Distillation, I think we will be seeing more of this from Craft Brewing.

Longmont-based Oskar Blues going back home to launch new distillery

 

Oskar Blues Brewery runs its new canning line Friday at its production facility at 1800 Pike Road in Longmont. The new equipment has doubled the production capacity of its can production.

LONGMONT — The old barn where the Oskar Blues “Canned Beer Apocalypse” was launched will soon give birth to another revolutionary idea.

The stills have been ordered and the federal licensing agreements are in process for Lyons Soul Distilling LLC, the latest venture for Oskar Blues Brewery. Plans are for the distillery to be up and running by this summer, according to spokesman Chad Melis.

“We’re going to can some spirits,” he said Friday at the company’s Longmont brewery.

The barn, next to Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, is where owner Dale Katechis first started canning Dale’s Pale Ale, the brewery’s flagship beer, two cans at a time by hand, 10 years ago.

“Growing up, we had this place we called the swimming hole in Stevenson, Ala.,” Katechis said. “And this little path led off to this little still.”

His grandfather’s still, to be exact. He’s not sure if that’s why he ended up in the brewing business, Katechis said, but some of the talent apparently passed through the generations: “I’ve had some success distilling some agave nectar in the past.”

He said he’s ordered a couple of different brands of stills and will experiment with making different things with them. “Play around with it — kind of like the way we do with special-batch beers,” he said.

The first two products planned for Lyons Soul Distilling will be an Organic Agave Nectar using locally produced Madhava honey, and a whiskey made from brewery mash that will be aged for two years in French white oak barrels.

“In the meantime, we’ll experiment with making those other spirits that don’t require an aging process,” Katechis said.

Though craft brew in a can is at the heart of the company — Oskar Blues was the first to do it and the method has been copied by scores of craft breweries since — spirits are not a completely foreign subject. In 2008 Oskar Blues signed a contract to provide the wash, or mash — the liquid left over after malted barley is boiled in water — for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. Stranahan’s has since started making its own mash, but over the years Oskar Blues has also aged some of its specialty beers in Stranahan’s barrels.

“That kind of rekindled our desire to start doing some distilling,” Katechis said. “And the fact that we’ve got a brewery up in Lyons making the mash — it just kind of made sense.”

At least initially, distribution of Lyons Soul Distilling’s products will stay within Colorado, mostly at the company’s current “and future” restaurants in the state.

Oskar Blues Grill & Brew opened in Lyons 15 years ago this April. The company moved its brewing operations to Longmont in 2008 and opened its Longmont restaurant, Home Made Liquids & Solids, in October 2010.

Lyons Soul Distilling is just the latest in what has been a productive year of creativity for the company. In addition to its annual double-digit growth in beer sales — Oskar Blues recently invested about $2 million in improvements at its brewery, including a new canning line — the company in 2011 opened Hops & Heifers Farm, where it raises the cattle for the burgers it serves at its restaurant and the hops for its beer; launched REEB Cycles, its own bicycle company; and launched the Bonewagon Food Truck.

 

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