Tastes have changed a lot since craft brewing took off in the 1990s. While the beers back then were primarily those with names found on the color spectrum — pale, blonde, amber, red, brown — along with some fruited specialties, we now have New England-style IPAs and pastry stouts, specialty lagers, sours and sake saisons. But not at Oasis Brewing, which opened a few weeks ago inside a restored church at 3257 Lowell Boulevard.
And that’s just fine with co-owner George Hanna.
“Not everyone likes the new trends, sours and over-the-top hops. Some people like to stick with beer that tastes good,” he says. “There are trendy beers and then there are the ones that sell because they are staples. … New Belgium still sells a tremendous amount of Fat Tire, and Odell Brewing still sells a lot of 90 Shilling. Those were some of their oldest beers. ... These are quaffable beers. We'll stick with that.”
The brewery’s five flagships are straight out of the ’90s. Hanna and his wife, Lynne, founded Oasis in Boulder in 1991 as a brewpub. For the rest of that decade, the company did very well, winning awards, bottling beer, expanding its operations and training the first generation of Colorado craft drinkers on fuller-flavored English beer styles. Scarab Red, Capstone ESB, Tut Brown and Zoser Stout won a total seven medals at the Great American Beer Festival during this period.
Oasis closed in 2001 after a downturn in craft-beer sales — but it wasn’t forgotten. In 2015, Hanna and his son and son-in-law decided to revive the brand that had been so popular back when craft-beer makers were called microbreweries. They began by contract-brewing the old recipes, and then found the church location in 2017.
n historic building that was at the center of a long and bitter zoning dispute in Highland Square, the former Beth Eden Baptist Church is blessed with a beautiful brick exterior, soaring indoor spaces and a perfect location just steps from a bustling intersection. It now houses a seven-barrel brewhouse, a large taproom, and a patio with room for fifty people. The brewery's original sign hangs over the taps.
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In addition to its four medal-winning beers from the ’90s, Oasis also brought back a pale ale — and Hanna says that’s the one that got a recipe-tweaking, to make it hoppier to suit today's tastes. This summer, Oasis will brew its original Blueberry Ale after numerous requests from the "old school," Hanna says. "It's amazing how many people are showing up and looking for the beer they remember."
But Oasis plans to take some small steps forward, too. Last week it brewed an IPA, and on Friday, April 20, it will tap a saison called St. Bernard. It’s named for head brewer Bernie Tonning, who was a brewer at Oasis in the ’90s before moving on to Great Divide and later to C.B. & Potts’s Broomfield location (which closed late last year). There are also plans to brew and tap some English-style cask-conditioned ales.