A toast to the future
Odell Brewing Co. founders celebrate 25th anniversary with co-workers, friends
When Doug and Wynne Odell moved to Fort Collins from Seattle in 1989, they had an 18-month-old daughter, a rented grain elevator, and a dream. Twenty-five years later, Odell Brewing Company produces craft brews like 90 Shilling and Cutthroat Porter in 11 states and the U.K. Still, the founders (including Doug’s sister Corkie) stay true to their roots and thank their co-workers and customers for hitting such a milestone.
“It’s amazing,” Corkie said, laughing. “Sometimes I’m amazed that we pulled this off.”
Odell Brewing Co. was the second packaging craft brewery to open in Colorado, and the first in Fort Collins. Doug had been an active home brewer since the ‘70s and saw opportunity in Colorado. The first brewery opened in an old converted grain elevator, long before the current location took shape on Lincoln Avenue.
“It was fun to have them move here,” recalled Corkie, who was already living in Fort Collins. “Wynne showed up at my house and I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is really brave of them to do this.’”
Shortly after moving, Doug won two gold medals in a homebrew competition and saw that as an affirmation. He perfected his 90 Shilling recipe and the trio opened Odell’s Ales (later renamed Odell Brewing Company) in the fall of 1989. As Doug admits, it was more than a year before the founders received their first paycheck.
“For the first five years, I didn’t take more than three days off in a row,” he recalled.
Today, Odell Brewing Co. employs more than 100 people and has gone through several brewery expansions. The company expects to produce around 100,000 barrels of beer this year—quite a feat considering its draft-only beginnings.
Still, the founders continue to stay true to their philosophy that a company will thrive if it treats its co-workers well. Thus, culture is a large part of the brewery’s business model.
“That culture piece is what we believe is our most important legacy,” Wynne said. “It’s hard to maintain as an organization grows, but it’s our commitment. If you allow people autonomy and a chance to have work-life balance, and to feel responsible and invested and connected, then everyone prospers. It just makes so much sense.”
Currently, employee benefits include profit sharing, a weekly beer allotment, and a trip to Europe after being employed with the company for five years. Tack on softball leagues, fourteener hikes and camping trips, and it quickly becomes clear why some co-workers have remained with the company for more than 20 years.
“Working at Odell has become part of who I am,” Safety Manager Jim Stricker said. “It is a piece of what defines me as a person, and I’m not the only one. There is a reason that co-workers stay here as long as they do.”
Taproom Associate Sue Franklin agreed. “I would say that this is the best job I have ever had,” she said. “The owners are the sweetest, most caring people. I have never worked somewhere that I actually missed when I wasn’t there.”
Those same sentiments apply to Odell Brewing Company’s customers, who have played a critical role in the company’s plans and choices.
“Like the folks who work with us inside the brewery, the folks we work with outside are what we attribute our success to,” Wynne continued. “Our ability to do so many innovative, fun, and different things is because our loyal and new customers are receptive to this. We have a great relationship.”
As Doug put it, the beer produced is just as important as the relationships created.
“None of us would be here if it weren’t for all of us,” he said, adding that he hopes the brewery and its co-workers continue to prosper in years to come. “With all of the changes that have happened with craft brewing over the last 25 years, it’s just impossible to imagine what it will be like in the next 25 years. The only thing I can say is that I hope this brewery, right here in this location, is still operating.”
Fortunately for Doug, Corkie, and Wynne, it seems that everyone will be sticking around for a while.
Odell Brewing Company will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with co-workers and friends Sept. 22-28. A special Silver Lining Soiree will be held Sept. 23 to benefit The Food Bank of Larimer County. Visit the Odell Brewing Co. events website to learn more.