Tag Archives: fort collins breweries

Rites of Passage: Touring New Belgium Brewery with my Son

Our oldest son, Cameron, turned 21 years old in November. This was our first visit to Fort Collins, Colorado to visit him since he turned 21.

Cameron said that many years ago I promised to take him to Ireland when he turned 21 to sit at a local pub and he could share his first beer with me. I don’t remember that promise and his schedule with college was too busy to make that a reality so we decided to share our first beer together closer to home — at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.

New Belgium Brewery with Cameron

New Belgium Brewery with Cameron

New Belgium Brewery

If you’ve ever drank a Fat Tire craft beer,  you’ve had beer by New Belgium. New Belgium brewery was started in 1991 after founder Jeff Lebesch toured breweries in Belgium on his bicycle. The first beer they produced was named “Fat Tire”, after that Belgium trip.

New Belgium is now the 8th largest brewery in the USA and has almost 500 employees. They will soon be opening a brewery in Ashville, North Carolina.

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

 

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

If you are ever in Fort Collins, Colorado, you must take a tour of New Belgium. The tour lasts about an hour where you will learn the history of New Belgium, the process of creating beer, and you get to sample lots of beer along the way.

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

Getting a job at New Belgium is difficult because so many people want to work there. Our tour guide was talking about how his interview went. He first purchased several cases of Fat Tire beer and used it as the backdrop for his video interview.

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado

The employees of New Belgium all own stock in the company and are encouraged to drive energy efficient automobiles. They have electric filling stations for electric cars.

Environmentally conscious

Environmentally conscious

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Once the tour was over, we were invited to slide down the New Belgium slide and of course we took part.

New Belgium Slide

New Belgium Slide

Oskar Blues Brewery

A few days later, we went to a brewery in Longmont, Colorado that we had never been to. It was called Oskar Blues and the tasting room had a really cool hipsterish kinda vibe.

Oskar Blues Brewery was started in 1997 by Dale Katechis and are unique because they don’t bottle any beer. They only package cans and kegs.

You may have tried their Dale’s Pale Ale, it is a popular beer that was named “Best Pale Ale” by the New York Times in 2005.  Dale Katechis first brewed Dale’s Pale Ale in his bathtub while a student at Auburn University.

Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado

Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado

We went with a couple of friends we met last year in Fort Collins and we are now starting to get to know them better. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Doug and Julie - our new Fort Collins buddies

Doug and Julie – our new Fort Collins buddies

There was a band playing and as you can see from the pictures, dogs are welcome and shoes are optional. My kind of bar.

Band from Maine

Band from Maine

Pinner (a small joint) - it is Colorado!

Pinner (a small joint) – it is Colorado!

Shoes optional

Shoes optional

Cool funky vibe

Cool funky vibe

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The Lamb feeding Capital of the World: Really?

Fort Collins: A Rural City

This is the first time I’ve spent any length of time in Fort Collins so it has been fun getting to know the town. Surprisingly, with just over 150,000 folks, it is the 4th largest city in Colorado (behind Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora).

It certainly has many of the things you would expect in a city — great restaurants, lots of sports stores (REI, Sports Authority, and more local bike shops than you can shake a stick at). But it doesn’t feel like a city. You can drive or cycle around town and you will see old barns and farms just down the road from malls and upscale shops.

Cattle farm

Cattle farm about 2 minutes from downtown

Old farm in the midst of the city

Old farm in the midst of the city

Located only about an hour north of Denver and 45 minutes south of Cheyenne Wyoming, Fort Collins was named Money magazine’s Best Place to Live in 2006, No. 2 in 2008, and No. 6 in 2010. I can see why.

Early Days of Fort Collins

It all started in 1864 as a military outpost, settled by the Army. The fort was decommissioned 3 years later but settlers colonized here to grow crops — agriculture was definitely the early draw to this area.What was the biggest crop? Beet tops! What? Yep, beet tops were used them to feed sheep and Fort Collins became known as the “Lamb feeding capital of the world“. Who knew?1

Colorado State University (CSU) was founded in 1870 and is now the reason for Fort Collins’ growth. It was originally an agricultural school as evidenced today with a big “A” laid with rocks in the mountains that overlook the football stadium.

CSU

Colorado State University

CSU

Colorado State University

Old Town

Great care has been taken to combat the urban feel of Fort Collins as evidenced in the most popular part of the city referred to as “Old Town”. You won’t see lots of high rises. Instead, it has a sort of town-center type of feel.

Old Town at dusk

Old Town at dusk

Old Town

Old Town

Old Town

Old Town – Union Pacific Railway Building

Old Town

Old Town Square

A Healthy City

Fort Collins, like most Colorado cities, rewards a healthy lifestyle with tons of biking, hiking and running trails. Most streets have a dedicated bike lane. You will see people biking, running and walking even when the temperature is in the teens — now that’s dedication! These are all pictures I took while cycling:

Hiking and biking trails

Hiking and biking trails

Old farm encountered while biking

Old farm encountered while biking

Old weathered house

Old weathered house

Thriving farms

Thriving farms

Old farms

Old farms storing grain

Lots of Lakes and Ponds

In addition to hiking and biking trails, there are also lots of ponds and lakes where you can boat, fish, and admire nature. The largest lake is Horsetooth Reservoir — you can bike to the top if you have the stamina — a mere 1,500 foot climb.

Horsetooth Reservoir

Panorama of Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Tons of geese on the lake

Tons of geese on the lake

Frozen Lake

Frozen Lake

Tree along the shore of a frozen lake

Tree along the shore of a frozen lake

Brew Pubs Galore

If you like brew pubs, Fort Collins hits the spot.  New Belgium (Fat Tire) is headquartered here and has daily tours and tasting rooms. Odell’s (think Easy Street Wheat beer) is also here and offers tours and tasting rooms where you can sit by a fire and listen to a local band. Other breweries include Black Bottle Brewery, Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins Brewery, Funkwerks, Horse and Dragon, and Pateros Creek Brewery — just to name a few!

From the tasting room at Odell's Brewery

From the tasting room at Odell’s Brewery

Close to Great Skiing

Fort Collins is also close to world-class skiing in Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain and Winter Park. Cameron (my oldest son) and I spent a ski day in Breckenridge, which is about 2.5 hours west of Fort Collins. We drove up for the day and had a spectacular time. Breckenridge has opened Peak 6 since we last lived here, with an elevation of 12,300 feet, it offers some really great advanced ski options. Cameron and I skied Peaks 6,7, and 8 while there and had really great snow. Too much fun!

Beautiful day at the slopes

Beautiful day at the slopes

Cameron skiing

Cameron skiing

At the top of Peak 6 (12,300 feet)

At the top of Peak 6 (12,300 feet)

At the top of Peak 7

At the top of Peak 7

Breckenridge Mansions

Breckenridge Mansions

I will leave you with a couple more pictures taken while biking, you can really start to appreciate the beauty of Fort Collins. We will be spending the next couple of months in Florida, soaking up some sunshine and enjoying the flat biking trails!

Ducks swimming next to the biking trails

Ducks swimming next to the biking trails

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Working windmill

Biking and hiking trails

Biking and hiking trails

1From Wikipedia