DOUG, WYNNE and CORKIE ODELL started their brewery in 1989 in the outer reaches of Fort Collins.  Odell logoThe Odell Brewing Company is now one of the top craft breweries in the area, distributing to ten states in the region.

There’s a distinct passion for producing high quality beers.  But that’s just the beginning of the story.

I had the opportunity to speak with Karla Baise recently, the company’s community outreach coordinator.  This isn’t just a simple PR position, it’s actually a critical part of the company’s business strategy.

Here’s a great example:  When I met with Karla, she had a couple of ladies stop in with big bags of fresh herbs from The Gardens At Spring CreekIt turns out that they’re in the process of collaborating with the Gardens on a new brew which will be available in 2014.  A portion of every sale will go to benefit the Gardens’ efforts.

It’s a natural part of the way Odell integrates with the local community.  And community is one of the pillars of this business.  That’s how they interact with the Fort Collins area, as well as the community of 92 employees.  I had a close relative who interned at the brewery, and his personal testimony was what led me to want to find out more.

These folks work hard, play hard, and are all on the same page.  It’s an open book company, so employees know how the business as doing and what issues are being tackled.

They thoughtfully balance business results with community, and the third dimension is sustainability.  Like the others, there’s several important aspects to it.

Odell-BreweryOdell looks at the environmental of every sourcing decision – not only the ingredients for the beer, but even the plastic cups by the water cooler.  They’re a big user of sustainable energy such as wind and photovoltaic.  They’ve structured the factory to minimize energy use, as evidenced in their recent expansion.  We’re not surprised that they’ve been a ClimateWise partner since 2000, and are shooting for zero landfill in 2014.

In any balanced business, you’re presented with some interesting and challenging tradeoffs.  Decisions become more nuanced when they take into account a range of goals, especially ones which don’t immediately flow to the bottom line.

So far, they’ve managed pretty well, growing in the range of 12-15% yearly.  That may sound quite high, especially compared to businesses which have struggled during the recession to even stay flat.  But the Craft Beer industry has been booming for over a decade, and this level represents solid growth without over-reaching.  With a reach of ten states, they don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the product, or the strong sense of community they’ve built.

Odell teamAnd that really is some of the challenges they’ll be facing in coming years.  What level of growth will maintain a powerful presence in the local market?  They currently have a strong presence in the local market, but it’s a constant battle against competitors who are willing to make deeper sacrifices.

Craft beer drinkers are a notoriously fickle market.  Every person tends to have their favorites, but there’s also a lot of experimenting.  New recipes and approaches are emerging all the time.

And the big question will be:  How can Odell continue to maintain this wonderful balance as they grow and markets shift?  So far they’ve done it with an open and inclusive culture, attention to quality, sustainable approaches, and deep integration in the community.

Which seems to be a great formula!

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