So, Oskar Blues Brewery is interesting. Amid some of the louder craft beer acquisition headlines — like Ballast Point being acquired for $1 billion — Oskar Blues sold a controlling stake to Fireman Capital so that it could acquire another craft brewery and accelerate its own expansion (like adding yet another destination brewery in Austin, Texas).
Even as the brand explodes and scales up nationally, Oskar Blues still seems to maintain that undefinable craft beer counterculture coolness.
On MarketWatch, Oskar Blues Founder Dale Katechis gave a ton of interesting insight into what his company is doing and what plans they have going forward. We picked out a few excerpts, but definitely head to MarketWatch and read the entire thing.
Initially, the idea of traveling and building a brewery on the other side of the country didn’t seem exciting at all. That’s why we chose a place that I was willing to travel to, and I wanted it to add to my quality of life. We really didn’t shop anywhere. We just chose a place that I was willing to travel to and that the rest of our team ended up falling in love with due to its proximity to Pisgah National Forest and some of the best mountain biking on the East Coast.
It kind of set the precedent in the way that, if we’re looking at other locations for a brewery in order to capitalize on all of the synergies that we realized with Brevard — from shipping savings to the alignment and the relationship we built with the local community — Austin was certainly on top of the list for different reasons than Brevard. From a cultural standpoint, what I believe Oskar Blues is made up of is beer, bikes, food and music, in no particular order. Just things that I find fulfilling about this world. I think we’ve built a pretty interesting culture around here and I think people feel the same.
On the economics of expanding with new breweries:
What we’ve learned is that the beer we ship from Colorado — and we do about 100,000 barrels in a 200-mile radius, and in Colorado that’s really just Colorado — is 21% of the beer we sell, in just that radius. What we noticed when we went to North Carolina was that the cost of that brewery is already equal to the savings on shipping to date.
You basically, on a napkin, build these three breweries. That allows us to invest in our people and the communities that we sell beer — all of the fulfilling parts of working 16-hour days. In North Carolina, from the day that we opened — Dec. 12, 2012 — that first year we brewed 40,000 barrels. We tripled our sales within that 200-mile radius around that brewery, and we’re seeing growth because of the investment we’ve made in that community. Three years later, North Carolina sales are up 45%, South Carolina is up 85% and Florida is still up 45%.
On the Fireman Capital investment:
We started entertaining the idea and they saw the beer world the same way as we did. It wasn’t just for the money; they were branding experts. And Dan Fireman’s just a great f***ing guy. I was like “I can do business with this guy, you know? We can go out to his farm and blow up cars with 50-caliber machine guns, I wanna hang out with that guy.”
The whole idea was to shed a little risk and breathe a little, and what we’re seeing is that everyone is engaged now. We’re more irreverent, and we’re probably having more fun than we ever have.
On the Perrin Brewing acquisition:
The partnership was falling apart, one of the brothers wanted out and we were like “That sounds like a great idea.” Within a couple of weeks, we got that contract together and I had already begun the process with Fireman. They had built this brewery that wasn’t into packaging but had done 14,000 barrels in two years, which is just unheard of. They weren’t in package yet, but had built a network of distributors around Michigan and the mission was and is still today to just own Michigan.
We thought that, we can our beer and we know how to do it, so we got a can line over there pronto and we believed we could double cash flow and business within 12 months. The day we closed, we turned the can line on and we already doubled cash flow in the first three months.
There is a ton more interesting insight, including how Oskar Blues plans on replicating what it has done with Perrin. Be sure to read the full thing. Like you have better things to do.