As Oslo Finds US Foothold, Yogaratnam Sees Portfolio Branches As Growth Avenue

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the US. Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Dimitri Yogaratnam, CEO/co-founder, Oslo Brewing — Oslo, Norway & Lexington, Kentucky

BREWER: How have recent challenges in your position helped make you better? What were those “pain points” and how did you solve or adjust to the issue? 
YOGARATNAM: Everyone has been dealing with inflation and how to deal with that is a challenge. Keeping our products exciting and using great ingredients whilst keeping a price point that is attractive has been a huge challenge. It has had us researching other beer styles and being more creative with the core four ingredients in beer and really letting them shine. That has been a great learning experience and pushing us outside of our comfort zone creating beer styles that have never been in our portfolio before. From Altbier, to Weizenbocks and Belgian quads to a Flemish Red. It has been both nerve racking and exciting, but the response so far has been positive.

BREWER: What has been your brewery’s most recent accomplishment and how is it going to improve your business going forward?
YOGARATNAM: We’ve been developing an alcohol-free beer for what feels like forever. I personally haven’t really had a non-alcoholic beer that I would choose over another non-alco beverage such as kombucha or ginger beer or whatever….so finally making a non-alcoholic beer we are proud of is a big milestone for us and we are super proud to be launching that soon and hope the market thinks it tastes as great as we do!

BREWER: How did you start in the industry and why do you still want to be a part of it?
YOGARATNAM: I have been working in restaurants and with food since I was 12. I wake up and think about what fun things I can create through food and drinks and it doesn’t stop all day. I don’t think I could work in another industry. Creating things and mixing and matching flavors is really what I am most passionate about. The more “nerdy” side of this industry that I love is logistics and planning…from creating brew schedules and planning transport and making sure all the beer is in the right place at the right time for people to enjoy is fun, challenging and unique that I don’t think I’ll ever want to give up.

BREWER: What are you sippin’ on right now from your brewery that you really enjoy?
YOGARATNAM: We have a beer now called ØL Americana that is a Cream Ale. I love the style it is so simple and flavorful and is something you can drink through the night. With many craft beers, like your Triple IPA or Pastry Stouts….they are amazing, but you only want to drink one and then switch back to something easier. I like beers that are exciting enough, but don’t weigh down your pallet to much so you can’t have a second one.

BREWER: Be it in styles, ingredients, business strategies or sales & marketing techniques, what are some recent industry trends that you’ve tried or are excited about trying this year?
YOGARATNAM: Well, I’ve already mentioned our alcohol free range, the brand is called Oslo Zero and launching in Norway this March and hopefully exporting a bunch and if it goes well then we’ll brew it in the US as well. Beyond that, everyone has been talking about for years that Lagers and more malt-driven beers or going to take the forefront for ages…and now it seems that time is here. So fun times for sure. We also see that breweries starting to create completely new beverages. From sodas, to seltzers, to other packaged drinks and we are no different. We think it is fun to branch out, but also comes with it’s own challenges of course and managing multiple brands and portfolios beyond beer is tough, but from a creative standpoint very exciting.

BREWER: What are some adaptations to business practices in the industry that you’ve observed over these past few years, and how has your brewery adjusted to stay competitive?
YOGARATNAM: The trend we are seeing now in the market in Norway is consolidation. Many breweries merging or closing down and sales consolidating on the biggest breweries that are left. It’s a real challenging time to be a small business in this industry. That said, we have never really considered the macro breweries as true competition and we operate in a different segment….in Norway our beer ends up in a different section in the grocery stores so we are competing in a different way. However, now shelf space is shrinking and are actually starting to sit next to bigger breweries so we need to think different and try to compete with them, which is a scary, challenging, but exciting place to be and we are developing strategies to step up to that challenge and are very optimistic for 2024.

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