Oskar Blues and owner Dale Katechis have never shied away from a love for marijuana, but the professional connection ended at cleverly named beers or puns in honor of the plant.
The craft-beer pioneer and Veritas Fine Cannabis just announced that Katechis is joining the Colorado marijuana grower as an investing partner, in hopes that he'll bring some of those same disruptive techniques to pot.
"It was really just looking for the right opportunity. I'd been looking at other opportunities for quite some time and was considering an investment in the space, but I never found the right fit or company that fit with my ethos," Katechis explains.
And ethos is important to Katechis. Oskar Blues has displayed a trailblazing mindset since he founded the Longmont brewery in 1997, making aluminum and tall-boy cans cool in craft beer (it wasn't as easy as it sounds) and highlighting local musicians through Burning Can, an annual festival held to showcase beer, artists and a massive wooden beer can that is eventually set on fire. Now that mindset has spread, with Oskar Blues expanding into North Carolina and Texas while acquiring several different breweries of its own.
Not bad for a brewery that started in a basement. Maybe that's why Katechis decided to finally enter the marijuana industry through the cultivation sector, another relatively new industry with roots leading back to Colorado basements.
"In craft beer, we had four ingredients, and we had to figure out how to make them better and more stable than everyone else. We did it in a very irreverent way, which is how Mike and Jon operate Veritas," Katechis says.
When a Veritas partner sold his stake in the company, co-owner Mike Leibowitz says he and fellow partner Jon Spadafora didn't have to look very hard to find a new investor. Leibowitz and Katechis share a mutual friend that Katechis has known since childhood, and they hit it off quickly after meeting.
"Dale is, as usual, being very humble about how excited we are to have him," Leibowitz says. "The last thing we wanted as a company was to have a bunch of suits come in, look at profits and spreadsheets and take the fun away from cannabis. With Dale, we're going to have more fun; we already have since he came on board. It's sparked a fire for all 125 of us who work at Veritas."
According to Leibowitz, Katechis's infusion of money and experience could lead to market expansion down the road, with Veritas currently eyeing California, but "nothing is final yet." Changes to packaging — something of a staple at Oskar Blues — and crossover events and branding between the brewery and marijuana cultivation are also on the table.
Although Oskar Blues and Veritas remain two separate companies and Katechis is very aware of state and federal laws banning products containing both alcohol and THC, marijuana beverages are still a possibility, he notes.
"We have a lot of ideas and thoughts on where the next moves are," Katechis concludes, "but the focus for Veritas is growing luxury flower, and growing that line and staying in that line — but there are certainly opportunities out there that we'll investigate, whether it's drinks or what have you."
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