Located on the scenic Front Range of the Rocky’s on the Cache La Poudre River, Fort Collins, Colorado is not just another town. With access to trails for exploring the semi-arid steppe climate region with majestic views of the imposing Great Divide to the west, the progressive, bike-friendly city of about 140,000 (5th largest in Colorado) is also a booming craft brewing community.
Best known for the grand New Belgium Brewing Company, the third largest producer of craft beer in the United States, Fort Collins also offers a handful of other distinct and well-received breweries. One such standout is Odell’s.
Odell Brewing was founded by Doug, Wynne, and Corkie Odell, Odell Brewing opened in 1989 in a converted 1915 grain elevator located on the outskirts of town. Odell’s was just the second microbrewery to open in Colorado and from the beginning, the brewery’s attention to detail and respect for the craft made it an immediate success. Doug Odell began homebrewing in Seattle before finding himself eventually opening the current brewing facility in 1994. With an annual production of 8,300 barrels in the 8,000 square foot brewery, and after adding a bottling line, the brewery soon maxed out on capacity, and after a number of small expansions, seriously beefed up in 2009. In 2009, the space reached 45,000 square feet and pushed out 45,000 barrels that year – one barrel per square foot.
Today Odell’s has 57 co-workers and produces an impressive array of craft brews. Upon our most recent visit, we experienced 18 different beers on tap offered as tasters in three specified sampler trays consisting of six three ounce pours. The classic sampler features Odell’s mainstay brews, many of which are available in six packs of 12-ounce bottles. The pilot sampler consists of some seasonal and one-offs. And the co-pilot tray was composed of stronger brews including barrel-aged offerings.
Our classic tray featured Easy Street Wheat, one of the original beers devised by Doug Odell dating back to the early years of the brewery. An easy-drinking 4.6% ABV, 15 IBU unfiltered American-style wheat beer, this is the session of the lot. Also included on the tray was Levity Amber, 5 Barrel Pale, and the 90 Shilling, the brewery’s flagship ale, also in existence since the early days of Odell. This amber beer is a lighter rendition of the tradition Scottish style was the first release at the brewery in ’89. In addition to these, the classic featured the award winning IPA (won GABF gold in 2007) with bold citrus hop flavors and the robust Cutthroat Porter.
The pilot tray featured some more off-the-beaten-path ales such as the Snowriders Ale, a 4.8% ABV American Wheat beer showcasing a dabbling of Centennial and Amarillo hops. The Town Pump Pale is Odell’s take on a Brittish style pale ale but with a twist. Dry hopped with whole cone hops the bold resinous snap of this beer is enjoyed at the oldest pub in Northern Colorado of the same name. Isolation Ale is a traditional wassail/winter warmer, again with English malts. The Mad Farmer Ale, possibly the most unique beer of the six in this lineup, is made with 120 pounds of roasted beets to give it not only a unique flavor but one of the most beautiful crimson hues replete with pink head. With a German malt bill and Centennial and Mt. Hood hops, this is a beer that “can’t be beet!” The pilot also features a nitro version of the porter and G’McLaughlin’s Oatmeal Stout, a 6% ABV beer produced by brewer Brent Cordle in honor of his grandfather. Using 50 pounds of oatmeal, this is a thick creamy robust stout, also served nitrogenated.
The co-pilot tray was designed for geeks like us. First, a slightly dry6% ABV American brown ale called Wayward Soul offered nutty caramel notes and an additions of dry hop Simcoes, Cascades, and Amarillos. Piny, chewy and basically kick ass. A repeat of G’McLaughlins was on this tray along with Coffee Meeting Stout, a boisterous 7.2% ABV opaque ale with a dark brown head and a grip of coffee flavor provided by local roasters, the Bean Cycle. After the first three, the back three on this tray were some we could really sink our teeth into: Oak Aged Stout, Brett Porter, and Bourbon Barrel Stout. The Oak Stout was brewed in the style of a Brittish RIS (Russian Imperial Stout) and then aged in barrels previously holding Odell’s popular Woodcut No. 4 barleywine. Big, bold, 10% ABV. The Brett Porter was our top pick on this day at Odell’s. The use of Brettanomyces resulted in dark fruity esters, a carbonic mouthfeel and a big chocolate sweet and perfectly tart finish. This was the one beer we opted for a pint of following the initial sample of this 8.5%-er. Bourbon Barrel Stout flexed 10.5% ABV of big malt underpinning alongside notes of sweet milk chocolate, smooth vanilla, and roasted coffee beans. Complex and simply heavenly, the BBS was aged in Maker’s Mark barrels for four months to bring out many of the aforementioned flavor profiles.
After our sampling experience, we felt quite sated and glad to call it a day. We hopped on our rental bikes and headed back into town to call it a night.