Ask any beer nerd what the best state in the country is for craft beer and you will usually get some combination of California, Oregon and some votes for Vermont. For the most part I agree with that but, there is one state that is not mentioned enough in my opinion and that is Colorado.

Colorado is home to a slew of fantastic breweries including; Avery, Crooked Stave, Oscar Blues, New Belgium, Great Divide. Funkworks and Odell. The fact that all of these breweries are located either in or close to Denver makes me want to pack up my belongings and move to Colorado.

Odell Woodcut No 8 bottle

I have been lucky enough to try a large number of different beers from all of these breweries with one exception. For some reason, I have very few chances to try any of Odell’s offerings but, that is changing today as I received a bottle of Woodcut No. 8 to review. It is a big American-style barleywine that is part of there annual Cellar Series release. The beer is aged in virgin oak barrels and clocks in at a healthy 10.3 percent ABV.

As I anxiously twist of the cage and start pulling the cork I realize the cork is coming out on its own. It quickly shoots off with an unexpectedly loud pop that had me fearing of a gusher. Woodcut No. 8 stayed in the bottle so the fear of wasted beer and a stained carpet subside. As I fill the glass I am surprised by the lively carbonation. It pours like a pale ale with a nice inch of rocky head.Held up to the light the beer is a very inviting rich dark amber with no sign of haze.

When I think of an American barleywine beers like Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot and Stone’s Old Guardian come to mind, both of which have a huge malt profile, but an equally sizable hop presence that work together to slap you in the face. So going into this beer that is what I expected. Not the case with Woodcut No. 8. This beer smells more like a softer English-style barleywine with very minimal hop character. This beer has a pretty subtle nose. The first thing that I pick up is lots of oak and alcohol along with hints of caramel, raisons and coconut. It takes a bit of time with my nose buried in the glass to really pick up on the more subtle qualities of the beer.

Odell Woodcut No 8

The first sip continues the theme of bucking my expectations. Again, it is definitely not what I would normally peg as an American style barley wine. Minimal hops and a softer more delicate flavor profile than what I had pictured. It starts with a malty sweetness that is in no way cloying or over powering. Then I start to get hints of toffee, vanilla, brown sugar and prunes. The oak tannins are a big player throughout the sip and the 10.3% ABV is very noticeable. The finish starts out with a bit of sweetness and a decent alcohol burn but hints of brown sugar and oak linger for a while.

Odell Woodcut No. 8
BREWERY: Odell Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Fort Collins, Colo.
STYLE: Barleywine
ABV: 10.3 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $18.99
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml bottle
Overall, I was pleased with this beer. It was not what I had expected but, it was quite enjoyable. If given a pour of this beer blind, I would lean more towards the English style rather than the American style of barleywine due to its richer sweeter flavor profile and lack of hops. The oak was a bit heavy at times but the caramel and coconut nuances that came from the barrel were welcome additions. I also noticed that this beer was more enjoyable when served a touch colder than I normally would for the style.1 I found the alcohol less noticeable in the colder pour which helped clear the way for some of the more subtle nuances. I definitely recommend picking up a bottle if you have access to it. I would also recommend picking up a second bottle to lay down for a couple of years. Woodcut No. 8 seemed like a good candidate to improve after a few years. If the alcohol would fade a bit and the oak would integrate a bit more with the beer I think it could be a real stand out. Cheers to Odell and I hope I get a chance to try a few more of their beers soon.
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