Beer Man

Colorado Craft Pioneer Oasis Brewery Plans to Resurrect Beers Like Tut Brown, Scarab Red

Adventurous Colorado beer drinkers didn't have a lot of choices in the early 1990s. There were a few imports, but since microbrews were few and far between, anyone who was interested in branching out probably came across Oasis Brewery's Tut Brown Ale.

Founded in 1991 by George Hanna, Oasis was one of the first craft breweries to make a name for itself in Colorado -- alongside Boulder Beer, Odell and Breckenridge -- and reached its peak in the late '90s, when it opened a restaurant and packaging facility. It was also became one of several breweries to close when the industry hit hard times in the 2000s.

See also: Tivoli Brewing plans its second historic Denver beer, Sigi's

But a decade after he stopped producing beer, Hanna plans to reincarnate some of Oasis's recognizable brands, including Tut Brown, Scarab Red and Pale Ale. If things go well, he'll also resurrect Zoser Oatmeal Stout and Capstone ESB.

"We've been asked many times when we are going to bring these back," says Hanna, who has continued to work as a restaurateur in Boulder. "There is a lot of continued interest in craft beers. The industry is growing by the double digits. We have quite a bit of history. So we thought, if we are ever going to bring it back, now is the time."

Hanna -- along with son, Jesse Hanna, son-in-law, Hawk Vanek, and friend, Erik Smith -- have contracted with Denver's Prost Brewing to make the beer and are aiming to release it in bottles in October. (Prost has also made beer or wort for Tivoli Beer, Dad & Dude's Breweria and Crooked Stave.) They'll use the original recipes, aside from the pale ale, which will get a little more hop character -- though not too much more.

"I won't say hops are 'a novelty,' because I said that about snowboards," Hanna says with a laugh. "Quite frankly, though, although hoppy beers are a trend, the big sellers are beers like Fat Tire and 90 Shilling, which are both ambers. People, especially people of my generation, still want a well-balanced beer and not over-the-top hops."

With the rapid increase in packaged craft beers over the past two years, it could be a risky proposition to introduce a new beer to market right now, even if it actually an old one. But Hanna says he's not worried about competition: "Back when we came out, were were in the space with Bud and Coors and Miller. The game hasn't changed, just the players have."

Hanna says the brand still has quite a bit of name recognition from people who were drinking craft brews in the 1990s. "The market wasn't real big big then, but we were one of the top five or six breweries, and our alumni are out there. So we are not coming back as new guys," he adds. "People are still big fans."

Oasis won eight Great American Beer Festival medals between 1992 and 1999. "Our history and the quality of our beer speak for itself," Hanna says.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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