Odell Brewing isn’t known for making rash decisions. In fact, the employee-owned company, founded in Fort Collins in 1989, is sometimes agonizingly slow when it comes to change. Odell only distributes in twelve states, despite being the third-largest craft brewer in Colorado, and it only began canning beer late last year, long after most of the rest of the state’s breweries had adopted aluminum. Not only that, but Odell hasn’t released a major new year-round beer in nine years, since unveiling its IPA in 2007.
But that will change next week, when Odell debuts Drumroll American Pale Ale, a beer that will break some new ground on a variety of fronts — not just for the company, but for Colorado breweries.
In addition to being a year-round offering, Drumroll will be the first beer Odell has made that will be distributed in cans only — no bottles. It will be an American pale ale rather than an English one like its predecessor, 5 Barrel Pale Ale. And it will feature a hops bill that could change every year, depending on which varieties are putting forward the juiciest flavors, says Brendan McGivney, Odell’s chief operating officer.
“The intent here is different than anything else we have done. We will keep that juicy, fruity flavor profile but we will adjust the hops bill based on what varieties shine at harvest each year. The ones that are most fruit-forward, we'll turn those up and dial back the ones that didn’t hit the right note,” he adds.
Drumroll is brewed with eight different hops varieties — Centennial, Mosaic, Cascade, Chinook, Simcoe, Azacca, Bravo and Citra — to give it notes of grapefruit, peach, guava, coconut and red fruit punch.
But the most unusual aspect of the new beer may be its appearance, which will be hazy — a look that has become more popular over the past year but is controversial among breweries and beer drinkers.
Hazy, juicy IPAs and pales ales are often referred to as New England-style IPAs because breweries in that region — in Vermont, in particular — popularized the style. New England IPAs are characterized by a cloudy look and a tropical, almost sweet, hoppy flavor and aroma, rather than the more characteristic bitter notes found in West Coast IPAs. The most famous of these is Heady Topper, a double IPA made by Vermont’s Alchemist Brewery.
In Colorado, the trend began to catch on late last year and early this year, when a handful of breweries began making hazy, hoppy beers. Since then, others have joined in, and nearly a dozen Colorado beer makers have now brewed versions, including Odd 13, Cerebral, WeldWerks, Fiction, Joyride and Ursula.
Critics believe that hazy IPAs confuse people, because cloudiness can also be a sign that a beer was brewed or treated poorly; it can be associated with lazy technique, off flavors and poor quality. But the breweries that have created hazy beers recently say they are doing it on purpose because they believe their techniques add flavor and aroma to the final product.
Odell’s McGivney says he’s aware of the debate, but that it doesn’t concern him. For Drumroll, the brewery is creating the haze by allowing a specific amount of yeast to get into the final package. “The idea is that the yeast contributes another layer of fruitiness and helps preserve the beer and extend its shelf life,” McGivney says. “We want as much fresh hop flavor as possible. It really tastes like pineapple orange juice.”
And although the beer is unfiltered, it is still processed through Odell’s centrifuge, part of its state-of-the-art brewing system. “Through the centrifuge process, we can remove exactly as much yeast as we want. It won’t vary batch to batch,” McGivney says. The brewery is also using a “hopback,” a large strainer of sorts that allows the brewers to employ flavorful whole-flower hops rather than hops pellets.
Odell, the third largest brewery in the state, is the first major Colorado brewery to package a New England-style IPA. Odd 13 in Lafayette has also canned several hazy IPAs, but the brewery is much smaller than Odell. Other large Colorado breweries may follow suit, however.
Drumroll, at 5.3 percent ABV, will debut June 9 with kickoff parties at about ten bars in Old Town Fort Collins. After that, it will be available in cans throughout Odell’s twelve-state distribution area.