Brewery Excursions in Colorado: Part Four - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

December 20, 2011

Brewery Excursions in Colorado: Part Four

Next to me as I type is a small batch of a simple hefeweizen that started to ferment overnight. It really reminds me how great beer smells as it ferments and how much I miss the smell in the house. I guess I just need to brew more often. Anyway, the next day we took the drive from just outside of Denver to Fort Collins, a not too terrible drive. This is our first of three trips to Fort Collins, Colorado.

Odell's Brewing

Odell's was our first stop. Odell's has a nice brewery and tap room. My wife and I split two samplers, one of their regular beers and one of their pilot beers and special beers. We agreed that Odell's beers were either really good or really mediocre. The star beers (as I remember) were the bourbon barrel stout, the wild ale (which seemed to be just brett) and the double black IPA. Surprisingly, the double black IPA was hands down our favorite. It's surprising for us because we're not IPA fans. However, it was really smooth, chocolatey and although clearly hoppy, not smack you in the face hoppy like IPAs usually are. In spite of their beers being hit or miss (not just the pilot beers but also the regular offerings) it's worth sampling.

We also took the brewery tour. A couple of really interesting things about their brewery are worth noting. First, Odell's does not pasteurize their beers as a matter of taste. That's a fairly bold step to take because it limits the shelf life of the beer (at least in their opinion, I don't know, I have unpasteurized homebrew that's 1.5 years old) but since they say it gives their beer a four month shelf life, they can only distribute so far from the brewery without cutting off key selling time while the beer is riding a truck out to its destination.

Second, Odell's has a really cool policy with their 5 barrel pilot system. The pilot system is open to all employees who are allowed to brew anything they want (although I suspect the use of bacteria is probably restricted) and if those beers are worth drinking, they go to the tap room. That's pretty cool because you get some interesting beers in the tap room, like a beet porter (which was interesting), but once the beer runs out that's it, unless they decide to do another run. Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, has a brewing science program and they are allowed to do runs on the pilot system. The tap room had a tripel that the students brewed; it needed some work. Still, it's really cool that they are so open with the system.

Coopersmith Pub & Brewery

Coopersmith is a brewpub chain in Colorado, specifically the Fort Collins area. They brew, have a pool hall and serve food. I was expecting something BJ's-like but actually the brewing was a lot more central to their business. We went to the store in Old Town Fort Collins (a kind of old school main street) which spans two storefronts; one a brewpub, one a pool hall with more fermenters. We only sampled a few beers, which were not necessarily great beers but definitely better than what I've had from BJ's. The chile beer was pretty good but the rest were fairly pedestrian. They definitely care about their beers but like many brewpub chains it seemed like they were trying to make a variety of beers while making it cheap enough and plain enough that non-beer geeks would drink them without finding it too shocking (sort of the Sam Adams approach to beers). I wish they had had a few special beers that they put some serious technique into for the beer geeks because they obviously had the set up to do something really great.

After Coopersmith we tried to get to New Belgium's tap house but we didn't realize they close at 6pm and we got there just after they locked the doors so we stood outside the doors, being mocked by the people inside enjoy beers. We'll come back.

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