REVIEW: 90 Shilling Ale from Odell Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Odell Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Style: Scottish Ale
ABV: 5.30%
IBU: 27
Appearance: Copper, Slightly Red with Off-White Foam
Aroma: Bread, Biscuit & Big Malt
Flavor: Sweet Malty Characters; Faint Hoppiness
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Roasted Pork or Quail; Dark Chocolate or Caramel Desserts

Odell Brewing Company is another one of those success stories. You know the ones, a home brewer goes pro and ends up a grand success. Those stories, the ones that, as home brewers and beer coinsures, we have a mixed bag of emotions about. We love to know that if one of us bravely stepped off the boat into the wide ocean and took the plunge, there’s a chance we’d come up kicking water and swimming hard at some point. But we also kinda hate them because they’ve gone before us, and are “there” already, making a living, doing something truly loved. Well, Odell is a grandfather on the craft brew scene, so don’t get your feathers too ruffled.

Founder, Doug Odell, along with his wife Wynne, and sister Corki got their start in 1989, which is, on a craft brewery timeline, the beginnings of the post probation climb back into popularity. There was only one other craft brewery operating in Colorado when they started, now there are probably over 200. So, they’ve been brewing for a while. They know their stuff.

“A schilling for a thought, a schilling for a friend, a schilling for what is sought and hoped for in the end”

90 Shilling is one of Odell’s flagship beers. It is one of two recipes Doug refined over 10 years of home brewing, and brought into the big game when they launched the brewery. This beer is an attempt to keep much of the flavor profile of a Scottish ale, while going a little lighter. It is named for the way Scotland taxed beer; only the best beers were taxed 90 schillings.

This schilling tax, generally, referred to the strength of the beer. A 90 schilling tax, in the past would have (approximately) denoted a beer of 6% ABV or higher. But, modern Scottish breweries do not particularly follow this system when using the “schilling” moniker.

One more thing that needs mentioning is Odell’s labels. They are truly beautiful. Most are very simple and vintage looking, having the feel of illustrations out of the past. OK, on to the beer.

The Pour and Aroma

90 Shilling Ale from Odell Brewing

90 shilling pours the color of liquid copper, reminding me of old pennies (no connection to the shilling here; shillings where a mix of silver and nickel). In the same color range as an Amber, but maybe just slightly to the red side of the spectrum. It lay down a nice finger of off-white foam that rocked and popped on top of good carbonation. The aroma was all bread, biscuit, and big malt. I thought I caught a couple whiffs of the tell-tall citrus notes of hops, but honestly it was pretty hard for me to be sure.

Mouth-feel and Taste

The mouth-feel is smooth and body is medium. This one tasted much like it smelled, heavily leaning into malt and yeast.

Not much nuance here. Though with it’s no nonsense robust presentation of sweet malty characters and lower ABV of 5.3%, I can easily imagine how nice this beer would be on a hot day after hard work. It could fit the category of thirst quencher quite nicely. A bit of hop character comes through at the far end of the taste. It is like the hops are peaking around corners, watching, but staying just out of reach of something big and scary and they end up as an afterthought, and not really taking their rightful position as a counter-balance to the high malt.

Completing the Impression

I don’t want you to think I’m shunning the Shilling here. It is not a bad beer. Granted, I believe it somewhat lacking in balance and would do well with a bit more hop edge to silence the sweetness. 90 Shilling doesn’t really fit into my “sipping” category the way other examples of the Scottish Ales do. These are beers that do well on a quiet winter evening, close to a fire, or a summer evening with the stillness being pushed around by slight breezes. This beer doesn’t stand up to that setting.

No doubt I will have this beer again on another day, but it has been relegated to a different idea of perfection then the style signatures it purports to heed. It is for a different season, a different need. Until that season and need, Odell makes a whole slew of other fantastic beers I can spend my shillings on.

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Jeff Flowers

Jeff Flowers

Jeff Flowers has been a self-described beer geek for over a decade now. When he's not chasing his daughter around, you can usually find him drinking a fresh brew and wasting tons of his time on both Google+ & Twitter.
Jeff Flowers

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