Friday, June 29, 2007

A Visit to Odells in Fort Collins

"There is no place to go, and so we travel! You and I, and what for, just to imagine that we could go somewhere else." ~ Edward Dahlberg

June 26: Slept in a bit and enjoyed a nice Rocky Mountain morning, sipping hot tea (me) and coffee (Jon) outside while nibbling on some fruit. Hot showers, some blogging, then off to Fort Collins.

First stop was Odell Brewing Company where my contact was John Bryant, marketing and sales. John has a long history in the craft brewing industry, beginning in Oregon and including Deschutes Brewing Co., which was the first stop on my trip.

John lined us up with 12 samplers (one of everything on tap) and when I turned around, there stood Gene Gregg, former owner/brewer of Oregon Trader Brewery in Albany, Oregon. The brewing world is a small world. I lost track of Gene when he sold Oregon Trader and disappeared. Apparently he moved to Fort Collins and is looking to get a brewing job there. (Photo above: John, Gene, and husband Jon Graber.)

The photo at right is of Odells brewing crew. Left to right: Ryan King, Jim Weatherwax and Greg Wiggall. It's hard to tell, but they are standing in front of Odell's 5-barrel pilot brewery. This cute little brewery is parked right in the midst of Odell's 50-barrel brewhouse and assorted giant tanks.

As John Bryant explained Odell's system to me, it is the brewers and their imaginations that drive Odell's engine. Marketing doesn't ask the brewers to "brew something like our competitor" or "make me a light amber ale," rather, the brewers come up with any new recipe or idea that suits their fancy. Then they brew it on their 5-barrel system, and it is up to the marketing guys to sell it. This creative process was the genesis of Odell's popular (and yummy) 5 Barrel Pale Ale. This 5-barrel brewery also drives Odell's annual Small Batch Beer Festival.

John Bryant gifted us with an Odell's t-shirt (for me) and baseball cap (for Jon). Thanks, Odell's!

Then it was off to New Belgium Brewing Company before Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert went home for the day. We drove past Coopersmiths Brewpub. We had planned to drop in, but I hadn't heard from anybody there, so we waved as we drove by. The brewpub was packed, which was great considering it was a Tuesday.

Ran into Peter as he was running out the door for New Belgium's monthly Crown Pub educational series. Assistant Brewmaster Grady Hull gave us a ride over to the Crown after New Belgium's very serious security folks made Jon and I security tags for tomorrow.

Every month, New Belgium's brewers, cellarfolks, laboratory and production people are encouraged to discuss a new or educational topic in the informal setting of the Crown. This month's topic was bottle-conditioned beers, and the meeting was lead by former Eugene brewer (and newlywed) John Rich. I knew John from back in his High Street brewing days.

Jon and I arrived well into the meeting, so we ended up at the "kid's table" and thus too far away to hear or partake in the discussion. We tried all the New Belgium beers on tap, and I was happy to note that the Crown Pub treated both of Fort Collins' main craft breweries equally, as New Belgium and Odell's each had four beers available. Then it was back to New Belgium where we would be parked for the night
The New Belgium crowd at the Crown Pub was much larger than this photo shows, but I couldn't fit everybody in. John Rich is second from right above, in the blue t-shirt

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