Brew Steel 

Canned Colorado craft beer comes to Richmond.

Like most funky ideas, canning high-end beer started as a lark. Katechis and brewer Brian Lutz “kind of laughed about the idea of putting big, heavy beer in a can,” Katechis says. “One day we stopped laughing and just tried it.”

After lots of experimenting, more than a few people were surprised at the results. “This is an industry where everyone is friends,” Katechis says. “We borrow stuff, we call each other and ask for advice. But in this case there was no one to call.”

A year has passed, and now Katechis says they’re miles ahead of other brewers trying to enter the market. Since Oskar Blues first rolled out the product, the stuff has been flying off the shelves, due primarily to the fact that, from a taste standpoint, its indistinguishable from its bottled brother. The brew is also some pretty potent stuff.

“We make beer that you tend to remember for one reason or another,” Katechis quips, referring to both taste and the alcohol content. Dale’s Pale, packaged in a pretty blue can that from 2 feet might be mistaken for iced tea, is actually a 6.5 percent alcohol beast of a beer. Then there’s Old Chub, a Scottish-style ale brewed with crystal and chocolate malts, that weighs in at 8 percent alcohol. Katechis describes it as “a whole different experience in itself.”

Why put craft beer in a can? Protection from light and oxygen, ease of recycling and mobility. Katechis pitches his case for cans to die-hard beer lovers who insist on carting a 12-pack wherever they go: boating, golfing, fishing and mountain biking. After all, who wants bottles rattling around in the fanny pack?

Cans can also go where bottles simply can’t: Frontier Airlines now carries Dale’s Pale Ale on all of its flights, and the brewer is talking with other airlines.

Locally, Dale’s Pale and Old Chub are being distributed by Legend Distributors. When I met Rick Euler, the distribution manager there, to pick up a few sample six-packs, I found him in front of his computer already halfway through a Dale’s Pale Ale. Since this was drinking-on-the-job day, I peeled off an Old Chub for myself.

To give me an idea of how the canned stuff was faring in these parts, Euler pointed to a meager pile of cans against a walk-in cooler. “See that stack?” he said. “There used to be a hundred cases there.” Point taken: the novel idea had caught more than a few eyes.

Katechis considers the battle almost won. “At first, we had to convince ourselves that this wasn’t just a gimmick,” he says. “But good beer is gonna taste good in a can. There’s no reason it shouldn’t.” Katechis is sure enough about the whole shebang that he’s rolling out a third brew: a barley wine with 9 percent alcohol. If the stuff was anything like the Old Chub, cut me off after a six-pack. S,/b>

Oskar Blues Brewery’s Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub can be found at any local specialty beer and wine seller. Go to www.oskarblues.com for more information.

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