One of the oldest and most beloved businesses in town is Oskar Blues Grill & Brew. Long-time residents saw Dale Katechis grow it in just a few years from a single restaurant into adding its own independent brewery and developing a widely recognized craft beer, Dale’s Pale Ale and more. This year it is celebrating its 25 year anniversary.
A few years ago, it temporarily closed its restaurant dining room in order to update the premises’ interior design. It also had setbacks due to COVID-19 restrictions, and it had to serve food and drinks only at the front service window, facing Main Street. It fully reopened in the past year, including bringing back a full schedule of live bands.
Recently, it looked like it might be closing again. Katechis and his Oskar’s establishment were in the news for selling its interests to another company (mistakenly believed by much of the public to be a complete sale of all the restaurants and breweries). But the Lyons restaurant has remained under Katechis’s ownership, fully open, with live bands weekly; and with hints that a new partner will be adding some of Oskar Blue’s old time New Orleans style food.
But, let’s back track. There are a lot of holes in the history of this grand old institution of Lyons. There has never been written a thorough history of Dale’s ownership roles and growth in the industry. We reminisced with owner Dale Katechis about his early days in Lyons, and confirmed all the changes and their dates to put in the books of Lyons history.
The restaurant Oskar Blues opened on April 25, 1997. It was part of the brand-new plaza at the east entrance to the town on Highway 36, which also held the Bank of the West, and a doctor’s office. When Katechis, who was born and bred in the restaurant business, enticed the plaza owner Ken Winter to include him in the business plan, he wasn’t quite sure himself how successful it would be. He was looking at offering burgers and some Cajun food in the restaurant. But his business succeeded, and his enthusiasm for a successful town economy made him soon become the head of the Lyons Chamber of Commerce. The restaurant also became known for BBQ items and pizza.
The next step in making it more than an ordinary bar and burgers was his goal to brew his own beer. He looked to the barn building next door to start developing his home brew.
“We had a desire to have a brew pub,” said Katechis. “but, it took a year and a half. We needed to grow into that because we didn’t have the equipment.”
He first worked with Left Hand Brewery to develop his Dale’s Pale Ale.
“We grew fast and sometimes didn’t have the time to think about things deeply and made a few mistakes,” said Katechis. “We brought in some old dairy tanks to get them started. Eventually we succeeded and changed our license to a ‘brew pub.’”
In 2004, they developed a method of putting craft beer into aluminum cans that sparked the craft-beer-in-a-can craze that would eventually make Oskar Blues famous. Many remember that Frontier airline had the first airplanes to serve any craft beer in a can, and it was Dale’s Pale Ale. Over the years many magazines named it the best pale ale.
The business soon expanded into additional locations. They moved their brewing facility, Oskar Blues Brewery and Taproom, to Longmont at 1640 S. Sunset Street near Pike Road in 2008.
A few blocks west of that, in 2008, they obtained property in Longmont for a restaurant. They opened the Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids restaurant in Longmont at 1555 Hover Street in October 2010, at the 119-Diagonal Highway intersection. They carried over the menu of pizzas, burgers and “creative Creole chow.” The building was part of an old familiar Longmont farm; and the old silo was retained and painted to look like a 43-foot-high can of Dale’s Pale Ale. Today they have 30 rotating taps, offering not only their own beers, but other American craft beers from coast to coast. Plus, they have local and nationally-known musicians perform.
Other locations included:
==In 1999, worked with Left Hand Brewing Company and Left Hand Tap House, Eric Wallace as President and Co-Founder. Left Hand Tasting Room at 1265 Boston Ave.
==In 2018, Oskar Blues Market Street, 1664 Market, Denver, just off the 16th Street Mall, with their popular underground music venue The Black Buzzard.
==In 2002, Redfish Fish House & Brewery, 2027 13th Street, Boulder. A New Orleans style brewhouse, with a heavy fish menu, a hot nightspot with live music. It gave Katechis extra capacity to brew Dale’s Ale. (He sold it later in 2004-5, to Steve Shenk, who retained the name. Then sold to Jim Howser, January 2009, who reopened it as Colorado Brewing Company, featuring their own beers.)
==In 2018, Oskar Blues Grill & Brew Colorado Springs, 118 N Tejon St, Colorado Springs, near Manitou Springs (promoting OB burgers & brew), 14,000 square feet over the three stories, and live bands.
==In 2012, they made the big move to open the Brevard, N.C. location, a restaurant and brewery. While it was a risky proposition to open so far from home base, it succeeded. It reduced the cost of shipping their beer across the nation, and paid for itself in 18 months. Fifty percent of their beer is sold out of there.
==In 2017, Oskar Blues Taproom, 921 Pearl Street, Boulder, a brewery and taproom, small batch stouts, ales and other beers offered in a cool tasting room with outdoor seating.
==In 2017, A CHUBurger was opened in Longmont, as well as in Denver’s RiNo district, and Hotbox Coffee Roasters. Casual quick food places. All three are currently closed.
After the Great Flood of 2013 in Colorado, that struck Katechis’ home town of Lyons bad, he partnered with CAN’D AID. Can’d Aid is a nationally recognized nonprofit that rallies volunteers from all walks of life. They have done things like distribute water in disaster areas, provide bikes and skateboards to underserved youth, and instigated projects to protect and restore the environment. Its philosophy is that everyone has the power to give back and do good — a simple concept that founder Diana Ralston stands on. From the early days of success during the Flood of canning clean drinking water and mucking and gutting homes devastated by disaster, and giving $1,000 checks to those hurt in Lyons, they are now a recognized and established large 501(c) 3 nonprofit; and they continue to go to weather ravaged areas to help. Today, Katechis is an active board member and advisor.
In March 2015, Fireman Capital Partners acquired a majority of shares of Oskar Blues. The expanded businesses acquisition was named CANarchy. It was the parent company for Oskar Blues breweries, and five other craft breweries. It never took over the restaurants, which were under Oskar Blues Fooderies – which is independently owned and operated by founder Dale Katechis.
“I stayed on with CANarchy as an investor, and was called the CEO, but didn’t really have much to say about running the business,” said Katechis.
In 2020, for the first time, Oskar Blues combined its iconic beer can images with a new clean, bold design; and distributed it nationwide. It is traditionally known by its all-American red, white and blue colors. They added the words American Pale Ale to the bottom of the label. Today it sells in over 20 countries and nationwide. Nine beers were created, including the popular Ten FIDY, Old Chub, Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and Oskar’s Lager.
The next big business move was in February 2022. Katechis decided he wanted to go back to his roots and only work with the restaurants. Monster Beverage Corporation, an energy drink maker, bought CANarchy, the former partnership for Oskar Blues, for $330 million.
“Big guys were putting pressure on us, and they were buying other craft brews, like Bud and Coors companies,” said Katechis. “We were trying to build a platform of other breweries, but we were being outbid on prices of materials.”
The purchase included (1) Oskar Blues Brewery producing business in Longmont, (2) Tasty Weasel Taproom, Longmont (3) the brew half of the ORIGINAL Oskar Blues Grill & Brew in Lyons. (4) the Boulder restaurant “Oskar Blues Taproom” and the taproom, at 921 Pearl Street (which they closed shortly thereafter; and the website is down). (5) Oskar Blues in Austin, TX., and (6) Oskar Blues, brewery, Brevard, North Carolina.
The restaurants and breweries were separate businesses, although they worked together with the public. The Katechis family and Oskar Blues Fooderies managing partner Jayson Clark retained: (1) the restaurant half of the original location in Lyons (with the name Oskar Blues Grill & Brew) ; (2) Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids in Longmont; (3) the restaurant and music venue in Denver; (4) and the restaurant in Colorado Springs.
Katechis licensed the name “Oskar Blues” back from Monster indefinitely, and will use it as he continues to run the restaurants. So, the names of the restaurants and their “look” will stay the same.
“Keeping it real has always been at the core of what Oskar Blues is all about, and I’m enjoying returning to my roots as a restaurateur. We’ve learned a ton over the past 25 years and we are excited to bring Oskar Blues Fooderies back and better than ever before,” says Katechis.
Now that COVID restrictions have lifted the Longmont and Lyons restaurants are bounding back, and the Denver Market Street one is improving. The Longmont one brought back the small train that regulars loved. They also recently updated the patio. The Lyons location was newly improved in the basement, where the live bands perform, with better sound equipment, a new large mural of local and national popular musicians, more welcoming seating and lighting, and some local art. Oskars has always been known for its murals, autographed photographs of musicians, and music memorabilia.
“We want to do something special and honoring people who played here and help inspire how Oskar Blues started,” said Katechis. “Pate, my son, was eight months old when I started the restaurant. Now he is handling the social media for the company.”
The business operation is located at 20 Bowen Street, in Longmont.
“It’s one big room, with no doors,” said Katechis. “It’s how we started at Oskar Blues. We worked in the basement. You can learn a lot by just hearing a conversation of someone in the same room.”
In November, Katechis announced a new partnership with Mike Gleason. He is the operating partner and manages the day-to-day operations. He spent the past decade growing the Barcelona and Bartaco brands. Gleason, who started his career in hospitality in the French Quarter of New Orleans, joins the Oskar Blues Fooderies team with more than a decade of experience managing restaurants in Colorado. He hopes to bring his love of Bourbon Street and Cajun hospitality, blues guitar, and foods to the restaurants. Patrons will have to wait and see how much of the menu reverts to the early days, (jambalaya being a local favorite), and how many zydeco bands return.
“Mardi Gras is the thick thread of fabric in the Oskar Blues blanket,” said Katechis.
Residents are encouraged to check out the renovated upstairs restaurant and the downstairs entertainment bar space. Come and support the oldest restaurant in town, and help them succeed through the next 25 years!
Oskar Blues Lyons Grill & Brew and Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids are both open seven days a week, 11 am – 9 pm Sunday-Thursday and 11 am – 10 pm on Friday and Saturday. View the menus and find out more about upcoming events online at oskarbluesfooderies.com
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