After several years of searching, Colorado’s second largest craft brewery has finally found the right location in Denver for a major operation. Longmont-based Oskar Blues Brewery said Tuesday that it is planning to open a two-level restaurant, beer bar and music venue at 1624 Market Street, in the space formerly occupied by Croc’s Mexican Grill.
The 11,000-square foot space (which also encompasses the still-open Pat’s Philly Cheesesteaks) will include a restaurant upstairs featuring a menu of Southern-inspired Americana and smoked meats— similar to what Oskar Blues serves at its Longmont and Lyons restaurants, along with 43 taps of craft beer, says Jason Rogers, chef and part-owner of Oskar Blues Fooderies. It will incorporate the high ceilings and exposed brick in the late 1800s-era building, along with some new roll-up windows or doors.
The basement will be “the fun music venue, with a dive bar thing going on,” he adds. That space is tentatively being called Oskar Blues Black Buzzard.
“We have been looking in Denver for a while,” Rogers says. “The company has grown so much and created so much opportunity and so many jobs for people in this state and in others. Now, we finally get a front row seat in Denver. And from a tourism standpoint, now people visiting Denver can get a real taste of who we are. They will be able to walk down the 16th Street Mall, turn the corner and pop into Oskar Blues and get that feeling that we have. We can really become of the piece of the culture that way.”
Oskar Blues, which was founded in Lyons in 1997 and became the first craft brewery to can its beers in 2004, has grown by double digits every year and is now the fourteenth largest in the nation. In 2014, it opened a major production facility in Brevard, North Carolina, and plans to open a third brewery in Austin, Texas this year. In addition to its four eateries in Longmont and Lyons, it also operates a CHUBurger at Coors Field, and is in the process of opening a second CHUBurger in RiNo, along with a Hotbox Roasters coffee shop.
But a Denver location had eluded the company until now. “We have really been trying to find that right spot,” Rogers says. While there is plenty of newly-built construction in LoDo and the surrounding areas, Oskar Blues didn’t feel like those kinds of buildings fit their personality or their brand.
But the former Croc’s, located in what is being called the Market Center, had the right feel — and enough space for a small music venue. “That is important to us and so is the location, right in the crosshairs of LoDo,” Rogers says.
Construction will begin on the new Oskar Blues restaurant later this year, but the location isn’t expected to open for another year, in May 2017; the building was recently purchased by City Street Investors.
In addition to southern-style Americana, the menu will feature wood-grilled burgers made from locally-sourced beef, New Orleans-style grilled oysters and seafood, regional favorites, like green chile, and an extensive whiskey and bottled beer menu. Downstairs, there will be canned beers inside the music venue, which will showcase touring acts seven nights a week.