Oskar Blues’ Austin location on track for April opening

Oskar Blues' Burning Can Festival is coming to Austin after its new brewery opens on the north side of town in April.

Oskar Blues’ Burning Can Festival is coming to Austin after its new brewery opens on the north side of town in April.

Next year, Austinites will welcome yet another festival, and it’ll focus on three of our favorite things: beer, live music and outdoor sports activities.

In addition to launching a new North Austin location in the spring, Oskar Blues Brewery has a version of its Burning Can “Extravacanza” in the works that it’s bringing here once the brewery is open. The festival won’t be within the confines of the brewery — it’s the sort of event that requires both your favorite koozie and your most comfortable running shoes — but it will stand as a showcase of what Oskar Blues is at heart, marketing director Chad Melis said.

“The Burning Can event will be a peek into how Austin and Oskar Blues play together,” he said. “It’s a culmination of all the things we’re into.”

Based in the small Colorado town where Oskar Blues’ original brewpub was founded in 1997, Melis was here recently to check out the progress of the upcoming Austin location, a 55,000-square-foot space that will host a production facility, taproom and live music venue starting on April 20, the projected opening date.

The building, a former recycling center in the same part of town where Adelbert’s Brewery, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op and others have also set up boozy shop, has a ways to go before it’ll resemble a functioning brewery, but the renovations are so far on schedule. Once it’s online, the Austin Oskar Blues is going to have an initial production capacity of 30,000 barrels, an output of beer primarily for Texas consumption only. That could grow to 100,000 barrels in time.

But Oskar Blues, started up by an enterprising Dale Katechis as a brewpub in the 1990s and growing to become a canned beer powerhouse with multiple locations in Colorado and North Carolina, isn’t just branching into Austin to expand its Texas footprint. That much was clear after an hour’s worth of conversation with Melis, who seems to be cut from the same outdoors-oriented, coffee-crazed cloth as all Oskar Blues employees.

“We want to add to the current craft beer scene, not bulldoze it,” Melis said. “We’re very careful about that. We’re all highly caffeinated, so we tend to come in hot.”

He said that Oskar Blues chose Austin as its next location, just like it did with North Carolina in 2012, because both have a lot in common, with a focus on outdoor activities, a love of craft beer and coffee, and a tendency to attend live music shows as much as possible.

The Burning Can festival, which doesn’t have a set date or location yet, will be a reflection of all three passions. The brewery’s grand opening celebration — it’s scheduled for a Wednesday, so it’ll be nothing too over-the-top — will similarly include indoor and outdoor events, including food trucks and a couple bands.

Burning Can is a slightly different festival in each of the states it’s been hosted in. But no matter what, the festival puts a focus on canned beers and on something called the beer relay, a trail-running race that involves each team member downing a 12 oz. Oskar Blues brew before their lap.

“We’re working through permitting here and seeing what we can do,” Melis said about the local version of Burning Can.

The Austin location of Oskar Blues also won’t be exactly the same as its predecessors. Although it’ll bear certain similarities to the other spots — such as its easygoing decor, which won’t have come from an interior designer, Melis said — it’s important for the Austin brewery to be its own place, too, formed by the people who work there and drink there.

“We’re always scared of growing and losing our identity as something small and gritty and grassroots, but each time we’ve expanded, we’ve found that the people make us. Make the brewery into what it is,” he said. “We expect the same to happen with Austin.”


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