One of my first memorable beer enjoyment experiences was of Odell Brewing’s 90 Shilling Ale, back in the early 1990s. 90 Shilling was rich, malt-forward, and—at 5.3 ABV—very drinkable. It was also the first excellent Colorado-brewed beer I’d found. For much of the 1990s, I rated pubs based largely on whether they served 90 Shilling on draught.
Founded in 1989 in Fort Collins, Odell Brewing was the second microbrewery to open in Colorado. Still a family-run brewery, Odell in recent years has started to experiment with new methods including barrel aging and new styles including Belgian sours. With Saboteur, Odell Brewing uses Brettanomyces yeast and barrel aging to jazz up a brown ale. Saboteur is also 100% bottle-conditioned, which means that all of the carbonation is produced by yeast in the bottle rather than added by forced CO2 carbonation.
Saboteur is dark brown and opaque, with a huge, off-white head that is rocky and lasting. As I inhale near the glass, I get aromas of tropical flowers and perfume. The first sip brings chocolate and boozy flavors, and a rich mouthfeel. A subtle sourness balances the moderately sweet flavors, with dark fruit (prunes?) in the aftertaste. Sabouteur is complex, rich, and intoxicating; and its sourness is tempered by malt sweetness and barrel aging. I recommend savoring and sharing this 10% ABV ale with friends.
Brettanomyces is a genus of yeast long reviled by vintners because of its tendency to create off-flavors in wine. Brewers, though, prize it for its ability to contribute complex and unusual flavors to ales. ”Old stock” ales in Britain derived character and slight sourness from aging in vessels that had naturally-occurring Brettanomyces; modern-day ale brewers sometimes intentionally use Brettanomyces alone or in conjunction with other yeast strains in order to produce funky and complex flavors. I’ll take a more in-depth look at Brettanomyces in a future post.