Economy & Economic Development  January 19, 2016

North Carolina brewery helping fuel major growth for Oskar Blues

LONGMONT — Following another year of explosive growth in 2015, officials for Oskar Blues Brewery are projecting more of the same for 2016.

Longmont-based Oskar Blues announced Tuesday that overall production grew to 192,000 barrels in 2015, up 29 percent from 2014’s mark of 149,000. This year, the brewery, which pioneered the practice of putting craft beer into cans, is targeting 244,000 barrels. That mark would be double the company’s 119,000 barrels in 2013.

The growth and projections are due to a variety of factors, including a quick ramp-up at the the company’s three-year-old brewery in Brevard, N.C. The company’s Longmont brewery, responsible for a distribution area roughly defined as west of the Mississippi River, churned out 102,000 barrels in 2015, but Brevard wasn’t far behind at 90,000.

“I think the growth that we’ve experienced by having a brewery on the East Coast has certainly benefitted us,” Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis said. “We’ve been able to ship fresher beer up and down the East Coast, and that makes the beer taste better.”

Growth this year will be buoyed in part by the April opening of a production brewery in Austin, Texas, which is projected to produce 10,000 barrels in 2016. Oskar Blues officials’ hopes for the Austin brewery is that it will be able to fulfill demand in the state of Texas once it is fully operational, cutting into Longmont’s distribution area.

That doesn’t mean downsizing in Longmont, however. Melis said Longmont production is expected to boom to 129,000 barrels this year thanks to increased distribution to other Western states, while Brevard production is slated to climb to 105,000 barrels. Oskar Blues distributes to 46 states, and plans to be in all 50 by the middle of this year, with the final four — North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Montana — all in the West.

Growth in Brevard, meanwhile, will be boosted by a 17,000-square-foot expansion project coming online that will increase capacity there to more than 200,000 barrels. By comparison, capacity at the Longmont brewery is about 175,000 barrels, leaving plenty of room for growth at both locations.

Oskar Blues opened the Brevard brewery in December 2012. Melis said the lessons Oskar Blues officials learned in growing the company quickly from a small brewpub in Lyons to a full-fledged production brewery in Longmont helped chart a path for a smooth and rapid ramp-up in Brevard. He said the fact that the company has additional onsite real estate in Brevard has also helped.

“It certainly has grown a little quicker than we expected I think,” Melis said. “But we did, now that there is additional room for expansion in Brevard.”

Including only brewing operations and not ancillary businesses such as Oskar Blues’ restaurants, the company employs 185 people, including about 100 in Longmont. Brewery revenue grew from $43.8 million in 2014 to $55 million in 2015.

Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis in early 2015 sold an undisclosed stake in the company to Boston-based Fireman Capital, a move that has helped set the stage for much of the company’s continued growth, which also included the 2015 acquisition of Perrin Brewing just outside of Grand Rapids, Mich.

But beer brewing wasn’t the only area of growth for the company in 2015. The company also launched its Hotbox Roasters line of locally roasted coffee, and said that business for its Reeb Cycles bike company and full-service bike shop in Lyons grew by 46 percent in 2015.

The company garnered attention last week for shipping 50,000 cans of drinking water to Flint, Mich., which is in crisis after it was discovered that the city’s water supply is contaminated with lead. That shipment followed shipments of 154,000 cans of drinking water in 2015 to help with disasters elsewhere around the country.

Correction: Due to incorrect data from the brewery, an earlier version of this story wrongly stated that Oskar Blues’ production at its Brevard, N.C., brewery would surpass production at its Longmont brewery in 2016. Production in Longmont is expected to hit 129,000 barrels this year, while Brevard is expected to climb to 105,000.

LONGMONT — Following another year of explosive growth in 2015, officials for Oskar Blues Brewery are projecting more of the same for 2016.

Longmont-based Oskar Blues announced Tuesday that overall production grew to 192,000 barrels in 2015, up 29 percent from 2014’s mark of 149,000. This year, the brewery, which pioneered the practice of putting craft beer into cans, is targeting 244,000 barrels. That mark would be double the company’s 119,000 barrels in 2013.

The growth and projections are due to a variety of factors, including a quick ramp-up at the the company’s three-year-old brewery in Brevard, N.C. The company’s Longmont brewery, responsible for a…

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