Pilot Brew: Peel Out Banana Nut Brown

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One of the perks of working for a brewery is getting to make beer. To be clear, I have no experience brewing and never thought it would be something that I’d ever have the opportunity to try. I worked as a teacher prior to becoming the marketing and communication coordinator for Odell Brewing Company earlier this summer. So when pilot system manager Brent Cordle sent out a brewing sign-up sheet, I put my name on the list without second thought. “Maybe I’ll brew in a few months,” I thought.

Then, about two weeks later, I was on the calendar. That meant coming up with ingredients. A plan. A name. Things I had no experience with as a teacher. Or had I?

In 2011, I was a part of the Toyota International Teacher Program—a two-week travel study in Costa Rica for teachers interested in sustainability. We spent time researching sustainable agriculture practices and planting trees; learning about global connectedness and the environment. One of the best parts was spending a few days at EARTH University, a non-profit university in Guacimo. While there, we learned about the fair-trade bananas that were harvested and sent to Whole Foods Markets in the U.S. EARTH University bananas are grown on the campus farm using innovative, environmentally-friendly practices and are Rainforest Alliance Certified and grown carbon neutral. It was a great learning experience.

Now for the second part of the equation: I am a huge fan of banana bread. My mom and I have been making it since I was young, and so I thought it fitting to make a banana bread beer with bananas that I knew had been harvested at EARTH University. Luckily, Brent stepped in to choose a style of beer—a nut brown ale that would add medium body to the brew. He chose the grains and decided to use our house yeast, and brew day was scheduled.

Our five-barrel system is pretty unique. As Brent pointed out, not many breweries have a system for creating small batches of beer. We can pump out around 10 kegs in two weeks, allowing us to constantly brew with our co-workers or collaborate with people in the community. Pilot brews are sometimes interesting, often experimental, and always a hit. So much so, in fact, that the tap room typically runs out of pilots in a week or so.

We started the day by adding hot water to the grist (or milled barley), creating our mash. It looked like a giant bowl of cereal and smelled sweet and grainy. That mash was then pumped into the second vessel (called a lauter tun), which created the wort. The wort was boiled for 90 minutes, during which time we added pelletized hops for a bit of bitterness and flavor. It smelled chocolate-y and delicious and made me really excited to try the finished product.

Once the wort was extracted from the spent grains, we had to shovel those out of the lauter tun to prepare for Lugene, a local farmer who feeds them to his happy cows. That was a little tougher than expected, but it felt good knowing that the grains would not be wasted.

We added yeast to our fermentor and, finally, the wort. The “beer” stayed in the fermentor until three days later when we added our last, most special ingredient.

We used 40 pounds of overly-ripe bananas, donated from Whole Foods Market in Fort Collins. Each banana even had the orange EARTH University sticker; a reminder that our beer was making a small difference in the sustainability world. I hauled them back to the brewery and created a banana puree, which could easily be added to the fermentor. Afterward, my husband and Brent helped steady me on a seemingly 100-foot ladder (not even close) so I could add the banana puree to the top of the tank. It was scary, but I wanted to make sure that I could take part in every aspect of the brewing process.

Ten days later, I was finally able to try the finished product. It tasted crisp and refreshing, with subtle hints of cocoa and banana that lingered afterward. I could not have asked for a better outcome. I aptly named the beer Peel Out, created a tap sticker and crossed my fingers when I heard that it would be available in the tap room the following week.  Then I smiled.

“Whew,” I thought. “That was fun.”


Tracy Marcello is the marketing and communication coordinator for Odell Brewing Company. Her Peel Out Banana Nut Brown will be available in the tap room beginning Aug. 4. 


The Hops Project

DSC_0015When Odell Brewing Company tap room manager Kailey Schumacher asked brewer and agronomist Scott Dorsch to plant some hops around the brewery, he complied. “I would pretty much walk on hot coals if she asked me.”

Summit Plant Laboratories, Inc. of Fort Collins donated the plantlets to OBC, and Dorsch planted them in June. Currently, there are no hop cones on the plants, but Dorsch hopes to see growth soon. “At full maturity they are an incredible and beautiful plant,” he said. “They should fit in nicely with the incredible and beautiful OBC backyard.”

Humulus Lupulus (hops) are the flowering cones of a perennial vining plant and a cousin of cannabis (sorry, you can’t smoke it) that typically thrives in climates similar to the ones that grapes do, according to the Beer Advocate website. “Hops are the age-old seasoning of the beer; the liquid gargoyles who ward off spoilage from wild bacteria and bringers of balance to sweet malts. They also lend a hand in head retention, help to clear beer (acting as a natural filter) and please the palate by imparting their unique characters and flavors.”

In short, hops make beer taste bitter – in a good way.

Though the hops Dorsch planted will add to the OBC landscape, it is unlikely that such a small amount will be of use to the brewery. “I am not sure these plants (in their current locations) will ever produce enough hop cones for OBC brewing use, even with our pilot system,” Dorsch said. “I see their main value as being aesthetic and educational.”

Still, Dorsch has other plans for harvest time. “One possibility would be to hand harvest some cones at the end of their growing season and use those for potpourri in the office areas,” he said, adding, “or perhaps on someone’s home-brew system.”

We’re looking forward to sharing the wealth. In the meantime, tap room visitors can view the budding hops on the trellis at the front of the brewery and in the backyard.

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Guest Brewer: Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms

Our five-barrel pilot system has become more than a staple at Odell Brewing Company; it has become a way for us to extend a warm welcome to friends near and far. In turn, the brews they create are shared in our tap room and at other select events; sometimes, the brew becomes more popular than we could ever imagine (does 5 Barrel Pale Ale ring a bell?).

Earlier this summer, we welcomed Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms and her nephew Dallas to brew an ale for their anniversary celebration in August. And after 110 years of growing hops in the Willamette Valley, they thought it only natural to brew with their own.

Aptly called 110% Goschie Farms Ale, the Goschie Cascade bitter additions and whole leaf Goschie Fuggle in the whirlpool and hopback will create an interesting and session-able brew for this special event.

Gayle and Dallas brewed with Odell Brewing’s Scott Dorsch, who helped them through each step of the process. “[They] had a wonderful experience brewing their Farms Ale with us on the pilot system,” he said. “They were also excited to find out that 100 percent of the whole leaf hops currently used in 5 Barrel originate from Goschie Farms!”

Goschie Farms grows more than 500 acres of organic hops (the majority of which are sold to Deschutes Brewery), as well as 600+ acres of other crops like wheat and wine grapes. The farm, which is located in Oregon, is a front-runner in the effort to “improve the health of Oregon hops and expand the amount of information available to other growers and beer producers,” according to its website.

110% Goschie Farms Ale will be available in the tap room this August and at the farm’s 110-year celebration Aug. 4.

Want to know more about our guest brewers? Send us an e-mail!

Brew Q&A: Fifty Niner

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To celebrate our deep Colorado roots, we’re paying homage to the gold rush of 1859 with the July 11th release of our latest Cellar Series beer, Fifty Niner. This Brett Golden Ale is bottle conditioned with 100 percent Brettanomyces—in fact, we used a wild strain of the yeast grown in our lab—and finished in a stainless fermentor filled with oak staves. The process created an ale that is creamy and robust, with hints of vanilla, almond, graham cracker and subtle fruitiness.

Quality Control Manager Eli Kolodny, along with Lab Technician Tony Rau and a plethora of other Odell Brewing folks, put a lot of passion into this project. He chatted with us about the process, in hopes of helping beer enthusiasts better understand what makes this brew a rush of gold on the palette.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Fifty Niner?

A: One of the Woodcut Series beers was aged with Brettanomyces and we really loved the way it turned out, so we wanted to replicate that. This one is the first beer that we’ve 100 percent bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces.

Q: How does the Brett yeast affect the beer?

A: It takes a lot longer in the bottle than our normal conditioning yeast, and it produces almost all of the aroma compounds that you get. All the fruity characteristics and all the fruity aroma compounds are yeast derived. So it’s a defining characteristic of the beer. A lot of our other bottle conditioned beer is just [bottle conditioned] to provide bubbles. This is more about the character of the yeast.

Q: What other unique ingredients did you enjoy working with while brewing Fifty Niner? How did they change the brewing process?

A: We used Belgian Candi sugar and light- and medium-toast oak staves. If you’re a chef, and all you’ve been cooking with is vegetables, but then you throw chicken in there, it’s another whole level of complexity you can develop characteristics with. It’s a completely different color palette.

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Want to learn more about your favorite Odell beer? E-mail us a Brew Q & A request!