On the up · 10 November 2016

Founding a craft beer business to showcase the wonders of a city

Oslo Brewing Co. craft beer
Fancy a Norwegian blond? Oslo Brewing Co. has just the beer for you
Norway is a country youd traditionally associate with a few staples: winter sports, fjords and a lot of oil. While you wouldn’t necessarily think about alcohol, the Oslo Brewing Co., a craft beer business, is looking to change that perception as well as open drinkers up to the delights of its capital city.

The company is only a little over a year old, but already it has produced over 30, 000 litres of beer since beginning brewing in June and introduced seven different types. Business Advice came across the enterpriseand its founders on a trip to Oslo, and were invited to meet two of the entrepreneurs behind itat the bar a few of them own one which claims to be the longest bar in Scandinavia.

Marius Steen has a background in PR and communications, just one of the skillets that are represented by the nine founders and 11 that currently make up the team. Joining him are the likes of a plumber, a sociologist, an engineer, a designer and, quite usefully, a beer brewer.

our team has people who have done startups and those whove worked in stock-listed companies. Weve got people who have run highly-complex design processes, and those with PR campaign, sales and accounting experience, he explained.

Quite unusually for a young craft beer business, the team have decided to opt for contract brewing straight away. For those not aware of what that means, a brewery can decide to either brew on its own premises, meaning costly investment in machinery, or contract it out to a larger brewery that handles orders for multipleparties.

we wanted to be flexible and have a clear focus on building products and brand, rather than spending the first year building a brewery, Steen explained.

there are the costs and then time spent finding a location, buying bits and then maintaining output so that’s why we were keen to have a model of business that made it easy to scale up and down, making it easy to move to other countries.

However, Steen did point out a few problems with contract brewing. While it does have the obvious pros of less costs and no build times, the team cannot necessarily brew to their own schedule. They often have to adjust to someone else, and arent really able to brew exactly how theyd chose to if premises were owned.

what weve learnt is that as long as we know these limitations and rules, we can plan according to those and with that plan a schedule and strategy that makes us end up where we want to be, he added.

While Oslo Brewing Co. is still a relative new addition to the brewing scene, it has already spread its internationals wings and ventured over to Japan.

Funding for the young business has been mostly through the founding team’s own capital, but they have a very helpful bank on board. Steen told us that most banks are not necessarily keen, but they made sure to present themselves in a very particular way early on. Our business plan was very specific, we had an idea of the whole package. With the founding team we have, there were some very concrete ideas and time plan, so it was a lot easier to have a bank understand what we were doing and for it to trust us and think this is a solid project with a sincere group behind it.

An interesting component of the Oslo Brewing Co. growth story so far is its position within a heavily regulated Norwegian market. While many may view the Scandinavian nation as laid back and laissez-faire, its approach to alcohol means nothing with a strength of more than 4.7 per cent can be sold in supermarkets. Above that and it must be stocked in a specialised alcohol shop.

To put it simply, there is a complete ban on alcohol advertising. The brewery is allowed to show a beer and say, for example, this is a bottle of IPA. However, don’t even dare suggest how good it tastes or make it look appetising.

if we had entered the market and there was no digital channel available, it would have been significantly harder to get an audience, Steen commented.

we have to be smart with the way we do things. As we have this clear idea that we love our city and are putting it on the map through craft beer, much of what we are doing is showcasing the city and so the possibilities are endless. Instagram is a big deal, and then Facebook for events.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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