Why Russo and Oakshire Zig While Others Zag With Product Lineup

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.

Dan Russo, Chief Operations Office, Oakshire Brewing — Portland, Oregon

BREWER: What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job? 
RUSSO: For me it has been the continued “dynamicness” of the industry. It’s shifting so much and so often in relation to consumer drinking preference, the stepping away from the beer space for consumers to alternative beverages, and watching how many brewers simply follow suit. So being able to watch those trends and make make moves in a different way that help separate us from the rest of the pack and then have the vision to help lead the company forward is pretty awesome and has definitely improved the way myself and my team view, create, brew, present, drink and share beer.

BREWER: Why did you enter the craft beer industry and what makes you love being a part of it and staying in it?
RUSSO: I entered the industry 12.5 years ago as a lover of craft beer and homebrewer that knew how to run restaurants, but wanted to do more. What I love is the people that we meet, the events that we do, and that generally what we create, at the heart of it is something incredibly fun and welcoming. I’ve stayed with it, especially through the last couple of years because I just love making beer. As I have switched rolls to COO, I love the thought of working with our team to continue to create those awesome beers, and the beer experiences that will come with them and lead people back to Oakshire for more!

BREWER: What are some recent trends in brewing that you’ve tried or are excited about trying?
RUSSO: I really like the “Modern” Lager trend. Not making IPLs, but making crisp bright Lager with New World hops. I have some people that have done phenominal jobs with them and look forward to seeing where they can go. And to that, just the true Lager resurgence in general with people truly trying to make Lagers taste great. Also that West Coast IPA is back and going stronger then ever, with brewers know how to do them fantastically all over the world!

BREWER: What was your business’s greatest accomplishment during the past year, and what are your goals for your brewery this year?
RUSSO: I think a lot of what has happened the last couple of years can be attributed to our CEO and Administrative Director. So to watch them do all that they did to ensure that through all the closures and everything across the state and Northwest, the shuffling of regulations, you name it; that we walked out of the backside of the pandemic in a spot where we can thrive. Also our pub GM’s and their resilience to all those changes. As for now and beyond, it’s realigning distribution while working towards opening a third retail location where we can control the experience.

BREWER: What are some changes in the industry that you’ve observed in the past few years, and how has your business adapted to stay competitive?
RUSSO: Consumer behavior over the course of the pandemic was all over the place, but with the growth of the boutique distributors that carry hard to find craft brands, you saw a roadmap to get beer to people all across the country while driving volume and not being locked into a franchise agreement with one of the “Big Boy” distributors who don’t actually care about our brand and want us to have someone half way across the country trying to sell a beer that doesn’t in any way come across as local. Now these small distributors are giving breweries a chance and I think that is exciting, and think it is a great path forward.

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