Aggressive. It’s a word you’ll hear thrown around in Oskar Blues’ rhetoric—a lot. The makers of the hopped up Dale’s Pale Ale, and the holders of the claim to fame of craft beer’s first brewery to package in cans are at it again—this time using the word aggressive to describe their fast-approaching introduction into the craft brewery scene in Austin, Texas.
Since opening as a small-town Colorado brewpub and music joint in 2002, Oskar Blues has experienced explosive growth, including additional facilities in Longmont, Colo. and Brevard, N.C. Oskar Blues has also expanded their brand to include many food, beer and music-driven restaurants in Colorado, Hotbox Coffee Roasters, REEB Cycles, a line of non-alcoholic sodas and the charitable CAN’d Aid Foundation.
While aggressive is an understatement for the levels of growth the brewery has experienced in the last decade, it’s a pretty fitting word to describe the initial build-out timeline of the Oskar Blues Austin location, which initially had an opening date set for April 20 (cue the 4/20 jokes). But instead of the sounds of hops, malts and water becoming beer, the brewery is alive today with the sounds of construction crews hammering and sawing their way to the opening of the brewery in the very near future.
“As soon as we can open the doors, we’ll do it,” said OB marketing director and spokesman, Chad Melis. “We’re currently on pace to begin brewing in the second half of May.”
The new brewery located at 10420 Metric Blvd. is in good company in an industrial neighborhood that boasts several other Texas-based breweries including Austin BeerWorks, Adelbert’s Brewery and Circle Brewing Co.
Previously and fittingly a recycling center, Oskar Blues’ new 50,000 square-foot brewery will feature a 5,000 square-foot taproom that will spill outside into a 2,220 square-foot deck. Several large windows separate the taproom and the brewery, giving craft beer drinkers a close-up view of the brewery’s operational canning line as well as a glimpse into the brewhouse, which will have an initial capacity of 15,000 barrels per year, capping out at 105,000 barrels down the road.
“When we built our Brevard brewery, the location we chose was a cultural decision,” said Melis. We want to continue to grow in a way that is exciting for us and fits into our culture, and the decision to go to Austin was very similar. It’s a place that has a lot of energy and a dynamically growing craft beer scene. There’s a great music scene, food scene, and outdoor scene. Culturally, it’s a great fit for us.”
While craft beer fans won’t be able to pedal their rigs over miles of scenic mountain biking trails to get to the Austin brewery, like they do in Brevard, the area’s location in a sudsy local beer mecca is still optimal for fans of two-wheeled street transportation.
At the helm of Oskar Blues’ Austin location is a craft beer veteran who isn’t a stranger to large brewery build-outs. Head brewer, Michael Harris, has a long history in craft beer, spending the past decade working in some capacity in the brewhouse at the Saint Arnold Brewing Co.—recently leaving a head brewer position at Texas’ oldest craft brewery to join the team at Oskar Blues.
“Michael was on board during Saint Arnold’s big expansion,” said Melis. “He really enjoyed being part of that project and being hands on. His experience there is exciting for us, and I think it’s big part of what drew him to this project.”
In total, Oskar Blues logged 192,000 barrels in 2015, distributing to forty-nine states. With the opening of the Austin location, the brewery is set to enter their fiftieth state by mid-2016 — projecting year-end production to reach 243,000 barrels in total.
In addition to the lofty goals inspired from the brewhouse, Oskar Blues also has plans to shake up (figuratively, of course) their CANundrum mixed pack, swapping out the old timer Old Chub Scottish Style Ale for the “metamodern” IPA, which was added to the Oskar Blues year-round roster in 2015. The core line-up of Oskar Blues beers is also expected to welcome another member into the group by the mid-year mark.
For fans of the brewery living in Austin and looking to get a preview of Oskar Blues’ “culture”, tickets are currently on sale for the brewery’s Burning CAN festival, “a celebration of craft beer in a can, live music, and the adventurous lifestyle.” Headlined by the Drive-By Truckers in Walter E. Long Park in Austin, this funky event will include beer tastings from fifty craft breweries across the nation and other out-there events, like The Beer Relay — a trail running and beer drinking event for those looking to punish their body and reward it at the same time.
To stay up-to-date on the official opening of the Oskar Blues Austin location, visit the brewery on Facebook at: facebook.com/OskarBluesAustin