For some, Lyons is simply a stopover town on the way to Estes Park. For others, it is the fertile garden where legendary craft brewery Oskar Blues took root in 1997.
For Eric Kean, though, Lyons is home. “I grew up here. I went to school in Lyons from first grade through twelfth grade,” he says. So he had a front-row seat not just to Oskar Blues’s rise from tiny startup to canning pioneer to one of the largest and most recognized craft breweries in the country, but to the three-decade-long growth and expansion of craft beer in Colorado in general.
Now Kean, who led Left Hand Brewing’s charitable-giving program for the past two years, and Sam Scruby, the longtime head brewer at Upslope Brewing, feel that Lyons is ready for a second brewery, so the two friends — Colorado natives who met as undergrads at the University of Colorado — are teaming up to open MainStage Brewing in the former Lyons Fork restaurant, which was forced to close in July because of the pandemic.
Situated at the intersection of Colorado highways 36, 66 and 7, in an 1881 brick building that's on the National Register of Historic Places, the brewery will start by serving food and guest beers this spring before getting its own beers on tap later in 2021. Originally dubbed the McAllister Saloon after its builder, the sandstone structure has served over the years as a bar, liquor store, pool hall, meat market and restaurant.
“It had to be the right property; if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have moved forward,” says Scruby, who explains that both he and Kean loved their jobs at Upslope and Left Hand.
“It took something really phenomenal being available — the stars had to line up,” adds Kean, who has known Lyons Fork owners Wayne and Debbie Anderson for years and grew up down the street from their house. (Wayne is also the co-founder of Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons, and actually worked for Oskar Blues in sales and other capacities from its beginnings until 2009.)
Not only is the property, at 450 Main Street, at the crossroads of three highways heading to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, but Kean and Scruby were able to buy the building and an empty plot of land next door, where they plan to build a large patio and a brewery building. They hope to use that space to promote the acoustic-music scene in Lyons; live music is also the reason for the brewery’s name.
Although 2020 was a terrible year for taprooms (not to mention restaurants and music venues) because of capacity restrictions, Kean and Scruby believe things will pick up again in 2021 and 2022. "We need to stay home right now, but people are really sick of being at home — and they will be ready to get out," Kean says.
As for beer, Scruby, who started on the canning line at Upslope in 2010 before becoming head brewer in 2014, plans to brew a wide variety of styles on a five-to-seven-barrel system (which will be installed after MainStage completes an expansion of the existing building). In the meantime, he will likely collaborate with other brewers and breweries in Colorado and put those beers on tap first.
Kean and Scruby are very aware that Oskar Blues is just down the street, but they still feel that the town is underserved when it comes to local breweries. "I have nothing but love and respect for Oskar Blues, and it's incredible to walk in the path they put down," Kean says. "But they are huge now, and Lyons is ready for something small and local. The town is ready to have both things going on at once."
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