Archive for February, 2012

Odell Footprint

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Footprint, a new single-serve release from Odell Brewing Company, was brewed to recognize all of the ten states in which Odell beers are sold. The concept is interesting; include an ingredient that exemplifies each state. That makes for a lot of ingredients. Any brewer will tell you that a lot of ingredients can be a recipe for disaster.

I myself have participated in just such an experiment. A British/Finnish friend proposed a homebrewing challenge to make Van Rompuy, a beer to represent the European Union. There are twelve stars on the EU flag. We would devise a recipe that would include twelve ingredients, each one representing a country of the EU. Through two iterations of this brew we used hops from Slovenia, yeast from Belgium, malt from England and Germany, Spanish orange peel, Italian wine grapes, and even potatoes from Poland, among too many other things. The first was a bit of a muddled mess. The second was somewhat more successful, but still needed a good bit of tweaking. Perhaps presciently, in both beers Greece ended up setting the whole thing off balance.

Could Odell possibly pull off this same sort of challenge? It’s a complex mix; hops and barley from Colorado and Idaho, wheat from Kansas and Wyoming, prickly pear from Arizona, Minnesota wild rice, New Mexican green chilis, South Dakota honey, and finally oak barrels from Missouri. As if that weren’t enough, this 9.5% monster is blended from different batches; 40% aged in oak barrels, 40% with “natural flavors added,” 10% aged in wine barrels, 5% brewed with honey, and 5% brewed with wild rice. Sounds to me like a cluster-fuck in the making.

Here’s my notes:

Footprint
Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado
Style: ????
Serving Style: 750 ml Bottle

Aroma: Light, bright, and fruity. Yellow grapefruit pulp with canned peaches. There’s a subtle peppery spice and an even more subtle note of wood. A bit vinous and somewhat saison-like.

Appearance: Dark golden in color, leaning toward amber but not quite making it there. Hazy. The full, fluffy, ivory head stuck around for quite a while before dissipating into a film on the surface.

Flavor: There is a lot going on here. Honeyed malt and canned peaches start things off. Midway through some vinous, white-grape notes come in with a bit of wood in the background. It ends sharply bitter; hitting at the back of the throat on the way out. Throughout are alternating waves of peppery spice, golden raisins, honey, citrus pith, orange peel, and even herbs like thyme and oregano (am I crazy?). Hold it in your mouth and you taste prickly pear (and yes, I do know what prickly pear tastes like). As it warms, fresh oak hangs on after the swallow. The only detraction is alcohol that verges on hot.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body, but high attenuation minimizes the heft. Highly effervescent, almost carbonic. Alcohol is definitely warming.

Overall Impression: Mmmmmmmmm…Like a strong saison or a super-spicy tripel. I don’t know that Belgian yeast was used, but that’s the impression the beer gives. It’s complex and layered. There is a s#@$-ton of stuff happening, but it doesn’t come off murky or muddy. My only complaint is that the alcohol is a tad hot and at the end of a bottle it becomes a bit sticky on the palate (I know, who said I should drink a whole bottle of 9.5% ale. But it was good.)

Crispin Cider Sells To Miller Coors – More Details

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

The internet lit up this morning with the announcement that Minneapolis-based Crispin Cider had been sold to MillerCoors. Early reports in the Milwaukee Business Journal and the Pioneer Press gave little detail, stating only that the company had been purchased for an undisclosed amount and was to be run as a unit of Tenth and Blake, the craft-and-import division of the brewing giant named after the Miller’s 10th Street Brewery in Milwaukee and the Coors-owned Sandlot Brewery located on Blake Street in Denver, Colorado. Reports disclosed that the deal includes both Crispin and its affiliate Fox Barrel. Tenth and Blake CEO Tom Cardella cited the precipitous growth of the hard cider sector since 2008 when Crispin was founded and said, “We were looking at the best way to participate in that growth. Crispin stood out.”

I had the opportunity to chat with Crispin founder and CEO Joe Heron this afternoon to fill in some of the blanks. The whole thing came together quickly as far as these things go. Discussions began last year on November 4th and the deal was finished on February 4th. For Heron, selling the company that he started in 2008 wasn’t about money. The company has grown 200 percent since its inception. It was doing quite well. Instead the sale was intended to bring to Crispin a higher level of expertise and access to markets that would take the cider maker to the next level, or as he put it, “To put muscles on the mouse.”

What MillerCoors brings, according to Heron, is resources, expertise, and access to markets that will enable the company to upscale. The intent is to continue making the product in the current Colfax, California facility, but to expand and update that facility as demand increases. In addition the connection with MillerCoors will help Crispin place its cider into lucrative chain-store accounts.

Heron has been approached by others in the past, but was holding out for the right buyer. “The chemistry here is great,” he says. Clearly MillerCoors, like the other big brewers, recognizes the growth of the craft segment in the face of falling sales for their mainline brands. They are looking to get in on that growth by expanding into more innovative product lines. They have entered into partnerships with other small producers such as Georgia-based Terrapin. Heron says that part of what made the offer appealing to him was the sincerity of the folks at Tenth and Blake. “People see these as huge monolithic companies, but these are real people who are all about beer. They make their regular products, but they are just as much into the craft stuff as anybody.” He says that the company was interested in maintaining Crispin’s position as an innovator in the cider sector. In his words, “They like us because we make cool shit.”

Heron will stay on as the head of Crispin. “This is the most fun I’ve had in my entire career life.” he said. “I’m not going to leave it now.” Crispin will be given a large degree of autonomy from MillerCoors. That autonomy was another selling point for Heron. Crispin will maintain its own sales force. Cider production will remain in Colfax, California. The company will continue the kind of adventurous cider making that has begun to spawn imitators. Upcoming projects include a barrel-aged version of their Lansdowne named after late singer Marvin Gaye, and Bohemian, the next of their alternative yeast explorations, this one fermented with a German lager yeast.

Time will tell what this sale will mean for Crispin. If the MillerCoors promise of autonomy holds and the company is allowed to continue in the direction it has already set for itself over the last three years, it could prove to be a good move, expanding the market for the product beyond its current niche status. If quality suffers it will only alienate the brands current consumers. I for one don’t see Miller Coors doing that. As Heron said, they are purchasing a part of the future. They want to cash in on that growth market. They would be shooting themselves in the foot to mess with that. That said Killian’s Irish Red is not the beer it once was.

MN Clean Pint Makes its Return

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Clean glassware is essential for proper beer service, and I’m not talking about that filmy, smeary glass they served your water in at the Bug Tussle Diner. I’m talking about “beer clean” glassware. That means a glass that is totally free of grease, soap, and all other residue and detritus. This is a glass that will sheet water the way the old Cascade dishwasher soap commercials used to boast about. Only a beer clean glass will give you that nice fluffy head of foam when you pour and pretty lacing as you drink down.

MN Clean Pint is an effort to reward bars and restaurants that serve your beer in a properly cleaned glass. It’s an opportunity for you to recognize establishments that make the extra effort and give them the chance to win the coveted title of “Cleanest Pint in MN.”

To participate all you need do is photograph that laced-up, beer-clean glass wherever you may be enjoying a frosty one. Post the photo on Twitter during the month of February using the tag #MNCleanpint, identifying what fine watering hole has met the test. By doing so you also register yourself to win prizes including a $100 bar tab, online Cicerone™ training, glassware, a kegerator kit, and much much more.

MN Clean Pint is sponsored by JJ Taylor, A Perfect Pint, The Better Beer Society, The Cicerone Certification Program, MNBeer, and Micromatic. Go here to find out more.

Now get out there and fight for your right to clean glassware!