Can an entrepreneur with a philosophy that disconcerts many consultants really be successful? Yes, he can! And in a manner to take your breath away. Dale Katechis illustrates this with his Oskar Blues Brewery day in and day out.
And this is how it began. The enthusiastic mountain biker finished college in 1997 and founded his first restaurant, Oskar Blues Brew Pub and Grill, near Longmont, Colorado. A short time later, he started brewing his own beer on the recommendation of friends. As the brew was well accepted near and far, Dale really let rip with his unconventional style.
“Every one of our employees deserves to have a good time with us, and is highly valued here as an individual.”
Dale Katechis, Founder and owner of the Oskar Blues Brewery
The wittily creative beers produced by the Oskar Blues Brewery soon started to attract attention throughout the USA – examples include, The Reverend Sandi’s Sinful Stout, Dale’s Pale Ale, and Mama’s Little Yella Pils. The unusual working conditions at Oskar Blues – such as music in the bottling shop and cozy employee lounges with beer tasting – also aroused great interest. And, of course, the decision in favor of cans in 2002 – as a pioneer among the craft breweries.
This has evidently not damaged the company one iota – on the contrary: Oskar Blues’ sales are increasing annually by about 50%. From 600 barrels in 2002 to about 125,000 barrels last year. Cans chalk up 75% of this total and the remaining 25% are kegs produced on a KHS Innokeg Transomat line. Oskar Blues thus continues to hold top position in can sales among American craft breweries, although there have been many imitators in the sector since then.
In 2008, Dale Katechis took a major step towards growth for Oskar Blues – he moved the brewing activities from the Brew Pub to a proper brewery. This was followed in 2011 and 2012 by further decisive steps: Katechis invested in two Innofill DMD can fillers from KHS – initially at the traditional Longmont site, and in the following year at the new site in Bevard, North Carolina. Each of the two lines has a capacity of 16,800 cans per hour.
“The speed with which we moved from the concept phase to implementation is due among others to KHS,” praises Jim Weatherwax, Technical Director at Oskar Blues in Longmont. “They not only set up the can filler in record time, but also got it up and running very quickly. You couldn’t have asked for more commitment.” Weatherwax (known as the minister of kickin’ down doors in Oskar Blues’ speak) adds, “The team in Bevard will also very quickly realize that the Innofill DMD is an extremely reliable filling system – easy to operate and to maintain. And one which, above all, just keeps on running – if necessary, around the clock.”
The two systems fill 12, 16, and 19.2-oz cans. With the big can, launched in September 2012 and well accepted by a target group active in sports, Oskar Blues, as the top filler in the USA, is once again confirming its pioneer status.
In the meantime, and this has long since ceased to surprise staff and competitors alike, Dale Katechis has already taken the next step: At the end of 2013, he opened ’CYCLHOPS CAN-tinas’ which are special bike shops with taco and beer bars and integral bicycle businesses. “We intend to continue thinking creatively and laterally in the future,” says Katechis, “and in doing so surprise our customers with more and more original ideas.” This way, everyone has a great time.
The five main advantages for Oskar Blues
1 Easy operation …
Can changing without elaborate changeover and without changing the return gas tubes.
2 … with high availability
Accurate filling level by adjusting the height of the ring bowl; can be adjusted during filling. This ensures high availability and additionally saves product.
3 Optimum filling process …
Features of the filling process include calm filling, low CO₂ discharge, and minimum oxygen pickup.
4 … for maximum filling quality
Foamless filling process, accurate filling levels
5 Maximum hygiene
Optimum hygiene thanks to regular testing of entire filler rounds in the company’s own laboratory. Connections between individual filling valves and tested cans easily traceable. Any measures necessary for achieving maximum microbiological hygiene can therefore be introduced in good time.