Doug Odell on Flagship Beers
Doug Odell on Flagship Beers
In recognition of Flagship February, I would like to add a cautionary word. On opening a brewery, there is excitement when one of your brands really starts to do well. It’s logical to try and build on that success to continue your growth. We at Odell Brewing have found success building a portfolio of well-performing beers.
My interest in American Craft Brewing began when I moved to Sonoma County, California, in 1976. I was a home brewer and I had heard about New Albion Brewing. I bought their beer on occasion. I remember going to see the brewery in some rural location near the town of Sonoma and Jack McAuliffe was nice enough to show me around. His brew kettle was a 55-gallon stainless steel drum. As I remember, New Albion brewed one beer, New Albion Ale.
I was fortunate to get a job at Anchor Brewing in 1978. I remember we brewed 200-250 bbls of Steam and 35 bbls of Porter each week. What I learned about these two early American Craft Brewers was that one beer brand was the large majority or all that they offered. Now, New Albion is gone, and Anchor relies on much broader beer offerings.
While living in Seattle, I witnessed the same thing with some of the new Northwest craft breweries: Grant’s with Scottish Ale, Widmer with Alt, and Redhook with Redhook Ale. Today, Grant’s is long gone, and Redhook and Widmer are unrecognizable from what they were early on.
When we opened Odell Brewing in 1989, of course we were determined to be successful, but also to not be a one trick pony. Even so, within 2 years, 90 Shilling had become well over half the beer we brewed. That changed in 1993 when we brought out Easy Street Wheat. Within 2 years, they became equals, representing well over half of what we brewed.
This is where we wanted to be. Not reliant on one beer, because if the flagship beer stumbles, the brewery stumbles. Fast forward twelve years, to 2007 when we brought out our IPA, and it wasn’t long before we had three beers constituting well over 50% of what we brewed. The 90 Shilling and IPA were pretty even, but Easy Street had been replaced with 5 Barrel Pale, which wasn’t far below the others.
Today, we still have three beers which make up well over 50% of the beer we brew.
90 Shilling and IPA are still there, while the newcomer is Sippin Pretty. All three are pretty close in sales.
The success of any business depends on a lot of variables and I think striving for a balanced family of beers has certainly contributed to ours. After all, out of all the breweries I have mentioned, only Odell Brewing is still both independently owned and thriving.
In between all this, I tried to get a job at Redhook Brewery in Seattle. I remember having an interview with Paul Shipman. He didn’t hire me but years later when he showed up at our brewery, I was able to thank him for not hiring me.
I can’t thank those guys enough in guiding me to start our own brewery. It all worked out and I am grateful for that.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.