Here's an opportunity that we simply couldn't let pass by. With an ear to the ground via twitter and lips smacking at the thought of their beers from comments we'd read here and there, we've been taking note in recent weeks of a rather new and exciting brewing venture going by the name of Odyssey Brewing. Great reviews and positive words of praise have been popping up all over the internet for a good while now. When we got wind of a tap takeover by them and a meet the brewer experience at our favourite local place to be – Northern Monk's refectory here in Leeds, we hurriedly put it into our diaries and made our way along a couple of Saturday's ago.
So who are Odyssey Brew Co?
A husband and wife team producing hop-forward beers in a micro-brewery as well as running there own bar-come-taphouse on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border. With a wonderful success story behind them in a relatively short space of time. The pub came first (converted into such from its previous set up as a launderette) and is now the chief outlet for the beers produced by their micro-brewery 'Odyssey Brewing'. The brewery is operating in the beautiful location of a national trust estate in a grade II converted barn near Bromyard, Herefordshire.
|The converted barn (left) and the pub 'Beer In Hand' (middle & right). Photo: Odyssey Brew Co|
How did the Tap Takeover at Northern Monk come about?
“Well I almost fell off my chair when I picked up a voicemail from a northern chap named Russell from Northern Monk in Leeds” Mitchell (chief brewer) told us...“I thought he was just calling to see if I wanted to buy some of his beer for the pub. I called back and he said would we be interested in doing a tap takeover up there. We've had Northern Monk's beer at our tap house and really enjoyed them. Soon as we said yes we'd be very happy to, we named a date, brought the beer and job done!”.
Odyssey have brought at least eleven of their beer range to Leeds and Northern Monk's taps are proudly displaying them as we take a long tasty look at the beers on offer. From their Tiny IPA 'Pocket Nuke' which is staggeringly low in abv at 2.5% but packs one hell of a hop punch, to their take on an Imperial breakfast stout 'Fiendish Breakfast' at a hefty 9.9%. (See the bottled beers review below). “This is probably my favourite beer of ours, at the moment anyway. Said Mitchell. My mind is always changing! I'd been tinkering away and working on the recipe for months and eventually when I was happy with it I thought right, that's it, I'm not going to change a thing now! We use coffee beans in the mash, coffee beans in the boil, fresh coffee added to the keg,some treacle and a bit of sea salt to bring out the sweetness.”
Elsewhere from the taps..
We took a sip or two from their Citra v Galaxy combo that is 'Ego Wars #2'. One of a series of IPA's that deliciously combine two hop varieties and a very recent brew to Odyssey's catalogue. This one as you'd expect is juicy and full of passion fruits, a lovely aroma of fruit salads and a real palate pleaser. At a steady 6.5% it's a perfect example of this style. “When we're brewing a beer like this I basically weep over the kettle when I'm adding these hops, they are so expensive. We keep the malt base in the background and just let the hops sing”.
It's easy to see that Odyssey don't shy away from lashing in bucket loads of hops... “I'll go as far to say that we're probably late hoping our beers as much as any brewery in the UK right now and perhaps beyond. The hop-heads love our beer, I'm a hop-head and that's one reason we really seem to have taken off”.
What else have Odyssey brought to the Monk's table?
We'll start with an Indian red ale 'Double Zombie Blood' 7%. “An American take on an amber ale”. Very deep and rich in colour yet apparently only using 2% of coloured malts in the whole grain bill. Slight sweetness and smokiness from the malts but a smooth dry finish. 'Blackout' is possibly my favourite to date amongst a whole load of goodness from Odyssey. This black beer is insanely drinkable and made with the addition of oranges. Mixing the toasty black malts with the citrus, zest, and floral qualities, this drink is spectacularly different from the norm. 5.5% abv and pure joy in a glass.
'Hop Fiend' is a magnificent 9.2% DIPA and beautifully murky sat inside our little NMBCo taster glass. I think this 'third' is plenty enough given the amount of tasting we're getting through this afternoon. Naturally everything's big about this bad boy. Huge tropical hits, big aroma and bitterness. Dangerously giving the impression in the mouth that it is much lower in abv than it really is!
Mitchell and his wife have come a long way in a very short amount of time. Their beers are gaining quite the reputation for hop lovers across the UK and rightly so. Passionate people bringing a great diverse beer selection to a city of craft ale lovers is a match made in heaven. I'm confident the brewing journey they've embarked on has already assured them they did the right thing in ditching the nine-to-five daily grind they both held previously. May their Odyssey continue and be fruitful for them and delightful and delicious for us.
Bottled beer review
As if the many varieties from the taps weren't enough, Mitchell kindly brought us some bottles to sample that we'll get to in the review below. They have these stocked at Little Leeds Beer House in the Corn Exchange where you should also be able to find 'Simcoe Fiend' 6.0%. 'Ego War' IPA #1, 6.5%. 'Latte Stout', 4.5% and the 'Blackout' 5.5%.
This is a good, solid rye ale. Pours a lovely hazy deep amber with a snowy white head and lacing. There's the earthiness of the other malts and the tang of the rye which is wonderfully moreish in itself. The hops used are packed with flavours of oranges and grapefruit. No doubt in huge late quantities knowing Odyssey! Highly drinkable and a rye delight to the lips.
Don't get the gallows ready for me, but I struggle with wheat beers. Still not sure to why my palate finds it so difficult to find the niceties everyone else seems to crave. But this bottle is probably more suiting to me as v2 differs to v1 in its hop varieties . It seems to be a softer, more tropical hit than maybe its sibling is. Citra and galaxy abound in the hazy golden hue of the glass. Wheat beer enthusiasts might not get their full kick but for me this a tasty little number and I'm purchasing the next one to pair with a light Thai dish or similar.
A 'Daddy' of oatmeal stouts here, this 'Fiendish Breakfast' is a breakfast stout of champions. Appealingly thick with layers of malts. Smokiness to the aroma and slight taste too. Coffee, lots of coffee! And treacle as Mitchell told us, to balance out the addition of bitterness in the coffee beans. It looks beautiful and tastes terrific. As if it doesn't appear complex enough in the mouth, the addition of sea salt only enhances the richness of this drink, and boy is this super rich!
Words: Pete Jackson