Oskar Blues Beers Coming To Chicago

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jul 13, 2012 5:20PM

2012_7_13_oskarblues_fullline.jpg

In what may be the biggest news to hit Chicago's already bursting craft beer scene since Lagunitas announced they were building a brewery in Chicago, Longmont, Colo. canned beer kingpin Oskar Blues Brewery will begin distributing their beers to the Chicago market beginning Aug. 20.

From Coors to New Belgium, Colorado breweries have long had a mystic hold on beer drinkers east of the Mississippi. (Smuggling a trailer of Coors to a NASCAR race was the plot device of Smokey and the Bandit.) But Oskar Blues walks the walk with a line of only seven beers, six available year-round, and was one of the first smaller breweries to package their beer exclusively in cans. Oskar Blues has also seen its production grow from 13,000 barrels five years ago to a projected 90,000 this year, and is one of a handful of breweries building second brewhouses in North Carolina to meet increased demand: 40 percent of Oskar Blues beers are shipped east. Oskar Blues also has a Chicago tie in head brewer Dave Chichura, who was the original brewer at Rock Bottom Warrenville.

Oskar Blues marketing director Chad Melis told Chicagoist talks to distribute their beers in the area have been off and on for years, but became more serious six months ago after increasing capacity at their Colorado brewery. "We've added 14 200-barrel fermenters and two 400-barrel bright tanks recently," Melis said, in addition to the under-construction 40,000 barrel North Carolina brewery slated to begin production in December. Their beers will be distributed through Windy City Distribution, which has a well-earned reputation for marketing craft beers in the area. "Windy City is a craft-savvy distributor," Melis said. "We have confidence in knowing they'll put our beers in the right places."

Melis said he expects the North Carolina brewery to be the one to provide the Chicago market with Oskar Blues beers once production is online.