Beer Man

Odell Brewing Ends Aluminum Holdout; Will Begin Canning Beer in November

Odell Brewing, which has been a staunch holdout when it comes to canning beer, plans to begin doing just that come November.
“It wasn't so long ago that I totally dismissed the can idea,” says Wynne Odell, who founded Odell Brewing in 1989 with her husband, Doug, and Doug's sister Corkie. “But then our progression changed over time as we saw what our peers where doing.”

Odell also realized that consumers, especially in Colorado, were becoming more and more comfortable with canned craft beer – something that Oskar Blues pioneered in 2004 – and were asking for it at concert venues and at stores so they could take it camping and elsewhere. “Our peers have done all the good groundwork for us,” she says.

What finally pushed the Odell family to make the decision, however, was the fact that the brewery's bottling line, which they purchased in 1996, had reached capacity.

“We weren't sure how we were going to buy a new one and put it in, but then it occurred to us that what we needed was a new packaging line, not a bottling line,” Wynne Odell says. “It makes all the sense in the world.”

That epiphany was reached with help from one of Odell's new owners, she adds. The brewery converted to employee ownership earlier this week, as the three founders sold a large chunk of their stock. The Odells still each own 10 percent of the company.

Odell will take possession of its new canning line in September and begin canning its two biggest sellers, 90 Shilling and Odell IPA, in November.

“We haven't committed to any beers beyond that… but our sense is that it will settle into about 20 percent of our business,” Odell says. “It's hard to know whether that will be incremental growth, though, or whether we will be cannibalizing our bottle sales.”

Odell is the third-largest craft brewer in Colorado, behind New Belgium and Oskar Blues, and 34th-largest nationwide, according to the Brewers Association. Among the largest packaging breweries in Colorado, only Odell and Left Hand haven't canned their beer.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes