Brewing for Oslo

Oslo Brewing Company are using craft beer to showcase their city's identity, keeping things contemporary and approachable. We've been following their journey as they break into the Japanese market, with their venue in Tokyo, and launch their exciting new Christmas beer. We spoke with Marius Steen and Steffen Mussche-Johansen, about the importance of sustainability, as well as digital and creative innovation to their craft.
Published —
12.06.16
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Q: Tell us about your journey to launching Oslo Brewing Co?

A: First of all, we love beer and craft beer especially has been our passion for a long time. We felt that the craft beer scene had, in many ways, lots of brands doing very similar things. We also felt, from a local level, that no beers took Oslo as a contemporary city seriously.

Oslo is shaping up, becoming a world city and it’s starting to act like it. We wanted to highlight the endless possibilities Oslo has, and we wanted to use our craft beer to convey that message. Our visual identity is clean, simple and contemporary, with a focus on beer production and beer styles as they take form today. We wanted to stray from the more historical beer tradition and trying to be an old brewery, because that’s not what we are.

Combining our love of Oslo, and the message of Oslo becoming a world city, we set out to do one primary thing: use our beer to put Oslo on the map.

Q: There are nine owners of Oslo Brewing Company. Tell us a little about the different team members, their unique skills and making decisions as a large group of owners.

A: There are nine founding partners and two employees, making us a gang of 11 – it goes to 11… (Spinal Tap – sorry!) Between the guys we have a brewer, a chef, an entrepreneur, an engineer, designers, PR and communications, sociologists, a plumber,an  architect, a bank and a samurai. It’s a wide mix, but most importantly it allows us to create everything from scratch by ourselves.

Being self-sufficient ties us together, it creates a unity around our brand, and it saves us time and money. A decision process with so many involved demands a very concrete and open system. We can’t debate everything with everyone. We must know when all need to decide something, and when just some of us make the call. That’s a balancing act. But it comes down to trusting each other, all knowing the collective direction we’re headed, and providing a mandate to each person involved. Major decisions are either all onboard or it doesn’t happen.

Day-to-day smaller things are handled by the category responsible. We have strong personalities in the group. Yet all respect a solid and well-argued point.

Q: Tell us about the process of deciding which beers to make. How you do it?

A: Our brewmaster, Sindre, is the creative force behind our beers. He is always informed about trends and options from around the beer world. We use inspiration from other beers, or flavours to create what we believe in. We believe in creating beers that are easily drinkable. That means we’re not making the most outrageous beers containing the weirdest ingredients, just to prove a point. We’re not making beers so demanding in taste that you can only have one sip, let alone a whole bottle, and you end up flushing it down with a pilsner afterwards.

For us, we created the Oslo Brewing Co. because we wanted to make beers that we all would like to drink. With our current line-up of beers, we believe we’re really going in the right direction.

As for every person being involved in the creation process; for our Christmas beer, our partner Steffen had his brother-in-law in Jamaica send over lots of Jamaican Sorrel – and we challenged Sindre to make a Christmas beer based on Jamaican plants. You have to taste it
to believe us when we say it works…

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Q: Is there much collaboration between micro breweries in Oslo/Norway?

A: Yes, it’s a small industry, the craft beer world – we all know each other. We meet at various industry events, we even have roasts where we battle each other in friendly trash talk sessions, and we brew together.

For us, being a contract brewery, we are completely dependent on a good relationship with other breweries.  ​

Q: Tell us about your venue in Tokyo.

A: In September this year, we announced the opening of our re-branded bar, ØL by Oslo Brewing Co. in Tokyo, Japan. We own the bar with our partner Fuglen, who primarily do coffee bars both in Oslo and Tokyo. The bar we have together in Tokyo opens up a new market for us, and it enables us to put Oslo on the map through beer.

The bar is located in the centre of Tokyo, and serves a wide variety of Scandinavian and Japanese craft beer. The bar is a wonderful platform for us to serve our beer in Japan, and for us to explore the Japanese market with local presence already in place.


Q: The alcohol laws in Norway are restrictive in terms of what you can sell and where. How does this impact startup business in your sector?

A: Correct, our rules are very strict. However, as long we understand the laws and work with them, we can do very well.

The digital communication platforms available enable us to speak to large communities, with our followers exposing us through their own channels. It’s all about getting our beer into people’s hands and  to create a following which understands our vision and goal. From there, a community can propel you forwards onto people’s radar.

We have very strict rules, but there are ways to survive and grow as a startup making alcoholic beverages in Norway. It just requires some creativity. You can’t buy an ad for example.

Q: What role does innovation play in how you do business?

A: Innovation can be so many things – it can be digital or not. For us, innovation means smarter ways to create, run and grow a business.

For example, we have smarter internal digital systems meaning less time spent doing what used to be tons of paperwork. We have digital communications channels both for internal and external communication, making us who are involved very closely linked, whilst simultaneously being able to reach a large group of followers.

Innovation also means that we have smarter ways of working, with a more efficient company structure. Nothing digital. Purely innovative in the way we structure and conduct our business. Innovation simplifies our business, it makes it easier to reach the goals that we have set for ourselves.

Q: Why is sustainability important to you?

A: Because we believe by being a good employer, a solid product producer and  a company that we all can be proud of. Oslo Brewing Co. will grow to the size we aspire to, by making the right choices along the way. All of us involved want to have a sustainable and transparent company – it just makes everything easier.

Q: Why Oslo?

A: Oslo has it all; culture and sights, coupled with food and drink, alongside active people and tons of activities. The best part is, Oslo is just as fun in winter as in summer.

You can visit one spot and use it for completely different reasons. Play ice hockey in winter and wakeboard ​in summer. Bobsleigh in winter. Downhill biking in summer. The same restaurant will be great in both summer and winter – places change character and embrace the seasons.

Combine the possibilities of Oslo with the new areas being built while the older areas are being brushed up, and you begin to understand our fascination.

Oslo is so much, and so much to be proud of. We are using our beer to talk about the city and put it on the map.

Q: What’s next for Oslo Brewing Co.?

A: We are going to continue to create new exciting beers, like the new Christmas beer we have recently released. We will continue to grow our company. But our biggest new feature before Christmas is retail. We will be available in Norway in December and onwards. In time we will start to roll out in other European countries as well.

Q: What is your ethos?

A:  Approachable

Contemporary

Curious

Straightforward

Caring​