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Wynne and Corkie Odell / photos Bart Taylor

Odell Brewing Company

by Eric Peterson on January 12, 2015, 12:00 pm MST

Fort Collins, Colorado

Founded: 1989

Privately owned

Employees: 107

The Odell family are set to eclipse six figures in barrel production for 2015, with much more growth on tap for the future.

After deciding to launch a brewery, the husband-and-wife team of Doug and Wynne Odell looked around their home city at the time, Seattle, and decided they needed to relocate. "We thought there were too many breweries around the Northwest," says Doug.

So they looked southeast to the Rockies and Fort Collins popped off the map at the couple, who founded the brewery with Doug's sister, Corkie Odell. At that point, there were exactly zero breweries in Fort Collins.

"By the time we opened, we were the third one," recalls Doug. Now there are 16 breweries in the city, but only CooperSmith's has been in business longer than Odell. (The other one shut down in the intervening years.)

A quarter-century later, Odell is a pillar of the state's craft beer community, with stalwart labels like 90 Shilling Ale and 5 Barrel Pale Ale, and the brewery has laid the foundation for the future.

Case in point: Odell significantly expanded its original brewhouse in 2013. The brewery hit 99,517 barrels in 2014 and has plenty of room to grow -- its annual capacity is now around 300,000 barrels.

The expansion allowed for a push into a new and notably big market in 2014. "We were up 28 percent in volume for 2014," says Wynne. "A big chunk of that was entering the state of Texas in February. That doubled our distribution's population in an instant."

The move into the Lone Star State brings Odell's distribution footprint to 11 states, and that's more than enough for at least the next few years. "We want to remain a regional business," says Wynne, noting that about 65 percent of sales are in Colorado. "We have no plans of going national."

The brewery now bottles seven year-round beers and eight seasonal varieties. New in four-packs for 2015: Tree Shaker Imperial IPA, brewed with Colorado peaches.

The brewery has sourced peaches, cherries, and other fruit from Big B's in Hotchkiss since 2009.

Brent Cordle, pilot and barrel-aged brewing manager, calls Delicious "our number-one go-to” for fruit. "We try to keep it local as much as possible," he explains.

But local only goes so far if the quality isn't there. "I think they're extra-sweet," says Wynne of the peaches.

The local angle extends beyond fruit, Doug adds. "We really like the idea of using Colorado grain and Colorado-produced ingredients," he says. Hops are in their "infancy” in the Centennial State, he adds, and MillerCoors subsidiary AC Golden nearly corners the market for its Colorado Native IPA.

Challenges: "Everybody always wants something new," says Wynne. "It requires us to be constantly innovating and creating new products." This means Cordle is constantly tinkering to expand Odell's sour and barrel-aged catalog.

Sustainability is both a priority and another challenge. "We've been collecting reams of data, but we've never been able to analyze it," says Wynne. That's changing, as Odell recently hired a full-time sustainability coordinator to help establish baseline usages of water, electricity, and heat per barrel of packaged beer.

Opportunities: Canning. Odell recently moved the warehouse off-site to accommodate more fermenting capacity, so now there might just be room for a canning line. "We've been investigating it and there's an opportunity there," says Wynne.

Doug says he's constantly fielding the same two questions: "What do you got that's new and are you canning?"

Cordle's increased emphasis on experimental beers is both a challenge and an opportunity. On the envelope-pushing edge of the spectrum, that means a porter aged in a fernet barrel from Leopold Bros. "I don't know of any other brewers that age in fernet barrels," says Cordle.

Needs: Better access to capital and better malt. The former need is "neverending," says Wynne. "We're self-funded and plan to stay that way, but it's something we're constantly trying to balance. Doug says Odell mitigates the latter by step mashing -- gradually increasing the temperature throughout the mashing process.

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