Colorado Brews: Odell Brewing Co. and Oskar Blues

Continued from: New Belgium Brewing Company

After New Belgium I headed to Odell Brewing Company.  Though I wasn’t familiar with Odell before my trip, it had been recommended by friends and locals.

Odell Brewing Company was the second microbrewery to open in Colorado.  It is located in Fort Collins, just a few minutes away from New Belgium.  At the helm is Doug Odell, whose passion for crafting beer started in his kitchen in Seattle.  In 1989 he moved to Fort Collins with his wife Wynne and opened up the brewery.

With more than 10 beers on tap at the tasting room, I couldn’t decide what to order — so I ordered them all!  A taste of them all, that is.  Odell Brewing Company offers two different tastings that allow you to sample their classic beers as well as their seasonal and experimental brews.

I started my classics tasting with the light and refreshing Easy Street Wheat Beer.  Just as with the other Colorado wheat beers that I enjoyed, this was smooth and easy to drink, with a great citrus flavor.  From that I moved on to the Levity, Odell’s lighter take on amber ale.  It’s full-bodied and crisp without being bitter, just the way I like my amber ale.

I went back and forth on what I liked more, the Levity or the 90 Shilling, Odell’s flagship beer.  A lighter take on the traditional Scottish ale, it’s a medium-bodied amber that is bright and refreshing.

Though I’m not usually a big pale ale fan, I did enjoy the 5 Barrel Pale Ale, which had lively hop flavors and aromas.

My classics tasting wrapped up with the delicious Cutthroat Porter.  The name doesn’t have anything to do with the brewer or the drinker — it’s actually the name of Colorado’s state fish.  Deep dark in color, the Cutthroat Porter is robust yet smooth with hints of chocolate and coffee.

The second tasting featured what Odell calls “experimental” brews — unusual, small-batch beers made from a variety of ingredients that are served and sold exclusively in their tasting room.  These have included nitro ales, oatmeal and dried corn ales, fruit and vegetable ales and beyond.  Of the experimental brews that I tried, I really enjoyed the Orange Blossom Honey Ale.  It’s brewed with Arizona orange blossom honey, which gives the beer a hint of sweetness and a dry finish.

As with most microbreweries, the best way to find Odell beer is to travel to Colorado.  Odell is currently only available in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Missouri and Arizona.

On the way back to Boulder I took a detour to Lyons, to visit Oskar Blues.  Their claim to fame: in 2002 they became the first U.S. microbrewery to brew and can their own beer.  Yup, their beers come in cans, not bottles.  And they’re likely the best stuff you’ve ever swigged from a can.

Oskar Blues was opened in 1997 and became a brewpub in 1999.  Their goal was to craft robust brews in small 20-barrel batches using the best ingredients.  They describe their brews as 4-dimensional beers with layers of flavor that are designed for beer adventurers.

The idea for canning beer came about as a joke.  Founder Dale Katechis thought the idea of drinking his namesake bold and hoppy pale ale from a little can was hilarious.  After hand canning the beers, Dale found that the myth of aluminum cans imparting flavor was not true.  Instead the cans kept the beer fresh by protecting it from light and oxygen.  The cans were also easier to recycle and less fuel-consuming to ship.

Pale ale fans will enjoy Oskar Blues’ flagship beer, Dale’s Pale Ale.  It is in between an American pale ale and an India Pale Ale, brewed with hefty amounts of European malts and American hops.  It has a hoppy aroma and a rich malt and hops flavor.

My favorite was the Old Chub.  It is a Scottish strong ale that is brewed with seven different malts, hops from the U.S. and United Kingdom and a dash of beechwood-smoked grains imported from Germany.  Dark brown, almost black in color, this creamy beer has semi-sweet flavors of caramel and chocolate, with a hint of smoke on the finish.

Skip dessert and order a Ten FIDY.  Or skip dinner and order a Ten FIDY, that’s how rich and creamy this imperial stout is.  Oskar Blues perfectly describes it as the beer equivalent of a decadently rich milkshake made with malted-milk balls and Heaven’s best chocolate ice cream.  Yum.  The Ten Fidy is black in color with flavors of chocolate, malt, coffee, cocoa and oats.  It packs a punch at 10% alcohol.

Oskar Blues’ brews have won numerous awards around the world.  Pretty impressive for The Little Brewery that Cans.

The good news for us out-of-state beer drinkers is that Oskar Blues distributes their beer to nearly half of U.S. states, including Florida.  I recently found some at Whole Foods and Sunset Corners Wines & Liquors in South Miami. Click here to see where Oskar Blues is available in your area.

Next: Mile High Mead

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