Things change quickly in the beer business.
On October 16th, Lou Romano – then the director of marketing and wholesaler development at D.G. Yuengling Brewery – was helping the country’s oldest brewery evaluate the Massachusetts market for a possible reentrance in 2014.
But on October 22nd, Romano had been hired away by the fast-growing Oskar Blues Brewery to become that company’s new national sales manager.
Romano said he began paying closer attention to the Oskar Blues brewery business when his friend and former colleague, Christopher Russell, left Yuengling in 2012 to take a position as Oskar Blues’ Southeast regional sales manager. Russell, now the director of business development, encouraged Romano to think about a career change.
“I think sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone in your career and really get to a position with a company where you feel inspired,” Romano told Brewbound. “I found that in (Oskar Blues Founder) Dale [Katechis] and the management team with Oskar Blues.”
It’s a pivotal hire for Oskar Blues, which faces the complications that come with a sales force that has now grown to 48 employees.
“We are a young but fast-growing company, particularly on the sales side,” said Chad Melis, the director of marketing for Oskar Blues. “His [Romano’s] organization will be a key ingredient as we continue to add sales representatives to the team. He will give us the additional firepower to begin looking at new markets while we continue to focus on the markets that we are in.”
Romano said he has spent his first few weeks as an Oskar Blues employee traveling to emerging markets like Texas and Florida to “improve the company’s relationships and communications with wholesaler partners.”
“We are looking at 10 years of growth in those markets,” he said. “I’m working to make sure that we do what we need to do today to ensure the future success of the brewery.”
Romano said he plans to draw from his six-plus years at Yuengling, executing marketing and wholesaler development, to help strengthen an Oskar Blues business that is growing at a 40 percent clip.
“My responsibility will be on the markets where we are currently sold, working to figure out how we take them to the next level, with the management team that is already in place,” he said.
In a video interview last month, Melis said that Oskar Blues will produce more than 120,000 barrels in 2013 and that the company is already looking to open markets for 2014. Oskar Blues entered Indiana this month with three wholesalers: World Class Beer-Monarch Beverage in central and south Indiana, and Indiana Beverage and Five Star Distributing in the northern region of the state.