Odell Red Ale & Double Pilsner
Odell; a brewery that, 18 months ago were largely esoteric over here, are now pretty much ubiquitous in the fridges of beer drinkers up and down the the UK. Get past the awesome labels (and they are truly, truly works of art) and you’ve got a brewery that I sometimes struggle with; capable of moments of sheer sublimity (St Lupulin), only to be tempered with straight-ahead drinkers of no real distinction such as Levity. The beers aren’t bad by a long shot – well made, tasty and pleasant – but I’m still struggling to really get under Odell’s skin. For me, they remain a Jack of All Trades, but Master of None.
This latest brace do nothing to help me in that quest. First up, Red Ale (6.5%abv). It lives up to the style, for sure – it’s an amazing red colour with a flavour-promising tan head. On the nose, there’s plenty of Brown Sugar and biscuit; and this carries through to the taste. Clean – despite all the complexity of the malt bill – there’s sweetness, a little black cherry, some drying coffee and bitter chocolate notes, with a very subtle, peppery hop finish. A restrained beer, it does an excellent job at hiding the admittedly high abv, but doesn’t really linger in the imagination. Pleasant enough without any fireworks; is this Odell Brewing in a nutshell?
Maybe not. Next up, Double Pilsner.As I poured, I contemplated what a ‘Double Pilsner’ might be. I must admit, the term scares me a little; subtle beers such as pilsner don’t lend themselves to the ‘doubling’ of anything unless you’re 100% committed to creating something new (such as the high-water-mark My Antonia). At 8.1% abv, I was certainly expecting a massive kick that, thankfully, never came. Kudos to the brewer; the abv is hidden as well as Ken Bates’s wallet on this occasion.
Straw-pale, there’s a lot going on in the nose. Some creamy malt, a busy floral thing going on, and a slightly scary soapy note underscoring everything. That soapiness comes right through into the sip, which is undeniably smooth; but there’s just too much going on here for me. Again, I drank it all – and it wasn’t unpleasant – but as for ‘Double Pilsner‘? I’m still struggling with it. For me, Pilsner is a style built on subtlety and grace; flavours that come and go in a fleeting fashion, with refreshment and thirst-quenching qualities to the fore. You can’t just go an throw a shitload of hops and alcohol at it and declare it ‘Double’ without losing something in translation. Odell’s Double Pilsner ends up a bit muddled, and suffers for it.