Odell's upcoming Loose Leaf session ale will fly under the radar at 4.5 percent ABV
Odell Brewing's next big beer will be very, very small. Loose Leaf American Session Ale, an extra pale ale, will weigh in at only 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, making it one of the lowest-alcohol Colorado craft beers available in liquor stores.
It will also be hard to get. The Fort Collins brewery will only distribute Loose Leaf -- at first -- in a new variety pack that it plans to begin selling in May. The boxed twelver, which will be called Montage, is the first variety pack that Odell has put on the market.
"We wanted it to be a true session beer, something under 5 percent ABV...because we felt like that is something that is missing from our lineup," says brewery spokeswoman Amanda Johnson. "Our Easy Street Wheat is 4.6 or 4.7 percent, so we felt confident that we could make a very flavorful beer at that low ABV."
Odell hasn't finalized the recipe -- it is still experimenting with test batches on its five-barrel pilot brewing system -- but the final product will definitely be 4.5 percent.
After focusing almost entirely on high-gravity beers, some craft brewers are looking to low-ABV offerings as a way to round out their selection. Avery, for example, plans to release a beer called 3Point5 in cans this summer and may follow up with two other "small beers," while Great Divide has been experimenting with a low-ABV Yeti.
"A lot of breweries are doing session beers now, and some of our co-workers and our fans have been asking for this," Johnson says. "We wanted something like that you could have a few of, something you can drink if you're hanging out a barbecue all day."
While many brewpubs and taprooms around the state make low-ABV beers that they serve on draft, there aren't many available in liquor stores (aside from the one made especially for supermarkets, which can only sell beers under 4.0 percent AVB).
The lowest ABV beer for sale in stores, Del Norte's Cinco at 4.1 percent, is no longer being made; the brewery folded in late 2011. Agave Wheat from Breckenridge Brewery is 4.2 percent, as is Ska Brewing's Mexican Logger. Crabtree Brewing's Berlinerweiss and Dry Dock Hefeweizen both come in at around 4.3 percent ABV
Loose Leaf will be introduced in May as part of Odell's new variety pack because the brewery wanted "a way to introduce a new beer and get customers' feedback without fulling having to launch a new SKU," Johnson says. If the beer does well, it will probably be launched in its own four- or six-pack.
Variety packs are becoming more popular this year with craft brewers looking to attract customers who are trying to please a lot of palates.
Great Divide introduced a new one late last year, while New Belgium has started including some of its formerly discontinued throwback beers in its Folly Packs. Dry Dock and Breckenridge both plan to begin selling new variety packs this spring.
We have been planning on a variety pack for a while, but it has only just now come into fruition," Johnson says. "I feel like we are one of the last entries into that world. For us, its been something that our retails accounts have been asking for. People like variety, and this is a package size that people are asking for."
Odell's Montage variety pack will include three bottles each of Loose Leaf, 90 Shilling, IPA and St. Lupulin, a summer seasonal. As the seasons change, St. Lupulin will be subbed out for Isolation, while Loose Leaf will be exchanged for another new brew.
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