Podcast Episode 137: Odell's Brendan McGivney Believes IPA Can Always Be Better

Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, is notoriously tight-lipped on recipe and process. But in this hops-forward conversation, COO Brendan McGivney discusses their slow, steady approach to changing their flagship IPA—so that it can stay the same.

Jamie Bogner May 31, 2020


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It’s one thing to make great beer, it’s another thing to do it consistently, and it’s another thing entirely to maintain such a high standard for three decades. But take a look at Odell Brewing’s medal history at the Great American Beer Festival, and one thing is apparent: They started strong, and never let off the gas. From their first medal in 1991 (their second year of business) through their 20th one in 2019, they’ve built a reputation on quality. Chief Operating Officer Brendan McGivney has been there for much of that history.

Today, McGivney oversees the brewing side of the business, and he has earned a reputation for hops savvy—a useful skill set for a brewery with a flagship IPA that remains its best seller today, 13 years after winning its first GABF gold.

In this episode, McGivney steps to the mic for the first time, sharing thoughts on hops choices, blending, iteration, shipping, selection, processing, and agriculture.

“One of the reasons we’ve been so successful with some of our hoppy beers is that we’re not so stringent on [recipe],” McGivney says. “IPA started with three hops, and [now] IPA has nine hops in it. Every year we’re fading some in and out, based on the performance of that crop year. You want to maintain the flavor profile of the brand. And you can do that with lots of different hop varieties. If you’re a good brewer, you don’t need to rely on the two that you built your recipe on.”

McGivney dives into Odell’s approach to building recipes that connect with the agricultural interests of hops growers, for relationships that benefit everyone. He discusses their finicky approach to getting the most out of hops, from cold shipping through fresh grinding. (“Oxidation comes down to temperature and time, so if you can keep your temp down, you can extend your time. It’s that simple.”) The discussion turns to hops-varietal interaction, and the way smaller amounts of certain hops highlight and balance the big characters of others. He also delves into hopping techniques, from the “cool pool” to hopback to hammer mill, and how those processes impact the flavor of finished beer.

The conversation closes by touching on pandemic drinking and brewing trends—beer drinkers’ shrinking appetite for rampant experimentation, and the search for comfort in familiar, trusted brands.

This episode is brought to you by:

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Old Orchard supplies craft juice blends from the heart of Beer City USA. As the industry blending experts, they supply major national brands and growing breweries alike. They've been the best-kept juicy secret in craft beverage for years, but now the secret's out. Breweries across the board are experiencing a seamless transition to Old Orchard as their new juice supplier. So hop aboard the Old Orchard fruit train; their sample kit starter pack is waiting for you at www.oldorchard.com/brewer.

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This episode is brought to you by Hopsteiner–your premium hop supplier dedicated to delivering quality hops and hop products in every package. Visit Hopsteiner.com for a complete list of offerings or select “shop hops” to start ordering today.

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This episode is brought to you by Brewers Publications, publishers of “Historical Brewing Techniques: The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing” by Lars Marius Garshol. Equal parts history, cultural anthropology, social science, and travelogue, “Historical Brewing Techniques” describes Northern European farmhouse brewing and fermentation methods that are vastly different from modern craft brewing. Order your copy of Historical Brewing Techniques today at BrewersPublications.com.

Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].