Founder Jon Lane’s Arizona brewing and distilling empire is thriving thanks to a smart brewpub model and aggressive expansion.
Lane has been in — or near — the bar and restaurant industry for most of his life. “I grew up not far from Bell’s Brewing in Michigan,” he says. “And I’ve worked for a couple of breweries prior, the largest being Four Peaks
[in Tempe.] Though I’ve done other things in my adulthood, I always come back to hospitality and the bar and restaurant business.”
Because he was a beer lover and homebrewer with restaurant experience, it made perfect sense to found a brewpub. OHSO — which stands for Outrageous Homebrewer’s Social Outpost — opened its first location in Arcadia in 2011.
“We made sure that our brewery is customer-facing,” Lane says. “Meaning we actually brew with customers at [our original location]. We pick a style, and they get to pick all the finishes. My brewer brews it with their assistance, and that way we make sure the beer is a quality beer and is going to be drinkable. We have four groups a week come in. They brew their beer, and it goes on tap roughly two and a half to three weeks later.”
The Arcadia location includes a restaurant that seats 425, Lane says. “And now we have a little additional restaurant attached to Arcadia called Little O’s that seats 125 to 150.”
The brewers at OHSO’s Paradise Valley location — which also houses a restaurant that seats 450 — brew the company’s six core beers. The Gilbert location — which was recently expanded to seat 600 within the restaurant — typically focuses on OHSO’s lineup of barrel-aged beers, lagers, and one-off styles. And the North Scottsdale location is home to the company’s distillery
along with a 400-seat restaurant.
Lane notes that the brewpub model keeps customers at the brewery or distillery longer, increasing the amount they tend to spend. “If you’re a brewery or distillery alone, without food, you tend not to hold people for more than two or three drinks because they have to drive or go get food,” he explains. “For me, I was a restaurant and bar person, and the brewery was an additional use. For a lot of people [in the industry] it’s the opposite. They’re a brewer and own a brewery. A lot of them have never dealt with a bar or restaurant and don’t want to deal with a bar or restaurant.”
Among the 75 styles of beer Lane says his company produces on a “fairly frequent basis” is everything from “the darkest, heaviest barrel-aged stout to the lightest of lagers and in between,” he notes. “Because of our ability to do a lot of one-offs, we can produce everything from a smoked beer to a fruity lager to a red ale to a porter — really all over the board.”
Inspiration for new brews typically comes from OHSO’s brewers themselves. “They see something, whether it be at another brewery or a menu item or just have an idea and want to try it,” Lane says. “And some of them turn out amazing. Some have gone on to win medals at the Great American Beer Fest or some of these bigger competitions. And then some of them don’t turn out so well or don’t sell so well. But we learned what didn’t work and what did work.”
Top sellers include OHSO’s BOOM Dynamite, a juicy IPA, along with a fruited lager called Popcycle. Bright, a light lager, rounds out the top three according to Lane.
“We just started having our seltzers on constantly,” he says of new developments. “And we’re also expanding our lager selections. We’re also doing a lot of variants on our barrel aged. So, we’ll do one core style and flavor and then we’ll fruit one or two others of that same version. For example, we had Bananarchy, a banana-forward barrel-aged bourbon stout. And then we added some peanut butter. It’s interesting to see.”
Lane says the company relies on brewhouses from Midwestern brewery equipment manufacturer Alpha. “Honestly, I think most brewhouses are pretty similar,” he continues. “The difference is the service, the quality of welds, and the equipment packages offered. For our space right now, that seems to work. We’re very comfortable with their service and the quality and pricing fits all of our needs.”
All told, OHSO produced roughly 5,500 barrels of beer in 2021 and expects to beat that by about 10 percent this year. “But most of our focus is the brewpub model,” Lane adds, “where we sell our beer at the pub. While we do distribute, we don’t do so in great amounts.”
Challenges: Like many manufacturers, Lane says his company is still feeling the pandemic-related effects on the supply chain. “It’s the increase in product costs, delivery, and the supply chain in general,” he explains. “And I think my turnover is greater now than it was before, not necessarily in the breweries but in the restaurants. And I don’t know why that is because not much has changed with our culture. Our pay system has increased as it needs to. But it has somewhat [been a challenge] finding quality employees that are going to advance both themselves and our [company.]”
Opportunities: Lane says OHSO Brewery and Distillery has opportunities to improve its efficiency. “Especially in the back of the house and costing,” he continues. “Also, our purchasing could be a little bit more efficient. And then, honestly, ensuring that we have the same quality of team member, and growth, and culture. Those are the opportunities that we need to keep being successful at.”
Lane also notes that more brewpub locations are in the works along with a facility dedicated to production.
“We’re in the process of purchasing a large facility to take the majority of the brewing and move it to that,” he says. “Our capacity would be roughly four times what our current overall capacity is, or about 20,000 barrels. We have a few more restaurants coming, and we want to make sure we can feed them [beer] as well. We would probably also increase our distribution by over 20 percent. Our onsite consumption would increase by 30 to 40 percent in the next few years. And then we’d still have the capability to continue to grow for a few more years in that space.”
Needs: Lane says increasing staff is a little bit of a need along with acquiring more equipment but determining the right time to make such investments has been difficult. “Do we pull the trigger?” he asks. “Do we wait? Do we buy this thing? Or do we not? Do we employ this person to take some of the load off? Or do we expect a little bit more of those that have the talents?”