Founded in 1989, Odell Brewing Company has become a staple in Fort Collins, Colorado, with its beer showing up all over the Midwest. Now, after 30 years of success in the beer business, the latest venture for the brewery is wine.
The OBC Wine Project has been in the works for about two years, with winemaker Travis Green brought in in 2019, an experienced vintner and vineyard owner.
“What kind of brought me over to Odell was just the ambition and the innovation that we’re showing in this project,” Green said.
“When I first talked to Odell back in November, it seemed like a crazy idea to begin with, the idea of a brewery branching out into a winery, using all of that institutional knowledge to put a really exciting product in cans. That was immediately appealing to me.
“But doing it in such a holistic way that’s pulling in all the different pieces of the brewery as well, it’s exciting to see.”
In 2007 and 2008, Green planted a vineyard and had a winery with his family in North Georgia. From there he acted as a wine consultant for a few years, working with five different vineyards in Georgia. He later became the winemaker for City Winery Atlanta for three years, an urban winery in downtown Atlanta.
“Now we’re bringing in those same sensibilities to Odell,” Green said. “Even though we’re in Fort Collins, we’re still an urban winery. We don’t necessarily have a vineyard so we’re not bound by that geography. We’re working both with vineyards in Colorado and in Willamette and Yakima. Bringing the knowledge from those regions was super important as well.”
Since making the move to Colorado in January 2020, Green has spent time getting to know the Colorado industry and regions, including taking a trip to Palisade, Colorado and connecting with the viticulture specialist at CSU.
“Obviously the climate is very different, not only from the East Coast, but also from the West Coast vineyards as well,” Green added. “We’re so much drier, we’ve got that higher elevation, and we’re pulling in a little bit more sun.”
Odell going into wine was a natural extension of what they already were, as the brewery has always been interested in experimenting with fermentation in general. The co-owners of Odell (an employee-owned company) were already interested in wine prior to the initiation of OBC Wine Project, and Matt Bailey, head of engineering developed an intolerance to barley in the past couple of years, and so he couldn’t enjoy a lot of the beers Odell was making, which spurred the project a bit more.
“It’s going to be a learning experience, becoming familiar with the viticulture in this area, but Odell having such a heritage in this area, we have a lot of those connections already built,” Green said.
The OBC Wine Project launched its first line of canned wines in June, the portfolio making up a Red Blend, a White Pinot Gris Blend, a Rosé and a Rosé with Bubbles. 30 years of packaging knowledge led Odell to use cans as the format for its initial launch. Customers who are looking for bottled wine can look forward to that release this fall.
Customers will soon be able to enjoy the wine in a tasting room set to be built and open in the spring 2021, located directly adjacent to the brewery.
“The hope is over time that we’ll have a common consumption area between the brewery and the winery so that people can come back and forth and see how the brewery is reflected in the winery,” Green said.
Green said what initially hooked him to Odell — the brewery staff, who are not only knowledgeable about the beer they sell, but excellent at explaining and educating people without coming across as lecturing anyone — he wants to replicate in the winery side. While a winery tap room manager will be hired, Green hopes that staff will ultimately be interchangeable between working in the brewery tap room and winery tap room.