Monday, October 8, 2007

Pink Boots at Odell & Liquid Poets Meeting

"It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well." ~Rene Descartes

Photo above, L to R: Top Row: Brendan McGivney and Jake O'Mara. Bottom Row: Jeff Doyle, Phil Fraser and Teri.

October 4: I awoke with a sinus infection, but there's not much one can do when one has a full schedule planned. Jon drove us to Fort Collins and dropped me off at Odell Brewing Company while he visited the local homebrew shop. Jon works for BrewCraft USA now, and they are wholesalers of homebrewing supplies, distributing only to homebrew shops.

Production Manager Brendan McGivney gave me the brewery tour and the topic of Odell's future brewhouse expansion came up. I recommended he call Troegs as I was impressed with Troegs' hybrid BrauKon and JV Northwest brewhouse. Brendan turned me over to Lead Brewer Jake O'Mara who was finishing the first brew of the day and heading into the second brew.

I spent a few hours with Jake. The Odell brewers are very friendly and relaxed. I felt quite at home and had fun snapping lots of photos. Normally I don't take many photos because it seems intrusive, but it didn't feel that way here.

Marketing Manager John Bryant brought in sandwiches and my husband Jon joined me on the patio for lunch. The weather was beautiful: sunny, breezy and a perfect temperature.

After lunch I wandered down to the lab where I chatted with Microbiologist PJ Goudreault about all the nifty lab equipment he'd bought used from the University. He's also found a few pieces on Ebay. I really love it when a production craft brewery takes labwork seriously.

Then I wandered over to where Jeff Doyle was managing a fussy filter on a very tall 12-meter DE filter. I admired his in-line carbonation set up, and told him about the "umbilical cord" CO2 transfer hose we used at Steelhead to "close the loop" between a Fermenter and Bright (Serving) Tank. He liked the idea, but all equipment and procedures must be approved by Brewmaster/Owner Doug Odell.

Doug came by just then so we discussed the "umbilical cord" idea, and he told me about the 5-barrel batches I had just missed out on helping with. They'd brewed a 5-bbl batch of strong ale yesterday, and they were brewing an experimental batch of something new tomorrow.

Odell has some really neat things going on. Besides making good flagship ales, their 5-barrel series allows the brewers to get creative. They take turns brewing on the 5-barrel pilot brewery.

Today they'd be tapping their "Hand Picked Ale" at 4:00 pm. Most of the hops were grown locally. Of course some hop pellets went into the boil, but they put 11 different varieties of local Colorado leaf hops in the mash tun and used it for a hop back. The leaf hops came from the local University's hop yard, as well as Doug's yard at home and from the decorative hops growing in the beer garden.

Today was the second time Odell had organized a release party for one of their 5-barrel series beers. They had a good crowd gathered in the tasting room, and three local musicians entertained the folks with Grateful Dead tunes, blues, and bluegrass. They played mandolin, guitar and tuba, among other instruments. Doug gave a speech about the new release at 5:00 pm.

I visited the release party but was still busy in the brewhouse with second shift brewer, Phil Fraser. Phil's a quiet guy but he smiles a lot. The second and third brews of the day were the IPA, and Phil let me pour some of the three 32-gallon pails full of whole leaf hops into Odell's big custom hop back. Photo at left is of the hop back. Photo below right is me pouring in hops.

When I'm brewing at a brewery I try to dress in "neutral colors," which means I won't wear one brewery's t-shirt when I work at another brewery. However, because I worked for Steelhead for 17 years, I felt a Steelhead shirt was essentially neutral, so I have been wearing either my white jumpsuit or a Steelhead t-shirt for most of the blog "pink boots" group photos.

A man of few words, Phil smiled his broad smile, placed an Odell long-sleeve t-shirt in my hands and said, "Here. Put this on. You don't work for Steelhead anymore." So I popped the Odell shirt right over my Steelhead t-shirt.

Then it was time to try the Hand Picked Ale and relax a bit. Jon joined me in the bar and John Bryant got us a few beers. We enjoyed the ambiance for a bit, then drove to Coopersmith's Brewpub for dinner where we both had Buffalo burgers. No time to dawdle as I wanted to be back at Odell to set up for my evening gig by 6:45pm.

The members of Fort Collins' local "Liquid Poets" homebrew club were already gathering in Odell's community room. Jon helped me bring in my two giant tubs of busted and gnarly old brewery parts. My collection was dubbed by one of the members of the American Brewers Guild course who saw it the "Brewers House of Horrors."

Local homebrewer, Ted Manahan (who used to brew with the "Heart of the Valley" homebrew club in Corvallis, Oregon, near where I live) had invited me to speak to the Liquid Poets club. He asked me if I planned to give a PowerPoint presentation. Ha ha! I'm driving, brewing, blogging, and I definitely didn't have a PowerPoint presentation prepared!

However, I told Ted, I have a practical brewing Show & Tell class that I gave to the new brewers at the American Brewers Guild in August, if he thought the Liquid Poets would like that. Great, said Ted. So that's what I did. I gave "The Walter Swistowicz Memorial Class in Practical Brewing" show & tell in Fort Collins.

I cracked a bunch of jokes, and I talked about safety and showed everybody my beautiful 18-year old burn scars from my brewing accident in 1989. (Who needs a tattoo when you've earned a massive scar like that?) Everybody enjoyed the show. Then I spoke about my amazing trip, but how do you condense a life-changing experience like this into a sound bite? Today (October 4th) marks exactly four months on the road for me, as I departed Eugene on June 4th.
I gave away a Steelhead sweatshirt as a door prize if anybody could guess how many breweries I'd have visited by the time I got home. Nobody got the correct number of 71, even though I'd had it listed on the current blog post. 73 was the closest somebody guessed, and he was happy for the prize.

The Liquid Poets had a full agenda for the rest of the meeting, and we departed for the 1.5 hour drive back to Denver to my sister's house. In the photo above I am showing off a corroded pump seal.

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