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Colorado has a state fossil (Stegosaurus), state folk dance (square dance), and a state gemstone (aquamarine). Why not a state craft beer?*
If we did have a Centennial State brew, it would probably be Oskar Blues Brewery’s Dale’s Pale Ale, an ultra-hoppy, ultra-Colorado canned phenomenon. This year, the brewery has a lot to celebrate: In April, the company’s Lyons-based restaurant celebrated 15 years, and in November, it’ll celebrate 10-years of canning innovation. (Since Oskar Blues introduced canning to craft beer in the U.S., more than 150 breweries have followed suit.) We sat down to talk with head brewer Dave Chichura to chat hops, fly fishing, and moving pianos.
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Name: Dave Chichura, Oskar Blues Brewery
Title: Head brewer, guitar player in one of the company’s house bands (yes, there is more than one band)
Experience: More than 15 years (previously at Rock Bottom Brewery as head brewer)
5280: What’s your favorite Oskar Blues’ brew?
Dave Chichura: Of all the beers, I don’t drink [G’Night Imperial Red] the most, but that’s the one. When we’re really executing that one well, it’s something else because it is a pretty damn big beer with a huge malt character and a huge hop character, but in the end it is so easy to drink. It is not this harsh, in-your-face thing. There’s a subtlety to it.
5280: You’ve had a lot of success. But have there been failures?
DC: Never. (Laughs.) There are always challenges as we grow. …Maybe not failures so much, as I know we are making better beer than we used to make. I look back and say, “God, how we used to do that before? We’d never do that again.” Because we have been learning as we go. There is no one here that has been a part of a brewery this big or has grown this fast.
5280: Do you have a favorite part of the brewing process?
DC: Part of the process for me is going into that tasting room, or one of the restaurants, or somewhere else where they have our beer on draft, and I see somebody buying our beer. …I’ll just be sitting at a bar and somebody next to me will order up one of those beers and the bartenders is like, “Oh yeah, this is great stuff.”
5280: I heard that you carried pianos for a moving company in a former life. Is brewing beer easier?
DC: Sometimes it feels like we’re lugging pianos up and down stairs. It’s funny, though, this brew pub I go to back in Indianapolis whenever I visit there, the Broad Ripple Brewpub, their slogan is, “leisurely brewed” and their logo has a couple of yellow brew boots crossed and kicked back. Every time I [see] that, I just think, “They’re not doing it the same way we do. There’s no leisure.”
5280: Do you have a favorite ingredient?
DC: Ever since I’ve gotten into craft beer, I’ve been a fan of hops. It can make an otherwise bland beer very vibrant. That’s too easy, though. Really, the yeast. The yeast is what’s doing all the work. People say, “Oh, we’re brewers,” and we get glamorized and all that, but when it comes down to it, we’re making food for yeast.
5280: Do you have a favorite non-Oscar Blues beer?
DC: I love Ska’s Modus Hoperandi. That’s the first thing that popped into my head.
5280: Where’s the best place to drink a beer?
DC: I tend to do a little bit of fly fishing. It’s always nice to go out there and enjoy this beautiful place where we are and enjoy a simple pleasure in life, which is a really good beer in a can.
—Images by Jinsan Lee