Monday, March 16, 2015

Tacoma's northside beer scene, part II--the Odd Otter

 Turn right outside the front door of Pacific Brewing, go up one block, and enter the taproom of the Odd Otter Brewing Co.  Open only since last November, the Otter has already made a splash with some distinctive recipes.  The most interesting of these has to be the Kentucky River Otter, based on a style known as Kentucky Common.  Called one of the few indigenous American beer styles, this top-fermenting beer developed in the Louisville area in the mid-19th century and was popular there until prohibition.
Very limited revivals have sometimes classed it as a sour mash, but a well-researched technical paper by Dienes and Harting concludes that the sour mash methods used by the bourbon distillers were not actually used by the Louisville breweries.  Nevertheless, the grain bill includes a generous amount of corn mixed in with the barley. 
An array of barrels stands between the pool table and the brewing equipment (7-bbl system with 14-bbl fermenters).  Half are bourbon barrels in which some Kentucky Rive Otter is aging; the other half are wine barrels last used for pinot noir and now used to mature a blonde ale, Bacchus Blonde.
  Odd Otter was launched by a small group of military physicians who work or worked at Joint Base Lewis-McChord nearby.  Owen McGrane, one of the founders, is head brewer, and John Hotchkiss IV is the general manager of the business side of brewing.  John describes his colleague as a free thinker in his approach to beer and brewing, not afraid to take chances/
"We take beer seriously and ourselves not all that seriously," he says.  He points to brews like Coconut Chai Porter and Ottzel Quatzel Pale, made with Peruvian blue corn, as other examples of how Owen likes to color outside the lines.
   The history of the building is a good story here, too.  John says it was a soldiers and sailors club during World War I and a USO club in World War II days.  "As Tacoma and JBLM have been points of debarkation for so many troops over the years, it was been fun for us, with our ties to the military, to have a building where we can recall those who served long ago."  In more recent decades, the building was a showroom for farm equipment and a print shop.  The old brick walls had been plastered over, and part of the restoration involved exposing this brick again.
   "The otter is a playful animal," John says, "and he seemed an appropriate mascot for our outlook here."  For sure, this is a brewery that's going to be making waves for a long time/
(Visited 03/12/15)

1 comment:

  1. I want to try that Kentucky River Otter: sounds so interesting!