Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Archive    

Dale Katechis – Oskar Blues Brewing


Donate TodaySUPPORT LOCAL MEDIA-DONATE NOW!

It’s 7:30 on a Thursday night and Dale Katechis is in the far corner of 60,000 square feet of naked, cavernous warehouse space that his Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont has just added to its existing 40,000 square feet that last year cranked out 119,000 barrels of beer and is headed north of 155,000 barrels this year. He’s scooping raw coffee beans from one of four, 50-pound burlap bags into a small roaster that’s perched on an assemblage of pallets he’s built for his new obsession.

To find out more information about Oskar Blues head over to their website www.oskarblues.com.

“Coffee and beer are certainly two of my favorite vices,” Katechis says as he periodically removes beans from the roaster to check on their char. “I’ve always been a tinkerer, and when you find something you like, you want to find out how it’s done.”

Having the time to experiment with something new and different is a measure of the success Katechis has achieved chasing his other vice: great beer.

How Katechis and the other 450 employees that are Oskar Blues Brewing got to where they are today is due more to the company’s fertile culture, good people, freedom to fail and focus on having fun than any MBA generated business plan. That culture — the values, the vision, the work ethic, the expectations — is imparted by seeing and doing.

“You instill that by working hard alongside everyone you’ve brought on board,” Katechis said. “They respect that because you’re working as hard as they are.”

But of what, exactly, does that culture consist? What does it look like? How do you feed it? And how do you manage it? Katechis offered an outline as he watched, waited and sampled his roasting coffee beans in the corner of the empty space that would soon be filled with equipment for his growing craft brewery, a pizza oven and a bowling alley.

Dale Katechi’s Secrets to Success

I

Failure is good; it creates opportunity.

“Beers go bad, but we’re at a point now where our R&D lab will catch those. But early on, one of our brewers, Jason Pond, accidentally double hopped a batch of English Bitter beer [typically a mildly hopped style]. Instead of pretending it didn’t happen, just letting it go and not saying anything, he immediately owned up to it. He said, ‘Hey, I messed up.’ We didn’t let it out; instead we put the batch on tap in our tasting room and named it Pond Scum. It was one of our best selling beers.

“We applaud failure,” he said. “I’m drawn to people who are comfortable with messing up, because that’s how you learn and grow.”

II

Know when to let go, and do so.

“There was a turning point where the pirates took over the ship; when I allowed everyone the freedom to make decisions and gave them enough rope to hang themselves. That’s the most fulfilling aspect of where we are now: I don’t make many decisions any more. But jobs are getting done, we’re making quality beer and we’re growing.

“You learn that once you create the culture, things take care of themselves,” Katechis said. “When you’ve established that, getting in the way can cause more problems than it solves.”

III

Communication is key.

“There was a turning point where the pirates took over the ship; when I allowed everyone the freedom to make decisions and gave them enough rope to hang themselves. That’s the most fulfilling aspect of where we are now: I don’t make many decisions any more. But jobs are getting done, we’re making quality beer and we’re growing.

“You learn that once you create the culture, things take care of themselves,” Katechis said. “When you’ve established that, getting in the way can cause more problems than it solves.”

IV

Find and hire good people.

“It’s hard, but I keep it simple,” Katechis says. “Do you look me in the eye? Do you have a strong handshake? Are you comfortable telling me to go away? Independent people, willing to take risks, are hard to find. We’d be ten times as big as we are today if the labor pool got what we’re about. People who are afraid of failure, who just tell you what you want to hear, are a dime a dozen. But they won’t grow your business.”

V

Know how and when to change jobs.

“My burden now is that my job has changed. Early on, I was doing all the creative stuff, getting bills paid, making sure we were making good beer and deliveries were getting made,” Katechis said. “Now, my job is to make sure that there continues to be opportunity for the people who have committed their lives to this.”








 

 

X