Perhaps the largest single-brewery craft beer event in the state, Odell Brewing Company held its 4th annual Small Batch Festival on Saturday. Despite the heat and complete lack of cloud cover, thousands of people walked, biked, and drove to this Fort Collins brewery to celebrate small batches of hand-crafted beer. The brewers at Odell have always placed an emphasis on brewing new and interesting beer on their 5 barrel pilot system, then serving these creations up in the tap room.
The event was free to enter and beer tokens could be purchased for $4. Last year the festival was dubbed ‘Small Batch Revival’ after the festival was ‘revived’ following a two year hiatus caused by construction. Several of these wooden tokens remained in circulation to add nostalgia. 20 beers (6 year-round, 3 seasonal, 9 small batch, and 2 firkins) were poured for thirsty festival-goers. I was impressed with every beer I tried… and I tried a lot of them.
As soon as I entered the festival grounds I was greeted by Jess Hunter, a friend and fellow writer for Denver off the Wagon. She and her friend Ingrid were enjoying pours of Footloose, a Golden Sour aged in oak barrels with Brettanomyces and lacrobacillus, and Totes McGotes, a surprisingly funky wheat beer fermented with 50 gallons of Riesling Must, as they caught me up-to-speed on several beers already being buzzed about. Having attended last year’s festival, I knew that some of the more popular beers were likely to blow within the first hour. I rushed off (after a quick sample of each beer) to grab one of my own, immediately hunting down Mash of the Titan - a chocolate coffee stout.
Mash of the Titans was amazing. At 8.3%, this Milk Stout had a full mouthfeel and began with the bold flavors and slight bitterness of roasted coffee but finished like a glass of chocolate milk. I wanted more, but I knew I had to move on to the others. I quickly realized that the lines were growing and I would soon need to start grabbing beers two-at-a-time to eliminate long waits between beers. I scurried off to nab the Extra Special Red and Pomegranate Pale Ale Firkin, while my friends sought out Tiger Blood.
Extra Special Red, a 7.8% Double Red Ale, combined an excellent malt profile with a very balanced hop attack. Dry hopped with Chinook and Bravo hops, this beer boasted a fruity aroma and flavors of pine and grapefruit.
The Pomegranate Pale Ale Firkin (6.5%) was a Godsend in the unrelenting heat of the Colorado sun. The bitterness of the pale ale base was all but eliminated by the powerful flavors of pomegranate. We must not have been the only people that loved this beer because it was the first one to kick.
Tiger Blood, a session IPA (4.7%) and the winner of Odell’s Facebook/Twitter vote to determine the final beer offering, was another crowd favorite. A single-hop beer, this IPA used only Willamette hops for the boil, hopback, and dry hopping. The bitterness was subtle, but present, and I was floored by the intense floral aroma. Personally, I’d love to see Odell produce this on the large system so I could sip on it all summer long. Now that would be #winning.
As I set out to bring another couple beers back to our home base I saw that a second beer had been crossed off the master list, Kiwi IPA. An American Style IPA brewed with 100% New Zealand hops, this was a beer I should have gone after sooner. Lesson learned. I pouted for a second, then grabbed a Coconut Porter Firkin and Pond Hopper Double Extra Pale Ale.
The Coconut Porter Firkin (5.1%) was a little thin for my liking, but the coconut flavor was definitely more pronounced than I’ve found in other beers.
A collaboration between Odell and Thornbridge Brewery of the UK, Pond Hopper (8.9%) features some of the ingredients best of both countries. English malts and American hops helped to produce a Pale Ale that would be acceptable to drink in either country.
As luck would have it, just as I ran out of beer tokens Jonathan Shikes of the Westword showed up with 4 beers in tow. He was kind enough to let us sample some of those that we had not tried, but at this point the heat and alcohol combined to blur my memories about what I had tasted.
I can’t think of a better craft beer festival to embody the Colorado craft beer culture. It just doesn’t get much better than hanging out with a few close friends (and a few thousand others) while drinking some damn good beer on a beautiful day. So, having tried everything we set out to, we mingled for a while and set our sights on Funkwerks, a brewery specializing in Saison and Farmhouse-style Ales, just down the road.