Joe Mohrfeld, who's been wrangling hops, malt and yeast for Odell Brewing in Fort Collins for the past three years, is headed to a new gig with Pinthouse Pizza, a brewery in formation in Austin, Texas, where the craft-beer scene is getting ready to explode.
It will be a big change for Mohrfeld, 28, who will move from Colorado's second-largest craft brewery (and the 33rd-largest in the nation, according to the Brewers Association) to a start-up with a seven-barrel system, but it will allow him to focus on what he loves.
"I always had the most fun playing around with pilot recipes," he says. Odell started off itself with a five-barrel system, which is how its 5 Barrel Pale Ale got its name.
Mohrfeld began his career at Odell in the packaging department, but rose quickly through the ranks to the position of head brewer, where he supervises a staff of eight brewers who have created a number of award-winning and highly innovative beers, including Myrcenary, Friek, Avant Peche and Mountain Standard.
His favorite, though, was a one-time release called Deconstruction Golden Ale that was the first major project he was involved in, and which, he says, will "always have a special place in my heart."
The beer he lost the most sleep over was Hiveranno, a sour ale that was released to market before Odell realized that the yeast wasn't fermenting properly.
"When you are playing around with wild yeast and playing that far on the edge, you're always risking failure," he admits. "We didn't fail; it was a good beer. We just didn't hit the mark. The beauty of brewing is that it's a cross between science and art."
The best part about his time in Colorado, he says (aside, we're sure, from being named one of the twenty most eligible bachelors of craft beer in the country), was that "we have a really collaborative team at Odell," a fact that encompasses the entire brewing world in Colorado. "For a whole state to be connected, it's great to see."
Austin has a similar feel, he explains, which is why he decided to join a group of friends to start up Pinthouse Pizza, scheduled to open in the middle of next year. The brewery will offer its own beers as well as others brewed in Austin, which Mohrfeld says is blossoming as a craft-beer town in a big way.
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Mohrfeld will stay at Odell through the end of January and help the company figure out which direction to go in with a new head brewer. Odell spokeswoman Amanda Johnson says the brewery will consider both internal and external candidates.