I Spy a Bucking Elephant
A smile drew across my face while standing in line for Cicero’s Beer School this week. I recognized the bucking elephant on Karen’s jacket as the label for Odell’s IPA and at that moment I knew we were in for some good beer. Not that you should ever judge a beer by its label, but Odell Brewing Company has a very recognizable look that gives you the feel of a vintage poster. Mimi has even agreed to let me hang a couple of Odell signs in the house so you know they must be somewhat artistic and stylish if they get the wife’s approval. And besides who hasn’t imagined riding a bucking elephant while they sip their IPA?
Guest Instructor - Brendan McGivney
This week the class was taught by Brendan McGivney, Director of Production, for Odell Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado. Odell can be found in only nine states and St. Louis is about as far east as they go. The brewery was founded in 1989 by Doug Odell and was only the second microbrewery in Colorado at the time. As the brewery grew they added a bottling line in 1996 and began to add more brewing capacity. Now Odell is up to 50,000 barrels per year. Fresh and local ingredients are an important part of the brewing process for Odell and Brendan also told us about the “Hop back.” This is an extra step in which the wort is strained back through a bed of whole hop flowers to add extra hop aroma to their beers. After tasting the beers I think more breweries should look into the “Hop back.” I also learned that the labels were redesigned about five years ago, and after doing some research online, I think the change was needed.
90 Shilling Ale– (Cicero’s has bottles)
This is the flagship beer for Odell and was introduced in 1989. It is a lighter version of the traditional Scottish ale and was named after the Scottish method of taxing beer based on the amount of alcohol. This brew checks in at 5.3% ABV and 27 IBUs.
She says– This struck me as a traditional, medium-bodied ale. I thought the malts and hops were pretty evenly balanced, and I noted a toasted nutty flavor. I liked this beer and would drink it again.
He says– I think I raised my hand for this being my favorite of the night, but it was difficult to pick between all the great beers. This beer really fills your mouth with a velvet, slightly sticky feeling, and finishes with a creaminess that I really enjoy. The flavors are caramel, toffee and fig. I think this would be a great autumn night cap or dessert beer and I could have a couple because the ABV is not too high.
India Pale Ale- (On draft at Cicero’s)
Most craft drinkers and especially fans of the IPA style are very aware of this beer. Odell Brewing packs 7 different hops into this 60 IBU beer and they include: Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe, Chinook, Perle, and Horizon. The beer appears light orange in color and greets you with big hop aromas. Mimi should enjoy this one.
She says– Definitely my favorite of the night, but I’m more of an IPA person. I really enjoyed the blend of grapefruit and pine notes from the hops. It had a smooth mouth feel from the malts and was well balanced. If not for the 7% ABV I would drink several of these.
He says– I get grapefruit and floral on the nose and I really enjoy the aroma. It feels light in the mouth and goes down fairly smooth. A good IPA, but I would like a little more malt as I feel it is just hops, hops, hops. Also I don’t get the hop burn that I like from an IPA. That might be a good thing, but for me I want the balance up front and the hops to linger after each sip.
Cutthroat Porter– (Cicero’s has bottles)
Brendan described this beer as a blend between a stout and a porter. The body leans toward the stout side while the dry finish brings the porter back to mind. I inquired about brewer’s sugar in the beer, but Brendan assured me that no sugars were added and that the sweetness comes from the residual and unfermented sugars left over after fermentation. However it got there, the sweetness really helps cut through the bitterness. It is like adding sugar to your coffee. Only 4.7% ABV and while it has 43 IBUs you don’t feel a thing due to all the malts.
She says– This would be a great after-dinner beer. Or a curl up in front of the fire-slow-sipping beer. I liked the coffee and chocolate notes and it was very smooth. It would really complement a hunk of Bissinger’s dark chocolate.
He says– The beer appears black and that is appropriate since I smell roasted coffee beans and caramel malts first. It is thick like a porter and smells roasted like porter, but has a sweet side that really comes through for me. Usually porters are too dry and almost smokey, but this is very drinkable, especially if you are a coffee drinker. If you love malts this one is for you.
Saboteur– (Very limited draft at Cicero’s)
Now this was a special treat for the beer school crowd. Saboteur will not be brewed again next year and the only beer left in the state was at Cicero’s. It poured a big head and has a big ABV…10%. Aged in once used oak barrels with Brettanomyces, this is a one-off brew and if you are lucky enough to find a bottle you could consider aging this beer in the cellar. If you choose to age this beer be prepared for the sour notes to become stronger because the cork will not keep out 100% of the oxygen. Tonight the nose says sour, but the taste says barleywine.
She says– I am not a fan of sour anything and when they reference sour in a beer, I’m apprehensive. I really like a barleywine for the oakiness, and I didn’t get a heavy sour taste from this beer. It was smooth, balanced and not too strong. I enjoyed this beer and will add it to my list of “fire-side” beers.
He says– I immediately smelled the childhood treat “Fruit Roll-up.” Not sure what flavor, maybe cherry, but with some sour hints. The mouthfeel is carbonated yet chewy. Very complex beer, but I really enjoyed it. If you like barleywine then you should enjoy this beer. Make sure it is your last beer of the night because it will wipeout your palette. I went back to try the 90 Schilling and it tasted like water after the Saboteur.
The Last Sip
Thank you to Brendan for bringing four outstanding beers, and for handing out lots of cool Odell gear. This was a good night for t-shirts and for stocking up your beer glass collection. Now I just need to find my hammer and level so I can hang my new Odell sign. Don’t forget your homework….go out and try some of these outstanding beers from Odell Brewing. Class dismissed!
Here is a great video featuring Doug Odell, founder of Odell Brewery.
About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!