Oskar Blues: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

It seems Oskar Blues has the tiger by the tail, or sticking with our theme here, the great white shark by the caudal fin.

They recently pulled out of Idaho and seven other states because they can’t keep up with demand in other (apparently more important) markets.  Don cries about this in our latest podcast, but not in his beer, because we review some Oskar Blues goodies and he can no longer get them!  And yes, I rubbed it in a bit.

Now Alicia Wallace of Boulder’s Daily Camera reports that the brewery has added 7 new 200 barrel fermenting tanks in the last 60 days.  Why?  Because they’ve run out of beer and can’t fill new orders until October, even after the Great Idaho Purge.  The new tanks boost capacity to around 60,000 barrels a year. 

My how they’ve grown. Here’s their output over the past few years:

  • 2011: 60,000 (est.)
  • 2010: 44,000 (est.)
  • 2009: 29,500
  • 2008: 17,000
  • 2007: 12,500

These numbers show what a temptress success can be.  When a brewery has a hit on their hands like Oskar Blues has with Dale’s Pale Ale, they can either stick to a steady-as-she-goes growth plan or they can seize the day and go for it.

Oscar Blues certainly seems to be seizing the day, which I admire, but from the outside it’s all starting to look a little haphazard.  Running out of beer, not being able to fulfill orders for four months, Pulling out of states, adding 14,000 barrels of capacity in 60 days, and then possibly returning to the markets they had left (at least I hope so for Don’s sake) makes it seem like “Going for it” might have rattled their business plan a bit.

The article also mentions Odell Brewing, another successful Colorado brewery, which has stuck to their business plan of 10% growth per year.  Here’s brewery co-founder Wynne Odell:

“Some people love to take on every bit of opportunity and respond to it; we’re not as driven in that direction,” she said. “The 10 percent-a-year overall growth plan, we feel like we can do it right every time. … It’s a more comfortable environment to operate in.”

And that’s where the risk lies: Growing too fast to do it right.

Looking at the numbers above, Oskar Blues has been successful in growing by 40% to 60% annually for the past few years and keeping their beer awesome.  But their recent supply chain problems point to the possibility that they’re currently outmatched by their success.

Opportunity is a seductive siren that has led many businesses to a watery grave.  I am rooting for Oskar Blues to navigate these dangerous waters successfully, and hope that their rapid expansion doesn’t turn into something we can taste in the can.  I’m pretty confident they’ll persevere.

In the meantime I’ll keep a close eye on their product quality by consuming a steady supply of Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub as a service to you, our loyal reader.

I know, I give and I give, it’s just my nature! 😉

Hat tip to photographer, writer and all around wildman Clyde Soles for sending us the link on this.

Read more: Oskar Blues in Longmont adds seventh tank in 60 days – Boulder Daily Camera

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Categories: Beer

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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2 Comments on “Oskar Blues: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat”

  1. July 31, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    As a growth strategy it seems very aggressive, but why not go for it. We do not get their beer here in BC, but I always bring cans back from Seattle where I discovered the beer 2 years ago. There are numerous times where Ten Fiddy is nowhere to be seen, including last year at GABF, they were pouring out of cans, but didn’t have any to sell.

    Jumping head first into the Imperial IPA market with GUBNA seems like a huge risk, but one that has paid off. Whether 10% or 40% growth is more appropriate I’m not sure? Like you I’m a continued fan and will continue to monitor the quality level.

    • July 31, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

      Not all brewers are logistical geniuses (I’d guess few are) and OB certainly seems to be trying their best to give everybody a taste.

      As long as I can get it and the beer stays good, I’m happy.

      I just feel bad for guys like my brother who can’t get it anymore. I hope they get the beer flowing back into Idaho soon.

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