Odd13 Brewing: The Legend of Colorado’s Superfan
Every good comic book character needs an origin story, and the one for our hero, Codename: Superfan, begins a few years back, not in Gotham but in Portland, Maine. That’s where a young man who made beer for Allagash Brewing Co. decided to make a change.
Eric Larkin had lived in New England for nearly 10 years, but moved west in search of mountains, and to be closer to his family in Texas. He found a job in the small Colorado town of Lafayette, where a neighborhood brewery called Odd13 was getting ready to make a big move of its own.
In September 2015, Larkin became head brewer at Odd13’s brand new 30-barrel production facility, which was ramping up operations just a mile from its original location.
An Unlikely Hero
Husband and wife Ryan and Kristin Scott opened Odd13 Brewing in 2013 in southeastern Boulder County, a quiet area about 20 minutes northwest of Denver. The Scotts had moved to Colorado from Chicago three years earlier when Ryan, a software engineer, was hired by Boulder-based Rally Software, but it wasn’t long before Kristin, an MBA with an entrepreneurial streak, turned their passion for beer and her husband’s homebrewing hobby into a new business.
The couple designed a superhero theme inspired by Ryan Scott’s childhood love of comics: an origin story for each beer and flashy comic-style label art drawn by their friend Jesse Glenn. “The goal for the artwork was to create packaging that would get the customer to take the first step and pick up a beer from a relatively unknown brewery,” says Ryan, who originally did all the brewing himself while working full-time at Rally Software, where he’s still employed. “After that, we knew the liquid in the package had to speak for itself.”
Although Eric Larkin wasn’t a superhero buff before he started at Odd13, he did know about hops—and was eager to explore them. “I saw that Odd13 had a bunch of hoppy beers, which was exciting because we didn’t brew traditional American IPAs at Allagash,” he says.
So before he even set foot in Colorado, Larkin called Brandon Boldt, the brewer at Odd13’s 10-barrel taproom, to ask if he’d ever considered brewing beer along the lines of The Alchemist, Trillium Brewing, and Tree House Brewing. “He said ‘Yes,’” Larkin recalls.
At the time, Colorado had yet to embrace what has come to be known as New England-style IPAs. Often described as significantly less bitter than traditional West Coast IPAs, the beers have a hazy appearance, a creamier mouthfeel, and heady, tropical aromas and flavors that some compare to juice.
Although Larkin and Boldt were on the same page, Ryan Scott took some convincing. Coming from a homebrewing background, “I put a ton of effort into producing finished beers that didn’t look like homebrew,” Scott says. “They were crystal clear.” Despite his skepticism, Scott let his brewers take a stab at the style.
What was this mysterious hazy beer’s secret identity? The brewers would only give customers its code name: Superfan, because Larkin and Boldt were super-fans of New England-style beers.
An immediate hit, it quickly became the taproom’s top seller. In the following months, Odd13 stopped canning its previous flagships, a West Coast-style Red IPA and a Double IPA. The new six-packs came with a hand-stamped date code and a helpful tagline: “Haze is expected. Drink fresh.”
Odd13 followed Superfan with a series of smaller canned releases—all of them hazy IPAs—and fans lined up. “We’ve had days where we sold out of 200-plus cases in two hours,” Scott says.
But the beers also inflamed passion and ignited a debate among brewers and drinkers in Colorado about whether IPAs should be clear or not, and whether hazy IPAs were the result of deliberate process or laziness; Larkin and Scott both say they put a huge amount of work into making their beers look and taste exactly right. “It got some negative attention,” Larkin says. “But it’s cool to see how the style has caught on.” Indeed, there are about two dozen other Colorado breweries now making New England-style IPAs.
Hazy IPAs account for about 85 percent of Odd13’s production, but the style isn’t the brewery’s only specialty. The core lineup includes wild and kettle-soured ales like Vincent Van Couch, a 4.8 percent ABV session sour, and Hawaiian Bartender, a dry-hopped kettle sour.
A fan of the brewery before his Denver restaurant First Draft Taproom & Kitchen opened in July 2015, Mark Slattery knew he wanted to carry Odd13 on tap. When he visited the brewery to sample beers, “the first thing I noticed was that their range of styles was phenomenal,” he recalls. “But they were also gracious and creative, and [our] interest was mutual.”
Odd13 has since brewed a house beer for the restaurant, a hoppy wheat ale called The Economist. “Any time they come up with something new, I say, ‘Just send it. Don’t even ask,’” Slattery adds. “Because it’s always something fun and different.”
“We brew what we are most passionate about, and especially the [styles] that also sell well,” Scott says. “I have no interest in brewing a traditional American Blonde, or Amber, so you won’t find those at our place.”
It’s been these types of risky, growth-oriented decisions that have helped Odd13 find success, Scott says. Despite opening their 30-barrel production brewery in January 2016, by July its capacity was maxed out, mostly due to Superfan sales. So in December, Odd13 took over the unit next door, knocking down the wall and tripling its square footage. Over the next year, the Scotts plan to add several 60- and 120-barrel tanks along with an eight-head canning line.
Odd13 has also shifted to a larger distributor and streamlined its number of distributed IPAs from 12 in 2016 to eight in 2017. The brewery expects to make over 6,000 barrels this year, up from 3,500 in 2016. It’s a feat of super-powered strength, and one that might not have happened without the brewery’s own forward-thinking superheroes.
“We had some idea that 2016 was going to be big because of how popular the test batches of Codename: Superfan had been,” Scott says. “But there was no way to really gauge how big it actually would turn out to be.”
4 60-barrel fermentors
5 10-barrel fermentors
2 7-barrel blending tanks
1 13-hectoliter foeder
30 wine and spirits barrels
Codename: Superfan: Flaked wheat gives this IPA a hazy look. Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, and Equinox hops balance floral and grassy notes with big orange, lemon, and pineapple flavors. 6.5% ABV
Hoperella: First brewed to celebrate Odd13’s third anniversary, the Galaxy, El Dorado, Centennial, and Mandarina Bavaria hops lend flavors of sweet orange to this juicy IPA with almost no bitterness. 7.1% ABV
n00b: The first beer brewed at Odd13’s larger production facility, n00b is heavily dry-hopped with Mosaic and El Dorado and has flavors and aromas of sweet berries, mango, pineapple, and orange. 6% ABV
Vincent Van Couch: Similar to a Berliner Weisse, this beer is more tart than sour, combining the funky flavors of Brettanomyces with floral notes brought on by heavy dry-hopping. 4.6% ABV
Hawaiian Bartender: A sour Blonde brewed with mango and pineapple, the beer smells like a mango smoothie, but packs a sour punch on the palate. 6.7% ABV ■