sales will come out of here.â€
The company will sell its brewhouse in Lyons, most likely to a smaller brewer that needs to add capacity, he said.
Having a facility devoted to its wholesale business will allow Oskar Bluesâ€™ five brewers to not only brew beer just for the restaurant and pub in Lyons, but also to experiment with specialty beers.
Texas is the most recent state where Oskar Blues beers are available, Jones said. And when California becomes the next one in May, residents of 20 states will be able to buy Daleâ€™s, Old Chub and Gordon. Itâ€™s a long way from fall 2002, when founder Dale Katechis and some friends first started putting the microbrew in a can.
â€œWhen we first started, we had a lot of retailers that said nobody would buy craft beer in a can,â€ Jones said.
Some of those retailers are now the biggest sellers of Oskar Bluesâ€™ beer, Jones said, and 25 other craft brewers now offer their products in cans.
A tasting room may open in the Longmont facility sometime this year.