On Monday, April 5, Odell Brewing will open the doors to its gorgeous multi-level taproom a stone’s throw from the banks of Sloan’s Lake. After over a year of outfitting the Kuhlman Building — an iconic space that previously held St. Anthony’s Hospital, a gymnasium, a dormitory and most recently a nunnery — the chamber has been completely transformed, with 16 Odell taps and a full kitchen serving pizza and snacks from chef Isaiah Ruffin. The room — which has been empty since 2013 — feels gargantuan, the high ceilings helping to augment a floor with a full capacity of 250 whenever the world allows. An elevated dining area is available to be converted into a stage, the place almost echoing with the live events yet to come. Perhaps best of all is the rooftop, which features a breezy patio with a calming view of the lake’s east end. The whole venue seems transitionary, a perfect emblem of what will hopefully soon be a social flourishing — the safe orchestration clearly acting as a frame for simpler and more gregarious times.
Spearheading the location’s distinct beer program is Marni Wahlquist — a Salt Lake City native who originally relocated to Fort Collins to attend Colorado State University. She’s since founded the now-shuttered fermentation food business Vital Cultures as well as working with Odell since 2014 where she managed both the barrel aging and Pilot Brewing programs. For anyone who has enjoyed the company’s funkier endeavors over the past seven years — including the Friek and Sippin’ Pretty — Wahlquist’s influence is clearly evident. Beginning with five taproom exclusive brews, she plans to be experimenting constantly, with a new beer being added to the roster every one to two weeks or as quickly as available space is gulped up. “I’m really excited to be serving our guests here and see what they gravitate towards,” smiled the brewmaster.
Ruffin discovered cooking by way of the US military — with six years in military intelligence providing a segue into seven years as a personal chef for generals and personnel. Already accustomed to international travel, he’s since developed his skills at such acclaimed sites as Forréttabarinn in Iceland and Ristorante Oliviero in Florence, as well as receiving his master’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems in 2018. With a resume that covers such large swathes of international food traditions, Ruffin says he has since gravitated towards pizza for the craft’s inherent potency. “I love the simplicity of pizza,” he said.
Beer-wise, the five introductory exclusives all favor tradition, with only the Chef’s Saison hinting at Wahlquist’s more unconventional leanings. The Perry Street Pils is classic and crisp, with Wahlquist stating that pilsners will be an ongoing focus of the new location. The Chef’s Saison was brewed with the assistance of Ruffin, with white peach puree, organic coriander seeds and Colorado malts veering the brew into epitomizing the season. The Kaleidohaze and Sloan’s DIPA will both please IPA fans, with the Sloan’s retaining easy drinkability despite sitting at a whopping 9% ABV. The Dark Helmet chocolate stout can and should be enjoyed with Ruffin’s bacon flight ($10) — which features succulent pork belly in three iterations — honey yum yum, hot honey and pesto.
A large portion of the menu’s ingredients are found locally, a distance defined as 63 miles — the range between Sloan’s and Odell’s original location in Fort Collins. Sauces and dough are made in-house, as is the mozzarella. Pies are broken down into year-round, seasonal and limited. Salumi ($15) — with pepperoni, mozzarella and tomato sauce — will always be available, as will the Raffaele ($15) — with mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato sauce. A standout from the seasonal is the Marni and Me ($16) which combines thick slabs of mushrooms with more delicate cuts of ham for one of the place’s best and most effortless offerings. The limited pie is No Chicken Sandwiches Here ($17) which comes topped with fried chicken, blue cheese, pickles and hot honey sauce — a more-than-perfect stand-in for its bun-based alternative. Each meal should be completed with the Lugene Sweet Cream, an indispensable refashioning of the brewery’s already delightful Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout.
This will mark Odell’s third location and the first that serves food of its own. While certainly being no newcomers to beer, the place provides a good indication that the team can master whatever they get their hands on.
Odell Brewing Sloan’s Lake Brewhouse is located at 1625 Perry St. It is open Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. -10 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.