Hundreds of breweries have opened in Colorado since the craft-beer boom took off here in the 1980s, and while some came and went, replaced by fresher versions of themselves, a few have aged like, well, a fine wine.
Odell Brewing, which was founded in Fort Collins in 1989, is one of those, having remade itself several times over the years, most recently with new canned beers and two Denver taprooms. But its latest project blends in something entirely different — a winery and taproom called the OBC Wine Project.
After a year of construction, Odell opened the taproom on May 10 right next door to the brewery, at 800 East Lincoln Avenue in Fort Collins, in a building that formerly was used for storage. It is the public face of the brewery's wine-making operation, which began in June 2020 with a line of four canned wines — a red blend, a pinot gris, a rosé and a sparkling rosé — that were made with grapes sourced from Oregon, Washington and Colorado.
The taproom will soon add to those offerings to include not just eight wines "on tap," but some very small-batch and limited bottle releases that will only be available on site. These limited batches, created by Odell winemaker Travis Green, include a dry blend of Riesling, Vignoles and Aromella; a Cabernet Franc; and an unusual Aromella aged in barrels that once held Odell's Friek, a highly sought-after beer made from a blend of raspberry sour ale and traditional lambic Kriek, which is a sour cherry ale.
Craft breweries all over the country have expanded their offerings in the past three years as demand for either gluten-free, lower-calorie or lighter beverages grew. Many now make hard seltzer, Kombucha, hard tea, cider or other boozy treats that give customers a choice beyond hops and malt. But very few have entered the realm of wine, which is typically reserved for a different set of drinkers and fermentation specialists.
"A brewery opening a winery isn't unique, but it is pretty rare. We see that as a testament to us being employee- owned and being able to choose our own destiny," says Odell marketing director Alex Kayne. "We have a lot of people here with a passion for fermentation, and we really thought this could be an extension of it.
"We recognize there is a risk because you're putting beer and wine quality on the same pedestal. But we proudly leaned into the connection," he continues, adding that Odell decided to tie the beer and wine sides together with the name, OBC Wine Project, and the logo, which features a subtle twist on the brewery's leaf logo.
The reason there are so few breweries with wineries, he believes, is because of the difficulties in permitting and licensing. "They are separate businesses, and we needed to have completely separate buildings," Kayne says. "Fortunately for us, we had space on our property and another building." The 2,000-square-foot space, which had been used for overflow brewery production and storage, was completely renovated and now houses thirteen fermenters and aging tanks, oak barrels and a dedicated canning line; there is also a patio.
"We thought long and hard about the concept, about our philosophy and doing it in a way that would hold up to the quality standards that we hold near and dear," Kayne explains. But he believes there is also an opportunity for experimentation: "The wine industry doesn't move as fast as beer, so we want to take our craft-beer spirit and innovate. ... But we're just using grapes instead of grain."
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