01 July 2011

Looking for redemption

Session logoHere it is folks, the last roll of the die for Odell. We're down to the wire, backs to the wall, pulling out all stops and full steam ahead for a land flowing with strained metaphors. Can the Colorado brewery give me a beer that has the beatings of their IPA? I've been quite unimpressed with all the others I've tried and I'm running really short of new ones to try. Three more today: will one of them redeem this much-lauded brewery?

As it happens, redemption is the theme for this month's Session. John tells us of the long period in the wilderness on which he sent Smuttynose brewery following some bad experiences with their beer. While I'd never go so far as to describe anything I've had so far from Odell as bad, I feel they're not living up to their reputation. Redemption or damnation: three beers to decide it.

First up, 5 Barrel Pale Ale, a tribute, apparently, to the brewery's pilot operation. Like all of these, the bottle conditioning leaves it slightly hazy on pouring: a pale amber with a thick and lasting pillow of foam on top. There's no sign of that suspended yeast in the flavour, however. It's clean and tangy offering a sugary kiss of lightly caramelised malt overlaid with some lovely juicy mandarin hops, rising to a definite bitterness at the end. The body is big and on the whole it's a very satisfying beer to drink. It's not a stand-out, though, being in the same league for me as the likes of Goose Island IPA. Still, it looks like redemption may indeed be on the cards.

The Red next. Not a name to inspire visions of beer excellence, but really this is much more along the lines of an American Amber, though with rather more oomph at 6.5% ABV. Out of the bottle it's busy straight away with an aroma of sweet dark fruit: raisins and plums. On tasting you get a little bit of sherbet, some roast and a tiny hint of gunpowder spice. More of any of these elements would be great, but it's quite understated all-in. Like the 5 Barrel, it's solid, enjoyable, but there are plenty of other beers just like it out there. I couldn't go singing Odell's praises on the basis of this alone.

And so we come to Cutthroat Porter, where the yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle is clearly visible through the glass, light brown on black. It pours out promisingly gloopy, though the carbonation is quite busy, resulting in an another dense head that lasts all the way to the end. It's a beer of two halves, and I didn't like it at first, finding it too dry and too fizzy. Given a few minutes to warm up and flatten out, however, and it's a treat. Sweet roast on the nose, a mellow smooth texture and a flavour, while still nicely dry, with lots of other stuff going on too. Chocolate and marzipan is a big part of it, and some light peppery spices as well. My only problem is that it's all over too quickly. But, at 4.8% ABV, what I'm supposed to do is open the next bottle.

So yes: redemption, then, for Odell. There's still nothing with the wow-factor of the IPA, but Cutthroat is definitely up there with the best of American porters I've met. The others I'd be happy to drink if they were plentiful and cheap, but as I've said before, beer really ought to be doing something interesting and different to justify a journey of thousands of miles.

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