Last year my husband Gene, my niece Cassidy and I spent part of my birthday afternoon touring the beautiful Odell Brewing Company facility in Fort Collins. We had never been there so it was fun checking out a new brewery basically in our own backyard. Not only did we have a good time exploring their amazing building and store, we also learned that the company has been independent since 1989 and is 100% employee-owned. I found that very interesting. They want their employees invested, and it looks like it works well for everybody. I wish a lot more companies followed this practice. I think there would be a lot more pride in what they do and feel more accomplished at the end of the day.
We made our reservation online that day before, and got there a little early as suggested on their website. While we were waiting, we grabbed a drink which was welcomed on the tour, yay! Our tour guide was great and told us how long he had worked there, how long Odell Brewing Company had been in existence, and the general process of making beer (more on that below). We had just recently been in Casper, WY and toured Backwards Distillery. and I couldn’t help but compare the difference. Quite interesting. Since we moved here to Colorado we have tried a lot of craft brew and find each company so different and unique in how they brew, even though the concept is basically the same. We have even joked about making our own beer. 🙂 Maybe someday.
While on our tour we learned that Doug Odell, his wife Wynne, and his sister Corkie teamed up and opened up Odell Brewing Company in 1989. Their first release is called Odell’s Golden Ale and was brewed in a 1915 grain elevator just a few blocks from where they are located now in Fort Collins. While the tour was only 30 minutes, I felt like we learned a lot about the company and its passion. They are proud of what they do and it shows for sure. Below is their unique process used at Odell Brewing Company. Like I said earlier, they are all a little different, but this one is more unique than many of the other breweries we have toured.
As with many beers, they start with malted barley and wheat. These ingredients are milled to reveal the barley’s starchy endosperm, a converted fermentable. Once the milling process is complete, the grain is carried through an auger up into the mash tun or cask. Sadly we didn’t get to see any of this on the tour but it seemed easy to follow. Maybe we will get to see if the next time we are in the area and take a tour.
Sugar and Wort
While in the tun, they add hot water for about ½ an hour. This apparently causes the sugars of the mash to spill out, which results in sugar water called work. This wort mixture then goes into the Brew kettle for 90 minutes where it is boiled. At this point, it is still not beer. It is called wort and apparently is not tasty at all. Our guide said he hasn’t tried it, but heard it was pretty nasty. I know I wouldn’t want to try it. I will happily wait for the final product. 🙂
While the wort is the Brew Kettle being boiled, hops are added in at different times to create a bitter mixture with a floral aroma. While it may smell good, I can’t imagine it would taste good, lol. If they want to add extra hops, for IPA’s, they use a machine called the Hop Back. Here the wort is strained through a bed of whole flower hops. I am not an IPA person, but I guess this process gives it a fresh, lively, hop character. I don’t like hoppy beers, so this is not exciting to me, lol.
This is where the wort becomes beer. It is put into the fermenter where they add yeast which consumes the sugars and produces alcohol and CO2. After brewing at 67F for a week, it is brewed another two weeks at 34F.
After those two weeks, they apparently spin the beers at very high speeds. This removes the heaviest particles but leaves the hops oils and proteins. I thought that was interesting. I can’t say I remember any other beer company we’ve toured using this method. It was very intriguing.
Once the beer is ready, but before packaging, they add a high dose of CO2 to ensure just the right amount of bubbles for us to enjoy.
- Kegs: They have a kegging machine that sterilizes and fills stainless steel kegs for around 30 seconds or so. That seems pretty fast to me.
- Bottles: Over 120 bottles are rinsed and filled per minute. That adds up to about 130,000 each day. Wow.
- Cans: I thought the bottles were impressive; however 310 cans are rinsed, filled, and seamed per minute. I didn’t do the math on that one, but that’s A LOT of cans, lol.
After we finished our tour we were able to sample one of their beers on tap in the taproom. I honestly can’t remember what we all had, but we all ordered different ones, and they were pretty good. As I said, I am not an IPA person, but theirs was pretty good. It was a little hoppy, but not real bitter (low IBU’s). Our tour guide even came back after a few minutes and talked to our group and answered a few more questions Gene had about their process. It was an enjoyable tour and a very nice facility. Below is basic information if you plan on visiting and taking your own tour. FYI, reservations are highly recommended. Here is their website with more information.
Odell Brewing Company Visitor Information
800 East Lincoln Ave Fort Collins, CO 80524
- Mon – Tues 11 am-6 pm
- Wed-Sun 11 am -8 pm
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