Crafty Colorado (Part 2): Big Beaver Brewing (Loveland)/Odell Brewing (Fort Collins)

Colorado has more craft breweries than you can
shake a giant rodent at, or so it seems
To paraphrase a familiar children's book, Colorado has all breweries great and small. This proved true with the first two breweries we visited after leaving Falling Rock Tap House in downtown Denver.

Big Beaver Brewing - our initial intent this day was to cruise around Fort Collins, roughly one hour north of Denver on I-25. This plan was derailed a bit by a freeway accident, but this is where our chauffeur/my brother-in-law's knowledge of the area came in handy.

"Don't worry, you can't swing an empty growler around without hitting a brewery or two around here," he said as we got off the freeway in Loveland and ended up at Big Beaver Brewing, located in what looks at first glance to be a small office complex that is very easy to drive by if you're not paying attention.

Two things immediately came clear as I entered the space and surveyed the interior of this brewery. Firstly, this brewery seemed to be busting at the seams, with more general "stuff "(tables and chairs, beer-related equipment, an informal bar area, etc.) than you would think would fit in this compact and in spots cobbled-together space. This thought also applied to the number of beers available: for what seemed to be a relatively new and modestly-equipped brewery, Big Beaver sported 16 options on their beer menu this day.

We learned later that this brewery has been a rousing success since its opening in October of 2010, undergoing several expansions of their facilities to the point where they have maxed out their current space and capacity. In addition, we learned that the brewery has operated with a sustainability mantra since its opening, focusing strictly on growler sales of their beer.

Secondly...or should that be doubly?...the beer names are pretty much all double-entendres for certain human anatomical parts; even their logo has a certain suggestiveness that is hard not to notice.

Big Beaver has integrated their suggestively-named (and tasty)
offerings into a fun atmosphere where the locals flock.
As I figured out, these names aren't meant to be offensive (though I am sure some would find them such) but rather reflective of the generally fun atmosphere that has been built over the brewery's existence. Big Beaver just seems like a nice place to hangout for awhile. The bar staff greeted everyone with big smiles, and gave us newcomers good explanations as to what was on tap. A calendar on the wall detailed brewery-related promotions attached to each day of the week. Even the smell of bratwurst (Big Beaver serves bratwurst boiled in their Wonder Wiener Wheat Beer and offers two versions of house-made mustard along with the typical condiments for interested patrons) is in itself a welcoming sensation. Perhaps the banner we spotted overhead sums up the general aura here well: "There are no strangers here, only friends who have never met."

As for the beer, we found our choices pretty drinkable and easy for, well, hanging out for an hour or so. Perhaps the standout for all three of us was their Pucker Up Sour Brown, an ale with a winning tart plum profile through its use of lactobacillus and brettanomyces. My Whiskey Dick Stout had subtle bourbon and oaky hints, while my brother-in-law's Amber Was Her Stage Name reminded me of a cream ale in texture, with alternating hints of bitter and sweet.

Big Beaver Brewing Co.
2707 W Eisenhower Blvd
Loveland, CO 80537
(970) 818-6064
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Odell Brewing's facility in Fort Collins reflects its status as
a top-fifty craft brewer in the United States
Odell Brewing: from cobbled-together and cozy, the next brewery we stopped by was just the opposite: sleekly-designed and expansive.

Out of the breweries on this day of touring, Fort Collins-based Odell Brewing was the must-visit, especially for my spouse. Odell's St. Lupulin ranks in my spouse's top five beers she has ever tasted; the fact that they do not distribute out to Ohio also contributed to this visit. Being in road trip mode allowed us to bring back a collection of their brewed goods, and we were hoping we'd be able to find a few releases you couldn't find in the local bottle shops.

Odell's current facility is something of a just result of the brewery's longevity and success, being the second microbrewery to open in the state of Colorado, as much as their willingness to expand beyond their base brews and push the boundaries over its 25 years of existence. Their Fort Collins production facility is large, with 45,000 square-feet dedicated to production plus a spacious tap room. In terms of size, it reminded us of New Glarus Brewing's facility in Wisconsin. Other smaller touches, such as the Odell-logo bike racks in front, help further their brand as well as their philosophy toward environmental sustainability, an especially prominent credo for this area of the country in general.

While Odell's interior is fairly contemporary and sleek, the
overall atmosphere is fairly laid back.
While size-wise the facility was on the scope of New Glarus, the taproom inside was its own entity, with plenty of seating both within and on the patio outdoors. While we did not order any food at the brewery, Odell Brewery does offer snacks for its taproom visitors as more substantial sustenance in the form of regularly scheduled food trucks.

But of course, the main focus here is the beer. As we discovered, Odell offers three select flight trays consisting of their Classics (including 90 Shilling, Levity and 5 Barrel), Locals (with three of Odell's IPA brews such as Myrcenary and Runoff Red) and their Pilot tray, brewed on their special pilot system. With all these brews generally available only at the taproom, this flight was a must share between the two of us.

Out of the five beers in the flight, the definite winner for us was the Fifty Niner Golden Brett, a fruit-laced (hints of pineapple and pear) beer with hints of oak and vanilla and that familiar funk only brett can lend. The Fernet Aged Porter (porter aged in Leopold Bros. Distillery fernet barrels) and their Legal Rye Rye IPA (nice interplay with the spicy rye and fruity notes) were also quite enjoyable as well.

We both decided we needed a little bit of a palate cleanser from the more unique flavor palettes from the Pilot Tray; a pint of Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout, brewed with milk sugars and actual milk chocolate, proved to be a smooth, creamy finish to our beer sampling adventures at Odell.

Of course, we couldn't leave without a few bottles to take back with us to Ohio, and the folks at Odell were only happy to help us out with that endeavor.

Odell Brewing Co.
800 East Lincoln Ave
Fort Collins, CO 80524
(970) 498-9070 -or- (888) 887-2797
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