When Odd13 Brewing’s head brewers Eric Larken and Brandon Boldt initially convinced co-owner Ryan Scott to take a leap of faith on trying out a hazy New England-style IPA, Scott had some reservations.
Having both lived in the Northeast, Larken and Boldt were familiar with this beer style. But as Scott saw it, cloudiness and a softer mouthfeel—both hallmarks of a New England IPA—were imperfections, flaws resulting from sloppy brewing processes. Now he was going to purposefully craft a hazy brew? He proceeded with caution.
The Lafayette-based brewery’s first batch of the Codename: Superfan American IPA was ready before label art could be put together for the cans. Still not convinced that they had a winning product, Odd13 decided to slap television test pattern stickers on the cans, the words “This Is A Test” printed clearly on the label.
Unlike West Coast and traditional IPAs, which are the most ubiquitous styles at Colorado craft breweries, New England style IPAs tend to pack a less intensely bitter punch and carry more of hops’ juice-like flavor profile. Another distinguishing trait of this style is the foggy look. The haze is thanks to yeast and hop matter left in suspension in the finished product, which softens the brew’s mouthfeel. New Englands also tend to be a bit less carbonic than other IPAs, and thicker as well (some even posses milk shake-like viscosity).
Odd13 took a hesitant first crack at the style, creating an IPA very much on the light end of the New England spectrum. But it was still a distinct departure from the Front Range IPAs we’ve grown accustomed to—and people bought it. In fact, it became a minor internet sensation. And that’s where the story of Superfan’s continued evolution gets interesting.
“People on the beer social websites, like BeerAdvocate, got really into this,” Scott says.
Dedicated beer connoisseurs—the ones who take to forums like BeerAdvocate to discuss tasting notes and review new releases with fervent enthusiasm—were taking note. Rather than brush off these commentators, Odd13 decided to pay attention, looking to these dedicated suds lovers for feedback on their Codename: Superfan recipe.
The first batch didn’t come out quite right, so the brewers switched up the yeast cell count and hop bill. About three weeks later, they released another round of test pattern-labeled cans, this time marked with a 2.0. “The beer was good,” he says. “People were interested in comparing 1.0 and 2.0.”
Scott, ever the perfectionist and a self-described BeerAdvocate “lurker,” would sift through the “Favorite Colorado IPAs?” thread and read the enthusiasts’ comments. Generally, he says, they mirrored his own critiques of the beer, and he looked to them for confirmation. 1.0 wasn’t hazy enough, they said, and he agreed. The next round needed to be cloudier still, with juicier hops, and that was the direction Scott and his brewers wanted to go, too. The tweaking continued, and loyal fans eagerly discussed the process with Scott online, giving their unsolicited two cents on the haziness levels or suggesting specific hops varietals.
“You ever think about adding Galaxy or Mosaic?” wrote user Tylerstubs regarding the 2.0 version, to which Scott responded with a detailed response on Odd13’s hops contracts and flagship beers’ hop bills.
“Dat Transparency!” responded Tylerstubs.
“People had questions and I had the answers,” says Scott, who was happy to indulge his fans. After all, as he explains, these aficionados are the ones who hype the product, or, as Scott says, “evangelize it.” Four test iterations of Superfan were released, critiqued, and tweaked—all within less than three weeks of each other.
The final product, which we suppose you could call Superfan 5.0, is medium-thick bodied, light in color, and with a juicy bitterness and citrusy brightness that is mellowed by a touch of earthy haze. Although it was just released in January, it’s already been much talked about and, evidently, much consumed. Superfan has made major waves amongst beer enthusiasts, and it’s flying off the shelves. I can attest to its popularity myself—I tried four different liquor stores before getting my hands on some, each one of them already sold out. One of the first to can a hazy, fruity New England-style IPA here in the Centennial State, Odd13 is poised to be a trendsetter in Colorado’s thriving craft scene.
Incorporating internet-driven feedback is a pretty interesting step in a new direction, too, and it’s no surprise that Scott was the one to take it. He’s always taken his recipes extremely seriously, aiming for precision in his process and seeking commentary from experts. Scott spent an entire year researching the brewing process before he first began making beer at home in 2009. And when he finally did dive in, he started entering competitions right away. He wanted judges’ feedback.
“If he wants to do something, he does it right,” says Scott’s wife (and Odd13 co-owner) Kristin Scott. “He does it until he gets it where he wants it and it’s top notch. That’s his personality.” Larken and Boldt are the same way. Both have degrees in the sciences (biology and geology, respectively), and the pair talk through and document each brew meticulously. They even take cell counts (with a microscope and hemocytometer) throughout fermentation. This practice, which yields a precise measure of the yeast’s health in the fermentation process, is uncommon amongst startup craft brewers. Their exacting attention to detail is nothing short of scientific, and their process is paying dividends.
Since opening in Old Town Lafayette in 2013, Odd13’s business has grown two-fold every year, and even that figure might not even fully reflect just how much of hit their beer has been. Odd13 maxed out last year—meaning they literally couldn’t produce any more beer—and have had to invest in new equipment to up their capacity. With a shiny new facility down the road from their tap house (and even that is set to be expanded as soon as possible), a new 30 barrel ABE brew house, two new 60 barrel fermenters, a new 60 barrel Brite tank, and two more 60 barrel fermenters on the way, the Scotts and their team are prepared to grow 300 percent in the coming year.
Hopefully that’s sufficient to keep Codename: Superfan on the shelves long enough for you to pick up a six pack and experience it yourself. Feedback, welcome.