October 17, 2022

Months after selling his groundbreaking brewery, Oskar Blues’ founder is on to new adventures Oct 6, 2022, 3:03pm MDT

In the early months of 2022, Dale Katechis found himself out of a job and wondering what to do. He was a pioneer in the canning of craft beers who had maxed out his credit cards to launch Oskar Blues Brewery and built Dale’s Pale Ale into

From the Denver Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2022/10/06/dale-katechis-oskar-blues-founder-sale-restaurants.html

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Dale Katechis hoists a pint at his Oskar Blues Grill & Brew location in Lower Downtown Denver on Oct. 5, 2022. An iconic national brand, but that trajectory changed this year. Monster Beverage Corp. (NYSE: MNST) purchased Oskar Blues and its multibrewery CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective for $330 million in January from private-equity firm Fireman Capital Partners and the owners of the breweries that were part of the company. Twenty-five years after opening his original blues-music-themed Cajun restaurant in Lyons and 23 years after getting the idea to add a beer-making operation there, Katechis severed himself from CANarchy.

But because he had sold the restaurant division of Oskar Blues to his wife, Christi, in 2004 when the business moved from brewpub status to a manufacturing brewery, the former high school sweethearts with four kids retained control over the four eateries under the OB moniker. After a break from everything, the entrepreneur decided to dive back in, this time going back to his roots as a restaurateur. “Now that I’m out of the beer business completely, I needed something to do,” Katechis said on Wednesday, sitting on the front porch of his Oskar Blues Grill & Brew in Lower Downtown and sipping a beer as industry leaders gathered inside before the now 40-year-old Great American Beer Festival. “I could only do so much Sudoku at home without my wife telling me, ‘OK, you need to get out of the house.’ And this is what started us.”

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Although he owns restaurants in Lyons, Longmont and Colorado Springs as well, Katechis particularly wanted to understand what was happening in LoDo, which got hit hard as the pandemic drove workers out of downtown and was suffering from the same labor shortages as the rest of the industry. So, he rented a place within walking distance of the bar and restaurant and poured himself into 16-hour days there for three months, sometimes mopping the floors first thing in the morning and sometimes working a shift in the kitchen if a worker failed to show.

He wants to transform Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, at 1624 Market St., from a sometimes-overlooked part of the greater Oskar Blues family into a center of the craft-beer scene in Denver. Oskar Blues beers, appropriately, still take up a dozen or so of the draft lines at the Cajun restaurant with a downstairs music venue, but that leaves roughly 35 more draft lines that Katechis intends to fill with products from other craft-beer makers. With the restaurant back on its post-pandemic feet, he plans to hold more events showing off the small and local breweries that have been where he once was in their efforts to grow into something bigger. And he’ll do it, as he always has, with a beer in one hand and maybe a spatula or maybe a bar rag in the other. With the restaurant is humming once again, and now it’s one of the many activities Katechis is juggling in his life after Oskar Blues. But he’s relaxed — as he always has been — and happy and looking forward to new challenges, even if they may seem less daunting

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than growing from scratch and operating what became the seventh-largest craft brewery in America. “It is very weird. It is bittersweet,” he said of not having ownership in a brewery that’s occupied roughly half his life. “I’ve probably spent more time with Oskar Blues than I have with my children. And it was like a child to me. I’m still proud of what has happened there.”

Just three years into its run as a brewpub, Katechis got the idea of canning Dale’s Pale Ale at a time when the craft sector eschewed the vessels because of their longtime association with the light beers that dominated the American drinking scene in the second half of the 20 century. Fellow brewers laughed at him at first. Then they realized he was right about the increased sustainability and protection against beer-ruining light that cans provided, and now almost every member of the industry has ditched bottles for cans.

In the 20 years after that fateful decision, Katechis built a brand that not only was the first Colorado craft brewery to be sold in all 50 states but that had started buying other craft breweries that were in financial trouble and in danger of being gobbled up by an international company. His equity partners then found what they considered the ideal buyer CANarchy — a pioneer in the energy- drink space that was looking to take its first steps into alcoholic beverages.

While many people wondered how Katechis felt handing his company over to such a big corporation — he didn’t comment when the sale was announced — he said Wednesday that he is very

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happy with who is guiding Oskar Blues’ future. He liked the history of Monster, the team that was running it and their goals to let the CANarchy brands grow on their own. He said he continues to have a good relationship with them now that his Oskar Blues-branded restaurants are buying Oskar Blues beers from Monster to serve. “I don’t know if there are too many better marketers in the world, and they had a desire to be in the space,” he said. “And they still kind of operate in a sense like a small company. You can still talk to both owners.”

In addition to being a restaurateur, Katechis is now an investor. He’s bought into Bootstrap Brewing of Longmont, which keeps his hand in the industry, even if he is more of a silent partner to owners Steve and Leslie Kaczeus as they grow their distribution-focused brewery. But he’s also invested in Veritas Fine Cannabis, as he’s always been fascinated by an entire industry that is trying to break new ground. He’s invested in Ursa Major Technologies, a Berthoud-based company that prints 3D rocket engines, because his father was an aerospace engineer. And he’s bought into Denver’s Wander + Ivy winery, in tribute to his father’s long-time efforts to make his own vino. “Growing up, every closet in our house had a five-gallon carboy in it,” Katechis remembered. “That was my first experience with fermentation.”

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Katechis, one of the most influential craft-beer makers of all time, is an entrepreneur again. And he’s excited. “It’s been fun to be a big part of this space for as long as we have,” he said. “I just wonder what the next 25 years holds for me.”

Ed Sealover
Senior Reporter
Denver Business Journal

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