Jul 25, 2011

Odell Brewing Woodcut #5

This is a review of a promotional sample received from the brewery.

Brewing beer is a science. Breweries go to great extent to ensure that their product is delivered and enjoyed just as they had planned when coming up with recipes and filling bottles with that liquid gold. As much quality control and strict regulation may go into making a beer, things do happen — the unexplainable contamination of a batch or the failure of a bottle conditioned beer to activate. These things happen.

The first bottle of Odell Brewing’s Woodcut #5 that I received looked absolutely amazing in the glass (as you can see in the first photo below) and smelled wonderful, but it poured “still,” lacking any hint of carbonation despite the cork popping open. I wrote the Odell representative that I was working with to let them know about bottle #1452’s condition. I wasn’t complaining (far from it as I still enjoyed the beer) or asking for another sample. I just wanted to provide the brewery with a heads up on the beer’s condition.

They were so thankful that that sent me a second bottle, insisting that I enjoy the beer as it was meant to be enjoyed. I’m not sure how other brewery’s would have acted in this instance as it’s never happened before, but I must commend Odell Brewing for their excellent customer service and graciousness in providing, not only the samples, but also the idea to publish a comparison between the two bottles.

Odell Woodcut photoLove this beers color

The first sample arrived with great excitement as I wasn’t really expecting to have the opportunity to try the latest Woodcut release. It was opened a couple of days later and shared with my father-in-law before it was time to hit the grill for dinner. I’m not sure if it was the lack of carbonation or if it was in a different barrel than the second sample, but this one exhibited a lighter oak presence and a more pronounced fruity character.


Bottle #1452 released its cork with a pop, but that was the only evidence of carbonation. Despite the lack of any bubble activity, the beer certainly looks good sitting in the glass — rich, rusty copper in color.


Dark fruit (fig, raisin) and sugary sweetness dominate the nose as wafts of Belgian candied sugar and oak come into play. A touch of vanilla and a light funkiness creep in, as well. There’s a hint of booze from the 11.3% ABV.


Despite the lack of carbonation, the beer tasted quite wonderful. It’s a big Belgian Quad in terms of the 11.3 % ABV and the rich, dark fruits. The oak aging adds a subtle woodiness and vanilla component to the beer that goes well with the combination of Belgian yeasts driving the beer’s primary flavors. There’s a solid amount of heat on the back-end that hangs around for a good while.


It’s not fair to fully rate this beer as it wasn’t enjoyed as the brewery had intended, but I will say that I still thoroughly enjoyed it’s fruitier character.

Rating: N/A

The second sample, bottle #1363 (obviously from earlier in the bottling run), arrived this past Friday. This bottle was fully carbonated and offered me the chance to enjoy the beer as it was meant. It also allowed for the opportunity to compare two samples from the same batch of beer — a beer that shared characteristics with the earlier sample, but was also different in it’s own right.

I’m not sure if it was the carbonation having an affect on the flavors or if this portion of the batch was aged in a different barrel than the other bottle, but it had a much stronger wood character. The dark fruits of the Quadrupel were present, but they were more subdued as the stronger oak presence demanded more attention.

Odell Woodcut photoA poor photo, but it shows the beer’s head well.


I poured and enjoyed the beers in two different areas of the house, but when held up to the light this second bottle showcased the same color as the first (despite the bad photo above). The one finger tan head held for a little while before disappearing quickly.


As I said in the intro, bottle #1363 has a much stronger oak presence to it as lighter hints of Belgian yeast, candied sugar and dark fruits come and go with each sniff. The higher ABV makes it’s presence known from the start, but really asserts itself more as the beer warms in the glass.


It’s amazing how a little texture on the tongue can change a beer. The light carbonation makes for a smooth drinking quad, but has enough of a bite to cut through the sweetness the beer maintains. The oak is much stronger in this sample with a healthy dose of vanilla and caramel malts as the dark fruits and yeast come in more toward the very warming finish. There’s a touch of a latent sour note late in the finish that I’ve noted in many barrel aged beers I’ve had over the years, but it’s nothing that detracts from the mostly sweet Belgian character of the beer.


It’s quite interesting to see how a beer changes from bottle to bottle, especially in a beer like this that has had some time in a barrel. As scientific as brewing is, there’s always that outside element that imparts its own distinct mark on a beer. Odell Brewing’s Woodcut #5 is a big beer that I can see improving with a year or two under its belt in a nice dark, cool basement.

Rating: 4.25/5

I’m always thankful for the opportunity to try these wonderful beers that breweries send my way, but I want to give a special thanks to Odell for being so cooperative and generous when it came to my experience with this beer.

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