Keep your eyes out for a new tap handle at your favorite bars in the next month or two. Odin Brewing Company expects to have test batches brewing very shortly and hopes to have beer flowing in local pubs by the end of November.
Owner Daniel Lee will be the business mastermind behind Odin, and he’s hired Brian Taft as his Brewmaster. If Brian’s name sounds familiar, it could be because he was previously the Brewmaster at the downtown Seattle location of Gordon Biersch. Most recently, he had been working as a brewer at Guinness (yes, THAT Guinness) in Dublin.
Daniel comes to the NW brewing industry after working at industry giant MillerCoors in their marketing department. Daniel had this to say about working for Miller, “I was happy to have been there, but also happy to move on to the craft industry. I learned a lot about mass branding and marketing, and I know how much of an impact craft beer has had on the big breweries; it’s not just an annoyance to them anymore. When you see Bud Light roll out their new Golden Wheat with such focus, that shows you just how much small craft brewers and consumers’ preferences are now influencing the big breweries.” As to why he’s opening up a brewery, “I’m one of those guys who has always had that dream in the back of my mind.”
Brian brings a long history of crafting fermented beverages to Odin. Having worked at three different breweries and three different wineries across three different continents, he has a unique view on the world of beer and wine that he brings to the new Seattle brewery. After starting out at Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon (owned by Dick Ponzi, founder of BridgePort Brewing), Brian moved on to a position with a winery in Michigan where he says he learned “exactly how not to make wine, which was a good experience.” He soon met his wife, and they moved to her home country of Ireland. There aren’t exactly a ton of wineries in Ireland, and Brian ended up trying out the beer industry by starting out at the bottom washing kegs at Porterhouse Brewing Company in Dublin. He worked his way up to Brewmaster eventually, while learning lots along the way and even helping them grow into a larger brewhouse. After that he had a six month stint working at a winery in New Zealand before coming to Seattle as Brewmaster at Gordon Biersch. They then ended up returning to Ireland where he scored a position as a brewer at Guinness. He’s now come back to the Seattle area and is excited about the new opportunity of building a brewery from the ground up.
Odin will be brewing on a 15bbl brewhouse with six 30bbl fermenters, which they acquired when two Hawaiian breweries merged earlier this year. The Odin brewery is located in South Park, just around the corner, but not in the same complex, from Baron Brewing (and former homes of Trade Route and Schooner Exact). Their main business will be distribution, but they also plan to have a small tap room with tables set up in the brewery. They’ll start off with keg distribution, but they hope to add bottles in Spring of 2010.
They are still tweaking recipes and they will continue to do so throughout the test batches, but their overwhelming goal seems to be creating beers that stand out in the marketplace as unique and different, but they still manage to be sessionable and makes consumers want to come back for more. ”Tentatively, we’re going to start with a Ruby Ale, a Porter (which goes back to Brian’s experience overseas), and we want to have a lighter, refreshing golden ale as well. When you look at the styles that are out in the local market here, the top two are IPAs and American Pale Ales. We talked about IPAs initially, but we decided that unless we want to join the nuclear arms race of bitterness it is really difficult to stand out. We didn’t want to go that route.” They will have seasonals and special releases as time allows, and Brian’s face lit up quite a bit at the mention of barrel-aging. Daniel also enjoys a good glass of wine, and with Brian’s experience working at wineries they are both excited about the possibilities of experimenting with barrel-aged beers.
For all of you extreme craft beer drinkers, don’t be misled by Odin’s motto: “The most adventurous microbrewery in America.” This motto comes about from Daniel’s interest in Viking/Norse mythology. According to Daniel, “The Vikings were amongst the most adventurous cultures in the history of the world. They weren’t afraid to go out into the great unknown. I have an affinity for that kind of mentality. I asked myself, ‘what kind of brewery would I have to build to live up to that spirit?’. At this point, it’s clearly a goal that we’ve set for ourselves. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to do crazy, idiotic things in the kettle and see what happens. We’re going to explore different things, but to us adventurous doesn’t only mean ingredients in the bottle. It means the whole experience of the product and how we communicate ourselves, and the service we give customers and consumers. We want to provide a unique and different product, but I don’t want to stop there. We’re not going to join the race of making extreme beers. We’re going to make stuff that’s not necessarily NW-style. We think you can be unique and different, but still manage to be sessionable. There are a lot of adventurous beers out there that we’ve tasted that are a really interesting concept, but you don’t want more than an 8oz sample of it. That is not our goal. We still want our beers to be very drinkable.”
They are off to a good start, but Daniel is really excited about getting the brewery up and running. “We’re getting to the point now where we can concentrate on the part of the business where we have the majority of our expertise. We’ve done the best we can building this brewery, but what I’m most excited about is that Brian now gets to start making the beer and I get to start marketing and selling the beer.”
I’d like to wish Brian and Daniel good luck with their new venture, and I’ll look forward to trying their beers in the near future.
Odin Brewing Company
9130 15th Pl. S. Suite F
Seattle, WA 98108
Phone: (206) 762-3909