- Oct 26 '16
In a visit to Fort Collins, Colorado, Michael met up with the legendary founder of Odell Brewing Company—a brewery whose specialty involves creating unique spins on classic British beers. Doug Odell started out as a home brewer before opening his first brewery in an old grain elevator in 1989 and helping Colorado’s craft beer revolution. Doug explained that they used their original 15-barrel system (which Michael dubbed as “cute”) for five years before upgrading. In contrast to the 900 barrels that the company produced during its first year of production, Odell brewed over 67,000 barrels last year. From stouts to sours, Odell creates a multitude of delicious beers, which have captured the hearts and taste buds of thousands of devoted followers (including Michael).
Beginning with their flagship and bestselling brew to date, Doug and Michael started off the tour by tasting the 90 Schilling Ale, a medium-bodied amber ale. With well-rounded hops and a nice malt base, it was as good as Michael remembered. The company has grown from their roots, however, expanding into a variety of other styles, including their barrel-aged line.
Michael met up with some of Odell’s finest in the barrel room (namely Brent, Jake, and Byron), who work to test and blend the barrel-aged brews. When working to create a final blend, the trio tests the beer from each and every barrel, both to ensure the quality as well as to decide if the barrel’s characteristics are what they’re looking for in a final product.
During Michael’s visit, the group tasted from two different barrels of a sour golden beer. Although both came from the same batch, Michael and the others were pleasantly surprised at the quality of and the differences between the two samples, which had been aging for eight months in their respective barrels
The first tasting offered a vanilla aroma with a strong apple-like flavor profile. Although a bit bready and not quite as sour as they would’ve liked, all agreed that the beer showed promise. Its smooth profile and hints of sourness put it well on track to developing into something magical. As they went to try the second sample, the differences were noticeable immediately. With a darker, hazier color and a stronger aroma of alcohol, the tasters were surprised at how dissimilar the two beers were. The explanation given was that the previous contents of the second barrel—a darker beer—had left residual color and flavor, thus changing the results. While the first was more advanced in Michael’s opinion, the five men all agreed that both would offer phenomenal results once matured and blended.
After the tasting, Michael sought out head brewmaster Bill Beymer to brew Odell’s famous IPA. Jumping right in, the duo began by adding four specialty malts to give the base a nice backbone and great flavor. When the foundation was in place, it was then time to give the beer its true character, created by the addition of a plethora of hops. After allowing the malt mash to recirculate and brew for about an hour, six additions of six different hop varieties were added over the hours that followed.
Although the recipe called for a lot of late edition hops to create the beer’s unique flavor, Michael and Bill used a small amount of Chinook and Columbus hops right off the bat for bittering. (Such early addition hops spend so much time in the boil that they lose much of their flavor and aroma.)
Later on during the boil, the two added even more Columbus hops to give an earthy flavor to the beer. As the boil finished, Cascade hops were used to create a flowery aroma. Then, the brew was sent to the whirlpool where Bill added a secret spice mix to help give the beer its one-of-a-kind flavor. In the last stage before the batch was sent to the fermenter, Bill showed Michael how he showers the hop-back addition (a combination of whole Cascade, Simcoe, and Centennial hops) with the wort to provide aromatic qualities, citrus flavors, and essential oils.
Since Odell brews this particular beer all the time, Michael and Bill were able to taste the results of a previous batch. Michael noted grapefruit, orange, and mango, and pointed out how the flavors from both the malts and the hops were very crisp and balanced. An excellent beer all around.
Next, it was time to do some baking. Kati Anderson, the owner and operator of Cupcake Cruiser, is a master at incorporating Odell beer into her standout cupcakes. Teaming up with Michael during his visit, the two used Odell’s Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout to create the filling, cake, and frosting of the appropriately named Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout Cupcake.
Beginning with the ganache, Kati had Michael blend heavy cream and the delicious beer, which brought out a strong chocolate flavor. After being heated, the mixture was poured over chocolate chips and mixed thoroughly. While it cooled, the two made a brown sugar stout frosting and the cake base. The beer used in the batter was the contributing factor in the delicious result: a batch of light and fluffy cupcakes, which were then cored and filled with the creamy ganache before being topped with the frosting and a chocolate-covered pretzel. As Michael scarfed down the treat, he could taste the “beer-y goodness” in every layer; it tasted like a baked chocolate milk stout.
After the process was complete and the cupcakes had cooled, it was time to pack up the fresh-baked goodies (as well as a few other varieties) and take them to Odell, where a multitude of guests were eagerly waiting to try some unique pairings.
First, one of Kati’s orange marmalade and ricotta cheese cupcakes was paired with a citrusy IPA; the bright and hoppy flavor was cut nicely by the cupcake’s sweetness while the citrus notes of both items complemented each other well.
Next, Kati brought out a chocolate porter cupcake, which was paired with two different beers: Odell’s Runoff Red IPA (complete with subtle citrus and pine flavors) and the 5-Barrel Pale Ale (known for its subtle biscuit, herbal, and floral flavors). The first offered a balance between bitter and sweet, but its maltiness supported the sweetness of the cupcake. The second, according to the taster, provided an even better balance. The full-bodied and bitter beer matched perfectly with the sweet taste of the dessert.
Last but certainly not least, Michael and Kati’s Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout Cupcakes were handed out with the Levity, Odell’s amber ale that offered a complementing sweet and bready malt flavor with a crisp finish.
It was a great trip to a groundbreaking brewery that keepsinnovating, and a whole new take on just how well beer pairs with almost everything.