In the latest episode of ’awesome stuff we get to do in the name of work’, Production Manager Caolan Vaughan shares his experiences of travelling to Fort Collins in Colorado to help brew our latest collaboration with the mighty Odell Brewing Co.
At Thornbridge it’s no secret that we love getting together with like minded people and sharing our love and passion for the finest thing in life – beer! So much so that in our short lifetime we have had the pleasure of collaborating with some of the finest breweries from all over the world; Fyne Ales, Dark Star and Kernel from the UK, Epic from New Zealand, Mountain Goat from Australia, Birrificio Italiano from Italy and Brooklyn Brewery from the States. Some may say we like to get around! However, this is all with good reason – it’s an opportunity to share and learn from each other’s knowledge and experiences and these differ from brewer to brewer and from country to country. For those of you that don’t know, Doug has been a friend of Thornbridge ever since he bobbed his head round the brewery door with an armful of beers in 2009 and after a few beers together at the GBBF that year and the year after, we had the legendary Doug in 2010 over to brew Colorado Red, a twist on the American Red style using oil-rich English hops. The result was a kick-ass beer and an enduring friendship. Since we first brewed Colorado Red together we had both said that we would welcome the opportunity to do it again and in late 2011 Doug said he would like to invite us to come to Colorado and brew together again. Naturally, we obliged!
Now that the invite had been sent it was time to get planning. After many an e-mail exchange and much discussion within the respective brewery teams, we eventually came up with the idea of a Double Extra Pale Ale, similar to the philosophy of our Jaipur and Odell’s St. Lupulin, which is an Extra Pale Ale. So with the details all sorted it was time to leave England and fly to the US of A! After arriving in the States on Tuesday 21st February I got to meet and greet the Odell’s team that we would be working with on the brew. Whilst I was there I got to taste the test batch, which was brewed on their 5 US BBL system and discuss possible tweaks. The following day was spent doing extensive technical brewery tours of New Belgium Brewing, Funkwerks, Equinox Brewing, the CooperSmiths Pub and Brewery. That’s a lot of beers to be squeezed into one mammoth day and that’s only in Fort Collins! The next day I drove down to visit Left Hand Brewing in Longmont and then onto to the amazing Avery in Boulder. So within just two days I had the opportunity to look round and investigate some of the best craft breweries in the States, with many ideas and philosophies that will stay with me forever.
I did however get back in time to Fort Collins to put the finishing touches on the recipe before mashing in the first brew the following morning. Friday 24th February 2012 was a memorable day in the history of Thornbridge – our first collaboration brew in the USA and what a pleasure to be doing it with Odell! An amazing day and one I will personally never forget.
The beer then. We intentionally brewed it with lower bitterness levels so instead of that dominating bitterness we could have a beer based around hop flavour and aroma; the idea being to create a more enticingly drinkable beer at the expected 9.5 % ABV and also showcase the beauty of a special vessel both breweries have in common – the marvellous Rolec Hopnik. As we did before with the Colorado Red we thought we would take a similar philosophy to showcase some of the finest ingredients available, again showcasing our countries’ great ingredients…all UK malt and all USA hops; arguably from a craft brewer’s perspective some of the best ingredients in the world (depending on the style of course). So there you have it, a Double Extra Pale Ale called Pond Hopper which will hopefully be available in 75cl cork and caged bottles in extremely limited supply very soon here in the UK.
Anyway, when staying in Fort Collins and brewing at Odells, count your lucky stars if you just to happen to be staying above the Choice City Deli and Butchers, and also happen to be ‘crawling distance’ of Tap and Handle - a new craft beer bar in the old town. As this was my first trip to the States and my first in a real American craft beer bar, I was over-awed with the quality and choice and had several nights exploring the 74-strong tap menu. Ah, bliss! Eventually Monday morning came and since this is the start of the working week I decided to travel into Denver to check out Great Divide Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery and Dry Dock Brewing. Essentially this was more work as technical tours abounded so I won’t bore you with the grisly details. However, as an Australian and someone removed from the UK brewing industry what became abundantly clear is the great difference in education, quality and investment between the UK and the US, something that is slowly being addressed. As it was my last night in the States. we decided to have a meal and beers at Freshcraft and finish up with a fitting visit to Falling Rocks Taphouse before flying back to the UK the following day. Luckily the beer is in safe hands and one of the guys on the Odell brewing team sent me this photo of the first dry hopping addition…
It was a whirlwind tour of Colorado but one that will not be forgotten soon. Americans seem to have a real positive attitude for everything that they tackle. This is especially prominent in their love of craft beer. You see it from everyone that works both in the industry and around it. It was simply contagious! Being given the opportunity of working with Odell on this collaboration was a real pleasure and it gave a real insight into the ethos, philosophy, love and passion for what they do and what they do is make bloody fantastic beer. It was a real honour to be welcomed by them as if we had been old mates, even though many of us had never met before. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Colorado, go, meet the people and most above savour the many world class beers that are available!