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Posted: May 14, 2010

A big new brewery worth the wait

Odell's $8 million facility is like a lake house without the lake

Jay Dedrick

An expansive wood deck on one side, a cozy patio on the other. A bit of a slope to the land out back, and clusters of shade trees all around. It's like a lake house, without the lake. But who misses the water when there are thousands of barrels of beer inside?

The newly opened expansion at Odell Brewing Co. in Fort Collins cost about $8 million to build, but its value to the company is far greater. Square footage has doubled from 22,500 to 45,000 and brewing capacity has grown from 45,000 barrels a year to 60,000. In time, Colorado's second-biggest craft brewer (behind Fort Collins neighbor New Belgium) can ramp up production to 80,000 barrels a year by adding tanks to the newly created space.

The first folks to see an immediate benefit are beer drinkers in the Land of 10,000 Lakes: Minnesota, which this month became the ninth state in Odell country. One of the reasons Minnesota appealed to Odell, spokeswoman Amanda Johnson says, is that it's a nonchain liquor sales state, like Colorado. Our home state, by the way, will be staying nonchain for the time being, given the most recent failure of legislation aimed at allowing full-strength beer and wine sales at grocery stores. Backers of the measure hope to eventually get the issue onto a ballot for voters.

Odell's recent open house offered a large crowd fresh-from-the-tap tastes of old favorites like 90 Shilling and Easy Street Wheat; the real "wows" were bestowed on rare fare such as Saboteur, a potent brown ale aged in oak barrels (in 1,200 square feet of the new addition).

A visit to Odell's tap room is well worth the trip; brewery tours are offered at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

MEET THE NEWEST NATIVE: AC Golden is a small brewery-within-a-brewery at Coors Brewing in Golden. Small staff, small production capability, small budget. So they have to pick their shots and pick them well.

After reviving Herman Joseph's and Winterfest last year, AC Golden looks to have hit the mark again with Colorado Native Lager. It's one of those simple, "Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?" ideas: a beer brewed only with Centennial State ingredients.

Just as big brother Coors Banquet Beer touted for so many years, Colorado Native Lager is brewed with water from the Rockies. The barley is grown in the San Luis Valley, the yeast is from Golden, and some of the hops are grown by friends and family. The bottles are made here, too.

Initial batches of the beer aren't 100 percent Colorado. Spokeswoman Aimee Valdez says the company has a small hop farm near Center and contracts with another hop farmer on the Western Slope. After fall's harvest, supplies should be bountiful enough to ensure nothing-but-Colorado batches late this year.

The well-balanced, crisp-finishing lager with a surprisingly deep amber color is landing on store shelves and at bar taps. Only in Colorado.

A WEEK TO REMEMBER: It's a busy time for the Brewers Association. Fast after unleashing its annual production numbers and wrapping up the recent World Beer Cup, the Boulder-based trade group now heads up American Craft Beer Week, a national undertaking that starts Monday, May 17, and continues through Sunday, May 23. Colorado craft brewers, brewpubs and restaurants have plenty on tap, from new beer releases to special tastings and beer dinners; check out the association's event database to find something going on near you.

NOTHING CHEAP ABOUT IT: Not only did Wynkoop Brewing Co.'s Marty Jones spread the gospel of craft beer promotion at the recent Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago, he helped enlist one of Illinois' best-loved rock legends to help. Rick Nielsen plugged in a checkered guitar to back up Jones, Stone Brewing's Greg Koch and Elysian Brewing's Dave Buhler on a rewritten version of Cheap Trick's "Surrender." "Malty's all right, hoppy's all right, but if you want rocking beer, promote it, promote it," Jones sang. Turns out Nielsen is an investor in an Illinois craft brewer. The video of the unique team-up is posted here.

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