Dave Chichura, who has been the head brewer at Oskar Blues for more than eight years, has left Longmont to take the top job at Eddyline, a tiny brewery in the mountain town of Buena Vista that plans to triple in size over the next few months.
The move is a big one considering how well Chichura is known in the craft beer industry as the brewer behind some of Oskar Blues's boldest creations.
"It's very appealing to be in a place that is even smaller than Oskar Blues was when I started there. It will be a chance to be very hands-on again," says Chichura, who was already a frequent visitor the area. "My role at Oskar Blues had turned into managing people and doing ancilliary things as opposed to being involved in the creation of beer."
Eddyline, which was founded in 2009, began canning in 2011 and signed a distribution deal in late 2012 - shortly after it won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its River Runner's Pale Ale -- to help send those brews to Front Range.
But brewery owners Mic and Molly Heynekamp, have much bigger plans.
Over the next six months, they'll build a 9,600 square-foot addition onto the brewery and replace their ten-barrel brewhouse with one that is three times the size; that will allow Eddyline to increase production from 2,800 barrels in 2013 to 10,000 barrels in 2014. Eventually, they will have the capacity to brew 50,000 barrels per year.
Construction is scheduled to begin sometime in the next few weeks and wrap up by May. Eddlyine also has a second restaurant in Buena Vista closer to the Arkansas river.
The brewery's two biggest sellers in cans are its Crankyanker IPA and River Runner's Pale; it also cans Mountain Fairy Raspberry Wheat, Boater Beer and Pumpkin Patch Ale, but will stop packaging the Raspberry and Boater next year and add Jolly Roger Black Lager. It will also start canning other seasonal beers down the road.
"Dave's timing was perfect," says Mic Heynekamp, who had known Chichura for a couple of years. " We were trying to plan this out and definitely feeling a little over our heads, and then we got this email before GABF from Dave saying he was moving to the mountains and was willing to help us out if we wanted him."
Over the next few months, Chichura will help the brewery focus on the quality and consistency of those beers, in particular the IPA, which is in high demand. "We're trying to make as much of it as possible and keep everyone calm," he says.
Chichura had been a brewer at Boulder's Mountain Sun when he got the job at Oskar Blues in 2005; at the time, the brewery had only been canning for one year and was still a small operation located inside what had as a restaurant in Lyons.
Over the years, he helped Oskar Blues expand, becoming one of the largest and best-known microbrewers country based on its bold recipes and its status as the first craft brewer in the country to can its beers - what it called the canned beer apocalypse.
Although Oskar Blues had already developed its recipes for Dale's Pale Ale, Old Chub and G'Knight (previously called Gordon), Chichura helped create Ten Fidy, Deviant Dale's, Gubna, Mama's Little Yella Pils and other beers.
But he wasn't the only one involved. "The brewer gets the recognition, but there is full effort on everyone's part. A lot of people have a stake in everything that happens," he says. "Nothing at Oskar Blues was really ever a singular person doing something."
In late 2012, Oskar Blues opened a second brewery in North Carolina and expects to brew more than 100,000 barrels of beer between the two of them.
"With that kind of growth, it was a real whirlwind," he says. "[Eddyline] is a chance to help a small brewery grow and not be an HR manager."
Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis says Oskar Blues won't hire a replacement for Chichura, but will stick with the three head brewers it already has: Tim Matthews in Longmont, Noah Tuttle in Brevard, North Carolina, and Jason Buehler in Lyons.
"Dave was with us for a long time, and he grew with us and was a key part of us moving forward over the years," Melis says.
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