Oskar Blues Brewery is fast becoming one of the most recognizable craft beer brands in the nation with two locations in Colorado as well as in Brevard, North Carolina and Austin, Texas. But the Rocky Mountain based business continues to branch out as it represents both sides of the brand with it’s sister company, Oskar Blues Fooderies. For over 20 years the restaurant concept has been in motion with the original location in Lyons, then Longmont, followed up by spots in Denver’s RiNo district with foodie subsidiaries like Hotbox Roasters CBD Cafe and CHUBurger. The rapid growth progresses as another large-scale eatery, beer hall and music venue opens soon in LoDo, directly on the heels of establishing a front and center spot in downtown Colorado Springs.
Oskar Blues Grill & Brew-Colorado Springs has a strong local foothold in a historic building on Tejon Street where Old Chicago once stood. The formerly sectional space with narrow walk-ways and under par seating accomodations updates into a sprawling and funky, yet family friendly, restaurant with a palatial, two-story interior.
There are numerous dining areas, large service bars on each floor, a small singer-songwriter platform and tvs in every corner broadcasting sporting events. Oskar Blues also took on the daunting task of unearthing the untouched basement, which has been stagnant since the 1800’s, utilized solely for storage. Now the underground area is fully-functional with indoor bocce courts, pool tables, a juke box and video games.
We touch base with Jason Rogers, restaurant director and partner of Oskar Blues Fooderies, to find out why they’re choosing to push their operation into the Southern tier with a fresh take in Colorado Springs and deeper into Denver.
“Colorado Springs is super approachable and our beer brand is strong there, says Rogers. “[The people] are more connected to the mountains. It’s a different vibe. It’s almost like a mountain town versus a front range city. They’re real Colorado.”
Oskar Blues didn’t hesitate to act on the opportunity as soon as the coveted space in the mix of the business district became available. After scouting both Academy and Powers Boulevards as possibilities Oskar Blues feels confident that being in an urban environment is the right choice.
“It’s a fun hangout spot,” says Rogers. “The Springs location is definitely a little bit more game oriented and it’s a place you can bring your kids. It’s a family location as much as it is a beer bar.”
We test the theory by visiting with our full crew, two children, two adults. The large area with screens galore, a versatile children’s menu and quick, friendly service confirms that it’s suitable for all ages. Pro tip–kids eat for free on Tuesdays.
The menu at most Oskar Blues Grill & Brew’s encompasses a Southern flair but varies by way of the resident chef to keep them unique to each area. Rogers explains that what’s to come in LoDo is radically different from Tejon and that Tejon is certainly not what to expect up in Lyons. The Northern restaurants center around more casual eats like nachos, wings and burgers while Colorado Springs proves to zone in on more substantial entrees like the smoked trout fish and chips, brisket and steaks.
“It gives you a reason to go to each one,” says Rogers. “We find with our regulars and locals that they can stake their claim. If no other Oskar Blues has that, it makes it theirs.”
The synonymous thread is the considerable selection of 40 plus beers that includes a complete list from Oskar Blues Brewery alongside popular guests taps and local favorites like Pikes Peak Brewing Co. and Bristol Brewing Co.
The cocktail menu is more dynamic in Colorado Springs with additions like a special whiskey Kahlua from Hotbox Roasters, a list of shandy’s made with Oskar Blues brews ands clear spirits plus solid classics done respectfully well. Rogers suggests we try their whiskey sour made in the traditional sense with egg whites and fresh lemon juice. With no expectations for stellar mixed drinks we receive a pleasant surprise as it holds true to it’s name and stays clear of tasting at all sweet.
Oskar Blues continues to bring singularity to each fooderie with their next grand opening of the Black Buzzard in Denver’s oldest neighborhood, LoDo, on December 9, 2017. Like Colorado Springs, the space is another multi-century building that once housed the basement blues bar, Brendan’s Pub. The interior occupies over 10,000 square feet and spans two floors at 1624 Market Street. LoDo carves out it’s own place in the Oskar Blues lineup with a strong musical backbone as it breathes new life into the already well-known venue downstairs and creates their next full-scale restaurant upstairs.
Rogers speaks fondly of the space and is nostalgic as he tells RMFR that Brendan’s was the very first place he walked into after moving to Denver from Chicago in the late ’90’s.
“There was a guy onstage just rippin’ it up,” says Rogers. “To come full circle and to grab that spot, turn it back into a music venue and reignite the energy down there…there’s some ghosts that are going to enjoy it for sure. It’s our most robust music venue in Colorado.”
Oskar Blues expects the Black Buzzard to live on the same level as Larimer Lounge with room to accommodate 350 people while maintaining an intimate setting that hosts nationally touring acts.
“Beer, live music, down and dirty, in a good way,” says Rogers. “This is to pay homage to that idea.”
The Black Buzzard will have a signature beer cocktail using bacon-infused bourbon and Oskar Blues Ten Fiddy that became a concept “before bacon was even cool,” says Rogers. “It’s a smokey, hammy, stout thing. A couple of them will do ya.”
Shortly after Black Buzzard opens Oskar Blues Brewery follows up with an aniticipated barrel aged beer release on December 17, of Death by Coconut that has been chillin’ for months in Jamaican rum barrels. The current word is that will only be available at specific locations which includes LoDo. The initial version (without oak) of the island inspired beer made it’s debut a few years ago winning a silver at Great American Beer Festival 2014 in the chocolate beer category. Since then the bittersweet, malty beer made with Cholaca garners an impressive cult-following.
Rogers says that they are “just getting the ball rolling in the Springs for barrel aged beers,” so it may be necessary to travel to another Oskar Blues location to imbibe the irie, choco-coconut beer.
If you need another excuse to explore the spectrum of Oskar Blues fooderies and visit their various performance venues, Grammy nominated singer, John Lee Hooker Jr. visits Lyons and Longmont, Colorado with two upcoming concert dates.
“Historic talent is an ear mark of Oskar Blues,” says Rogers. So blues royalty like Hooker Jr., fresh from touring with The Rolling Stones, certainly fits the bill.
“Blues in Lyons” takes place at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew-Lyons at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 3, with soul food, beer and music. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. A gospel brunch at Oskar Blues Brewery Oak Room in Longmont, Colorado, starts at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 4, with a Southern cuisine buffet and MamaMosa’s made with Mama’s Little Yella Pils. All inclusive tickets are available for $50 or purchase admission to both shows and brunch for $60.